Stars of Political Cartooning – Herb “Herblock” Block
Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.
Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.
Today we look at the fellow who coined the term “McCarthyism.”
Herb Block was born in Chicago in 1909 and was working in the newspaper business right out of high school and was a working political cartoonist before he finished college (in fact, he dropped out BECAUSE he was already working as a cartoonist). Early on he decided to use the pen name “Herblock,” which is how he would be credited in his cartoons for the rest of his life.
After working in Chicago for awhile, Herblock was hired by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (which is part of the large United Media corporation – syndicators of such popular comic strips as Dilbert and Peanuts).
Herblock was a strong supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and he joined NEA just as Roosevelt was taking office.
His strips took a strong liberal stance at the situations of the day, such as poverty…
but that does not mean that he was an FDR apologist – he took the President to task when they differed, with a notable example being the 1937 move by Roosevelt to stack the Supreme Court to force the Court to agree with FDR’s New Deal moves.
Leading up to the United States getting into World War II, Herblock was highly critical of the Isolationist position, while at the same time warning of the dangers of Hitler and his ilk.
Here’s one of Herblock’s most famous cartoons, denouncing the rise of the Nazi party by quoting Goethe…
“Light! More light!” – Goethe’s last words
At the same time, Herblock made light of the whole idea of the US being isolated when it was deeply involved with the rest of the world otherwise…
Herblock kept pointing out the absurdity of the United States’ isolationist streak all through 1941…
In fact, his attitudes were considered so extreme that in early 1942, he was called to New York by the head of the NEA with a request to tone down the extremism of his comics. That very same day, the news was released that Block had just won the Pulitizer Prize for his 1941 comic work, the very work his editor had a problem with!
It is not that surprising to note that he quickly sought out employment elsewhere now that he was famous enough to go wherever he wanted. He chose the Washington Post in 1943, and it would be the next century before he stopped working there.
After the war, Herblock was critical of the Communists…
but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also critical of the United States’ attitude towards Communism, whether it be MacArthur…
the House Committe on Un-American Activities…
or a certain Senator from Wisconsin…
(this one was the first use of the term “McCarthyism”
Due to Herblock’s caricature of him, McCarthy was forced to shave twice a day, just to dispel the notion created by Herblock’s comics! Talk about power!!!
Interestingly enough, although Herblock spent a lot of time and was quite known for his anti-McCarthy cartoons, his second Pulitzer Prize came not for attacking McCarthy, but for an anti-Stalin cartoon, done upon Stalin’s death.
‘You Were Always A Great Friend of Mine, Joseph”
Okay, this is getting a bit long, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut out his amazing work attacking racism and skip to his next most notable area of his career, his attacks on Nixon, where he basically did to Nixon what he did to McCarthy, as Nixon, like McCarthy, would credit Herblock’s cartoons as creating a public image for Nixon that Nixon had to combat.
Amazing stuff, no?
Herblock won his third Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his “body of work.”
Of course, the man then proceeded to work as a cartoonist for the next 22 years!!!
And they were good, and he continued to tackle subjects head on…
His last comic strip was printed in August of 2001.
Here it is…
He died six weeks later at the age of 91, leaving behind an amazing legacy of work.
Thanks to the Library of Congress for the images used in this piece. Be sure to check them out to see even more great Herblock comics!