web stats

CSBG Archive

A Month of Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoons – Day 3

I thought it would be an interesting look into our nation’s political cartoon history if, this month, I took a look at a different editorial cartoon each day that won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. Do note that we’re talking basically 1922-1967 here, as since then, the Committee has awarded cartoonists generally for their work, not for an exemplary single cartoon. So in many ways, this is a snapshot of American politics (for better or for worse) over a forty-five year period.

Today we look at Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling’s 1924 award-winning cartoon.


I covered Jay “Ding” Darling during my Month of Political Cartooning Stars. Darling was a legendary cartoonist who was so well known for his cartoons about the environment that FDR gave him a position in his administration dealing with National Wildlife!!

Today we look at the first of two cartoons of Darling to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

The cartoon appeared in the Des Moines Register and Leader in May of 1923, only months before one of the subjects in the following cartoon passed away (and a mere five and a half years before another one of the subjects of the cartoon ended up taking the job of the fellow who passed away!!!).

The cartoon was titled “In Good Ol’ U.S.A.”

In Good Ol USA

It is a very nice commentary by Darling about the importance of having drive to achieve success in life, although to be frank, as well-executed as it was, it seems hard to believe that this was considered the most notable political cartoon of the entire year. In fact, this was only the second cartoon ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning!

That being said, let’s take a look at the three men discussed in the cartoon.

The first was born in 1874 and died in 1964. His parents died in 1880 and 1884, leaving him an orphan at the age of 9 (which is odd, since Darling says 8). He was raised by his grandparents and his uncle, and worked during his teen years while attending night school on his own. He attended Stanford University in 1891 (the very first year the place opened!) and graduated with a degree in geology in 1894.

He went to work for a London-based firm in Australia, and eventually became one of the top engineers in the world. He was sent to work in China for a private corporation. While there, he and his family were actually trapped in their settlement during the Boxer Rebellion.

He became an extremely successful businessman, and when World War I broke out, he used his clout to do a great deal of charity work.

After the war, he got involved in politics and was the Secretary of Commerce for Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, a post which he turned into one of the preeminent roles in American politics during his time in the Cabinet.

He eventually would be elected to succeed Coolidge, and he became the 31st President of the United States.

Also known as Herbert Hoover.

Next we have Dr. Frederick Peterson (I don’t actually know this one for sure, it’s just my own detective work, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s Peterson), 1859-1938), who I will have to take Darling’s word that he was the son of a plasterer (that’s not exactly the sort of thing that makes it into bios).

Peterson WAS one the world’s leading neurologists (in a time when neurology was quite a new science) and was an early proponent of psychoanalysis, being one of the first people to ever publish Freud and Jung’s theory of Free Association.

He also was a great humanitarian, and he DID, as Darling mentions, do a great deal of work for children, specifically improving the teaching of good health in the public school systems.

He also happened to be a good friend of Ding Darling.

The last subject is Warren Harding, the 29th President of the United States, who passed away in August of 1923.

Harding did, indeed, apprentice as a printer, but his father also happened to own a newspaper, which is where Harding truly became famous. He bought the Marion Daily Star (in Marion, Ohio) and soon turned it into one of the most popular newspapers in the country.

He was elected to the US Senate in 1915 and in 1920, he was elected President of the United States, becoming the first of only three sitting US Senators to become the President of the United States (with the current President being the most recent).

He died of either a heart attack or a stroke in August of 1923.

The six youths standing around the drug stores all died penniless and unloved.


“The six youths standing around the drug stores all died penniless and unloved.”

You’d think that but the guys in the back row are Harry Donenfeld & Jack Kirby!

And that printer’s apprentice also became the most notoriously crooked President until Richard Nixon.

“Harding did, indeed, apprentice as a printer, but his father also happened to own a newspaper”

Kinda puts a different twist to this Horatio Alger fairy tale, doesn’t it? I’ve always hated these sort rags-to-riches stories which try to prove that under capitalism any poor kid can become the president/big businessman/great scientist, when in reality 99,99% of them never do, no matter how hard they try.

If Hoover had died in 1927 he probably would have been considered one of the greatest Americans. He was instrumental in so many reforms that made Americans’ lives better, and he did a great deal for China as well. Then he got to be president, which didn’t work out that well, and he shielded Japan’s emperor from being prosecuted for war crimes, which meant Japan never reformed its political institutions like Germany did after World War II. It’s interesting how someone’s life can be viewed so much differently based on when they die.

The fact that this cartoon won the 1923 Pulitzer reflects a lot of America’s focus in 1923, IMHO. (Fairly insular post World War 1, with a focus on the booming economy.)

Do people really downgrade Hoover for shielding the emperor? I thought there was some consensus that he was essentially a puppet figure during the war, and that keeping him around was at least partially necessary to get the Japanese to surrender (even with the use of two nuclear weapons.) Even nowadays the emperor has fairly little influence.

For what it’s worth, Hoover also deserves some demerits for his handling of the Great Mississippi Flood prior to becoming President. (Basically imagine not quite Katrina, but with an additional cover up by Hoover to hide the treatment of African Americans in the refugee camps.) Granted that occurs after this cartoon in 1927.

I agree with Thok on Japan, and go a bit further. Who cares if they didn’t have to reform their institutions? Their entire society suddenly underwent the largest paradigm shift in history thanks to the atomic bomb. This is the only time in history that a major expansionist military power was suddenly transformed into one of most pro-peace nations. Despite that sudden shift in their thinking, they still possessed and today possess an uncanny respect for authority and sense of loyalty. Hiroshima had destroyed their will to fight, but they still would have fought for the Emperor. Other nations had experienced multiple dynasties and were therefore more willing to leave their monarchies behind. Japan is unique in that it has had the same unbroken line of succession, though often as a figurehead, since the 8th century. If anything the shock of Hiroshima made them cling to that ancient line even harder as an island of calm in a suddenly changing world. I’ve long held the theory that the weirdness that emanates from Japan is a result of the traumatization of the society itself.

The fact that the Japanese even today refuse to accept their role in the massacres on the Chinese mainland stems in large part from Hoover’s protecting their ruling classes from prosecution. The emperor was very important in the planning of the war (much more than a figurehead would have been, although he often is one), and many of the war criminals who ran the war were shielded by Hoover, mainly because he knew them and had worked with them closely.

But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

[…] Book Resources continues on with his review of Pulitzer Prize winners in history. Today he looks at Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling’s 1924 award-winning cartoon. Yesterday was Clarence Daniel “C.D.” […]

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives