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A Month of Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoons – Day 4

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 Reuben “Rube” Goldberg’s 1948 award-winning cartoon.


Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) is one of the most famous cartoonists of the 20th Century. I think I chose not to use him fro the Month of Political Cartooning Stars because he tends to be known mostly for non-political cartoons (which was what he did for most of his career), and since I already had used Dr. Seuss, I figured once was enough with that gag (especially with so many great cartoonists to choose from who WERE primarily political cartoonists).

Goldberg is known for his famous “inventions,” which are inspiring to people even today. A Rube Goldberg machine is an elaborate machine designed to perform a simple task in the most convoluted way possible. Think of the breakfast-making machine at the beginning of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – that’s a prototypical Rube Goldberg invention. He was so famous that the National Cartoonists Society give out an award in his name each year for the Cartoonist of the Year.

During his peak years, he had about three-four syndicated comic strips going at ONCE.

His most political years (like most cartoonists) were during the World War II era, where even the least political of cartoonists were joining in to denounce Nazi Germany. Goldberg began doing political cartoons for the New York Sun in 1938 (he quickly was syndicated nationally in this arena, as well). The Jewish Goldberg received so many death threats over his political cartoons that he actually had his children change their last names (his sons both took the last name George).

Goldberg’s Pulitizer Prize winning cartoon was actually a POST-World War II cartoon from July of 1947 in the New York Sun.

I don’t think you really need me to fill in the context for this cartoon, do you?

Strong piece of work from Goldberg, although it certainly hits the reader over the head with the metaphor, doesn’t it?


“Although, in a decade or so, I very well might have to for some of the younger crowd (hopefully not, though).”

I don’t know about that. The risk of nuclear war still seems fairly pertinent today with North Korea and Iran, which seems to be all that is really necessary to understand the cartoon. Which is to say the exact context of the Cold War may be forgotten, but given how we seem to have learnt nothing from that entire disgraceful period I don’t think it would be the worst thing for it to be forgotten.

Ted, don’t forget India and Pakistan… Every time things get heated about Kashmir, that ole Doomsday clock starts up again…

Sometimes, I think we DO need an Ozymandius plan…


“don’t forget India and Pakistan”

Good point, although it looks like Pakistan’s greatest enemy at the moment is Pakistan.

I heard growing up that Goldberg was the first perosn to have his name listed in the dicitonary while he was still alive. Don’t knwo which dictionary, though — maybe that’s a Comic Book Legend!?

The risk of nuclear war still seems fairly pertinent today with North Korea and Iran

don’t forget India and Pakistan

Or the US for that matter, the only country in the world that ever actually used a WMD. There aren’t as much nuclear warheads owned by the US as there were in the cold war but there’s probably still enough left to blow up a continent.

I don’t think India or Pakistan or any of the others have the number of warheads or technology for a global scale nuclear war, do they? Not that any kind of nuclear war wouldn’t be a horrible thing, it just seems to me we’re not facing the Mutually Assured Destruction now that we were facing in the Cold War. So I don’t think kids today have the same view of nukes. The current fears seem to be more centered on a single bomb going off in a populated area. Kids today aren’t watching The Day After on tv or doing Bomb shelter drills or anything.

I believe (and will happily be proven wrong) that both the UK and France (each) still have “enough warheads to wipe out the world ten times over”…
Nearly everyone scaled-up when the US Star Wars and USSR counterpart programmes started up… Going for the concept of “just 1%” needs to get through…
The US and the USSR were the ones who made a public act of decommissiong warheads (while also developing newer, more efficient, multiple warheads with higher tonnage)… You don’t hear many stories of other countries decommissoning their stocks…
Heck, the UK recently talked about upgrading the entirety of the Polaris fleet (you know, the nuclear subs stationed wthin strike distance of all important world centres?)…
India and Pakistan may only intend to wipe each other out, but it would affect the surrounding countries, like Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, etc., leading to a sort of Domino effect… “Hell, its’ the end of the world anyway, let’s nuke Israel…”
As for the kids of today, I think a fair few of them have seen so many post-apocalyptic movies, comics, TV series and computer games (Fallout, anyone?) that the concept is actually quite cool to them, and not that scary…
Mind you… I always wanted to be Mad Max :-)

@J to the AAP-My thoughts exactly.

Jeff Ryan, “Rube Goldberg” is in all dictionaries now. It is an adjective as Brian pointed out with Pee Wee’s Rube Goldberg contraption. I doubt that he was the first, however, as Rudolph Diesel invented the diesel engine and was quickly credited with the word. “Diesel” was coined in 1894. “Rube Goldberg” was coined in 1931. There are a lot of eponyms in our language and they have been around for a long time.
It’s fascinating that a cartoonist known for his silliness should get a Pulitzer for something so serious.

[…] Jeff Ryan asks: I remember hearing that Rube Goldberg (who I just learned from you was an editorial cartoonist besides the zany-invention doodler) was the first person who had his name become a dictionary definition while he was still alive. […]

[…] Palooza”), and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for editorial cartooning (for a shockingly dull and bluff take on the threat of atomic war). During his 72-year career, he produced about 50,000 cartoons. No wonder the National […]

[…] “Lala Palooza”), and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for editorial cartooning (for a shockingly dull and bluff take on the threat of atomic war). During his 72-year career, he produced about 50,000 cartoons. No wonder the National Cartoonists […]

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