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A Month of Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoons – Day 12

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 almost always 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. Here is an archive of the cartoons featured thus far.

Today we look at Tom Little’s 1957 award-winning cartoon.

Enjoy!

Tom Little (1898-1972) began working at The Tennessean (now known as The Nashville Tennessean) in 1918, while he was still in school. He stayed with the paper until his retirement in 1970 (he passed away two years later), over fifty years of service!

He began doing whatever was needed of him (police reporter, etc.) but he eventually worked his way into the paper as a cartoonist, both as a news/editorial cartoonist and also as the creator of the popular nationally syndicated comic strip, Sunflower Strip.

He drew Sunflower Strip for 15 years but actually ceased the strip in 1950 due to concerns from editors that his comic, which detailed the adventures of southern blacks, was seen as looking down upon his subjects, something Little took great issue with, but decided it better to stop the strip than to continue if that was how people were seeing it.

Little was a harsh caricaturist of politics, and he was quite an aggressive pursuer of issues that he felt needed to be brought to light, often in a very harsh, “take it to them” approach.

That’s why it’s interesting to note that the cartoon that won him the Pulitzer Prize was a bit more of a whimsical cartoon (although it, too, was a pointed cartoon at an issue that troubled Little).

People today are quite familiar with the notion of parents resisting immunizing/vaccinating their children, and that has been an issue for decades, and that is what Little decided to go after with his 1956 cartoon, depicting a child whose parents did not seek out the Polio vaccine that became available in 1955.

“Wonder Why My Parents Didn’t Give Me Salk Shots?”

Pretty harsh (I love the detail of the children playing).

However, while obviously Little, having actually, you know, LIVED through it, has a better perspective on the subject than I do fifty-odd years later, I find it interesting to note that if there were ever a vaccination where parental apathy was NOT really a problem, it was the polio vaccine.

Jonas Salk, who developed the vaccine, instantly became as famous as President Eisenhower. He was such a celebrity that even today, Jonas Salk’s name is well-known to almost all Americans. When the polio vaccine was released, DEMAND was the issue – there was not nearly enough supply to meet the demand for the vaccine, and in fact, a charitable foundation (now known as the March of Dimes) had to be formed just to allow the vaccines to be distributed in any sort of a reasonable manner.

If you were to pick a group that DID have less access to the vaccine, it would be the poor, who A. Had less organized access to the vaccine and B. Had less ability to pay for it.

Salk charged $2 a pop for the vaccine, and doctors normally just charged $3-5 for it, but some charged a helluva lot more. However, following a late 1950s outbreak of polio in the ghettos of a number of major American cities (although not the South, I do not believe), there was a movement to make the vaccine more affordable, probably about $10 today, adjusted for inflation.

So it’s interesting to see Little highlight parental apathy regarding the polio vaccine. Still, it’s a powerful cartoon against parental apathy PERIOD, and hell, what do I really know about the state of vaccinations in Tennessee in 1956? I can’t say that Little is wrong, really. I can say it is a great-looking cartoon.

5 Comments

Amazingly appropriate still (at least in the UK) with regards to all the media scare regarding the MMR, and how many parents decided not to immunise their kids against Measles, Mumps and Rubella AT ALL… (understandable in a way… seperate jabs work out to around £100 EACH, combined MMR is free on the NHS)

Leading to people predicting a either an epidemic of Measles/Mumps/Rubella OR a sudden increase in the number of autistic children, depending on what you believed at the time…

I’m amazed that the Blair administration never used a modified version of this cartoon as an ad to promote the MMR vaccine..

Polio Vaccine Problems

“Until the advent of the Salk vaccine in 1955, the only prescription for extreme cases of polio was years of physical therapy and bed rest. Yet even so, in the three decades preceding the vaccine, the death rate from polio declined in the United States by 47 percent and in England by 55 percent. When mass inoculations began in the U.S., accompanied by stirring stories in Life magazine on Salk as the great healer of the century, the incidences of polio increased sharply. In Massachusetts, to take an extreme example, there were 273 cases of polio in the year leading up to August 30, 1954, when the vaccine was introduced statewide. One year later, there were 2,027 cases.

The correlation in other states and in England, though more modest, was striking enough that doctors at the National Institute of Health in the 1950s declared the vaccine “worthless as a preventive and dangerous to take.” They also refused to take it themselves or give it to their children.

Not until 1976 did Dr. Salk acknowledge publicly that his vaccine was likely the “principal if not sole cause” of all reported polio cases in the U.S., since 1961. More recently, the Centers for Disease Control admitted that 87 percent of all polio cases in the U.S. between 1973 and 1983 has been caused by the vaccine, with all cases between 1980 and 1989 attributable to it. By then, tens of thousands of people may have contracted polio needlessly, even as the drug companies that marketed the vaccine made windfall profits.”

Martin Goldstein, D.V.M.
One of America’s Most Celebrated Veterinarians
Author of The Nature of Animal Healing
The Dubious Legacy of Vaccines, Chapter 4

All of which has nothing to do with vaccines today.

Roquefort Raider

March 20, 2009 at 6:16 am

Great, great cartoon. Very appropriate too, as you point out, Brian.

Now regarding “the dubious legacy of vaccines”…

If I wanted to refer to an authoritative scientific figure to back my beliefs that vaccines represent a threat to health, I would certainly not choose a quack who writes books on “holistic natural methods for the treatment of pets”. I’d choose people who publish *actual* scientific papers.

The polio vaccine has all but eradicated this terrible scourge in the western world. Ditto for the vaccinia virus, which protects us from smallpox. Although it is true that vaccines WILL cause adverse reactions in a small number of people, and that some of these folks may get seriously ill or even die, these numbers are very small indeed and do not represent a valid argument against the immense benefits of vaccination for the population at large.

The benefits and risks of any treatment is determined by scientific studies, not by rumors spread by luddites and alternative quackery gurus. And that’s just the way it is.

– Roquefort Raider,

who happens to be a Ph.D. in molecular biology (So I outrank Dr Goldstein! Nyah, nyah!)

Roquefort Raider

October 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

I’m sorry, just because I think I’m so much smarter than a “quack” who writes books on “holistic natural” stuff, doesn’t mean what he said is wrong.

These numbers must have come from somewhere, perhaps a “scientific” study (47 percent and in England 55 & 273 cases of polio in the year leading up to August 30, 1954, when the vaccine was introduced statewide. One year later, there were 2,027 & 87 percent between 1973 and 1983 for example)

& direct quotes (National Institute of Health in the 1950s declared the vaccine “worthless as a preventive and dangerous to take.” & Dr. Salk acknowledge publicly that his vaccine was likely the “principal if not sole cause” of all reported polio cases in the U.S., since 1961 & Centers for Disease Control admitted that 87 percent of all polio cases in the U.S. between 1973 and 1983 has been caused by the vaccine, with all cases between 1980 and 1989 attributable to it – not sure if the last one is a direct quote, but if it’s true, it’s true)

I apologize for being a hypocritical luddite quack.

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