Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cartoons of the Week

For these Saturday posts, I usually try to tie things together with some unifying theme, but this week's is a pretty thin thread. Some time ago (long enough that I've forgotten how), I came into possession of three issues of The Outlook magazine from November and December, 1916. A regular feature was their two-page "Cartoons of the Week."

To be honest, the 1910's are not generally thought of as the heyday of editorial cartooning. Thomas Nast and Johannes Keppler were gone, and while there were such well-regarded cartoonists as John Darling, Rollin Kirby, John McCutcheon. Boardman Robinson, Art Young and Robert Minor coming into their own, most ink-slingers (and grease-slingers) traded in didactic, derivative fare: hapless Common Men, imperious European royalty, harridan suffragettes, and other images that had already become cliché. (And labels, labels everywhere!)

So how did magazine editors of the day decide what the best Cartoons of the Week were?
"The Man Who Is Out in the Wet" by Rollin Kirby in New York World, November, 1916
In the three issues that I have, all the American cartoonists drew for publications in New York, where The Outlook was also published. We can suspect that inclement weather on the way to work inspired at least two New York cartoonists and at least one sympathetic magazine editor.
"Poor Shelter" by Bell in New York Evening Post, November, 1916
The Outlook editors didn't seem to mind running redundant cartoons alongside each other, such as the two above. Last week, I included a cartoon by Nelson Harding of the Kaiser whipping a Belgian farmer to force him to labor for Germany, smoke rising from the farmer's home in the background. This cartoon ran alongside it.
"For His Own Good" by Robert Carter in New York Evening Sun, November, 1916
I don't believe the editors at The Outlook were trying to show up the cartoonists; the cartoons that used the same similes they would have used in a 500-word editorial are simply the ones that appealed to them. Given two cartoons of Kaiser Wilhelm whipping a Belgian, why not use both? Drives the point home, right?

Nor do I think that American editorial cartoons of the period are any worse than my own. I'll wrap this post up with a pretty decent holiday-themed cartoon that expressed a cartoonist's feelings on the topic of child labor laws — drawn, it should be noted, for a magazine. Not a newspaper.
"Gee, I Wish I Was a Kid Again" by Calvert H. Smith (?) in Harper's Magazine, December, 1916
I'm close, but not 100% sure that I'm correctly crediting Calvert H. Smith for this cartoon. Smith's reputation is for photorealism (see samples here and here, both signed "Calvert"), whereas this cartoon strikes me as more impressionistic. Wikimedia has a pen-and-ink cartoon from Life magazine with the same "Calvert" signature (here), but credits the cartoon only to "Calvert." The same signature appears in this cartoon, in a style closer to the one above, and credited by the blogger to Calvert H. Smith.

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