Saturday, January 21, 2017

Passing of the Torch

It's Solemnly Swearback Saturday here at Bergetoons, and at the risk of presuming to put my own juvenalia alongside some excellent examples from the past, I'd like to share a few historical cartoons about this nation's peaceful transfer of executive power.

Inauguration cartoons afford the opportunity to fill the frame with caricatures. As with this bit of wishful thinking, they don't have to be drawn at the time the White House is changing hands; I drew this in June of 1980, before the Democratic National Convention had officially renominated incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Of course, John Anderson fell way short of becoming the 40th President of the United States. Instead it was that guy partly hidden behind Chief Justice Warren Burger; so come January, I updated a famous New Yorker cartoon by Peter Arno.
Arno's original cartoon of Herbert Hoover riding glumly beside a beaming Franklin Roosevelt, like John Darling's outhouse cartoon, became famous in spite of its not being published. Drawn for the New Yorker magazine cover, it was pulled by the editors after the assassination attempt on FDR that killed Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak on February 15, 1933. (FDR was the last president whose inauguration date was March 4; the 20th Amendment to the Constitution moving the date to January 20 was ratified between his election and inauguration, and went into effect in 1937.)

Steve Brodner recently posted this tour de force by the outstanding caricaturist Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003) of celebrities who performed at Lyndon Baines Johnson's 1965 inauguration gala:
LBJ Inaugural Guests by Al Hirschfeld, 1965
I'm seeing Elaine May and Mike Nichols, Carol Channing, Barbara Streisand, Julie Andrews, Carol Burnett, Alfred Hitchcock, Johnny Carson, Ann-Margaret, Woody Allen and Harry Belafonte, and wondering what exactly Alfred Hitchcock performed. I also presume that Nina is in the drawing at least half a dozen times.

When I was growing up, I had a 16-volume set of a History of the United States that was generously illustrated with editorial cartoons. Included was this fascinating depiction of Franklin Roosevelt's first inaugural by Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957), a Mexican caricaturist and muralist who was, by the way, one of Hirschfeld's influences.
"The Inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt" by Miguel Covarrubias in Vanity Fair, March/April, 1933
On the dais with FDR are Eleanor Roosevelt; FDR's first Vice President, John Nance Garner; outgoing President Herbert Hoover and his wife; and outgoing Vice President Charles Curtis. Holding the laurel wreath is a figure who should be familiar to followers of these Saturday posts over the past year: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Charles Evans Hughes. Yes, the same one who resigned from the court to run for president against Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

Smoking a cigar directly below Hughes is another unsuccessful presidential candidate, Alfred Smith (1928); John Davis, who ran on the top of the ticket in 1924 with FDR as his running mate, is the bland-faced man with white hair, glasses and  rounded collar below the middle pillar.

Indeed, almost everybody in the cartoon is a real person; even the guy in the lower right corner with his back to us is identified as J. P. Morgan. I certainly can't argue with that.

I'll close with perhaps my favorite cartoon about Inauguration Day. Even though neither you nor I are quite old enough to remember Calvin Coolidge, I think the humor still comes through Gluyas Williams's (1888-1982) cartoon. It's a truism in cartooning circles that great art never saved a mediocre idea; but it definitely elevates a good one.
"Crisis In Washington" by Gluyas Williams in Life, February 15, 1929
There are many, many more cartoons I could have included here — Mike Peterson ran a large selection from Warren Harding's inauguration yesterday — and I hope to run more in four years to celebrate yet another peaceful transfer of executive power.

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