Saturday, June 8, 2019

Gladly the Crosshatched Bear

Researching last Saturday's post of women's suffrage cartoons, I came across the work of the Los Angeles Herald's O.P. Williams, a cartoonist with whom I was previously unfamiliar and about whom I haven't been able to locate any references*. His densely detailed cartooning style reminds me a lot of the styles of cartoonists at two other William Hearst newspapers of the time and leads me to wonder if there it was a style that particularly appealed to Mr. Hearst.
"Danger Ahead!" by Winsor McCay in New York  American, July 28, 1916
Of the three, the one cartoonist who remains famous in cartoonist circles is the New York American's Winsor McCay, best known for his "Little Nemo in Slumberland" and "Gertie the Dinosaur" comics. Every one of his editorial cartoons is finely detailed, meticulously crosshatched, and in perfect perspective.
"Walking the Plank" by Winsor McCay, July 26, 1916
It is the humans in his cartoons, who, while drawn with equal care to his architecture and machinery, don't quite come alive. His crowd scenes are masterfully detailed, but his politicians are more portraiture than caricature, and even his drowning victims look like they're patiently waiting to stroll to another page and sell Arrow shirts.
"America First" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, October 3, 1916
At Hearst's Chicago newspaper, the Examiner, editorial cartoonist Harry Murphy belonged to what I'm going to call the Winsor McCay School. Notice how his precise inking of light and shade renders distinct folds and wrinkles in fabric, and even Mr. Food Speculator's musculature.
"The Rival Shows" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, June 16, 1916
Another trait that typifies the Winsor McCay School is the dominance of symbolic representatives (e.g., Uncle Sam, John Bull, John Barleycorn, donkeys and elephants) over caricature. That's not to say these cartoonists never drew real politicians in their cartoons; Kaiser Wilhelm showed up in a number of Murphy's wartime cartoons, and he congratulated Charles Evans Hughes on his election to the presidency by drawing him taking the wheel of the ship of state.

It's just too bad that Hughes lost the election.
"Bring Him Home with the Rest" by O.P. Williams in Los Angeles Evening Herald*, February 19, 1919
Densely inked cartoons such as these were common in the illustrated magazines of the late 1800's; it took a while for the equipment at daily newspapers to be up to the task. Still, a cartoon suffers in its journey from drawing pad to printed newspaper to photograph to microfiche to .pdf to internet to .jpeg.
"Getting Top-Heavy" by O.P. Williams in Los Angeles Evening Herald*, January 31, 1919
What is impressive about the McCay School is how any of them managed to crank out one of these cartoons every day. Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler had an entire week to compose and execute their cartoons for Harper's Weekly and Puck, even if you take into account that they would draw more than one cartoon per issue, often including one that took up a full page or two.
"Courage, Boy, Courage" by O.P. Williams in Los Angeles Evening Herald*, July 7, 1919
I have not come across any depictions of real persons in O.P. Williams' work (and I hope I'm reading that scrunched-up signature of his correctly). But he did a reasonably good job drawing animals, and perhaps that was of more interest to him.
"If They Keep on Retreating" by Hal Coffman in Los Angeles Herald, October 22, 1918
O.P. Williams didn't crank out a cartoon every day*; he alternated days with Hal Coffman (above), whose looser style was much more in the manner of the majority of pen-and-ink cartoonists of the day. Once in a blue moon, the L.A. Herald would run both of its editorial cartoonists on the editorial page, one right atop the other, since Coffman presumably could complete his cartoons faster than Williams could. In fact, there are some editions with two Coffman cartoons on the page.
"Quiet Apartment Wanted" by Frederick B. Opper in New York Journal, March 5, 1915
I include these cartoons just to demonstrate that although the McCay School of cartooning was nearly exclusive to Hearst newspapers, the Hearst newspapers did not rely exclusively on the McCay School for their editorial cartoons. Frederick Burr Opper established his reputation at the weekly magazines (Frank Leslie's Weekly, Puck) before being hired away by Mr. Hearst to draw for his New York Journal, and was quite influential in his own right.
"New Year's Never Agains" by Thomas E. Powers for International News Service, January 3, 1916
You can hardly get any further from the McCay School than T.E. Powers, reportedly one of Hearst's favorite cartoonists.

But getting back to the McCay School of Cartooning: since I promised a cross-hatched bear, here's one of Harry Murphy's.
"Suicide?" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, November 10, 1917
* See the comments below and my June 10 post for corrected information about O.P. Williams.


  1. Alex Jay and Allan Holtz have information at

    1. Thanks -- Stripper's Guide is one of the sources I check for this sort of information, but Williams didn't turn up when I looked for him.