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 Carey Orr’s 1961 award-winning cartoon.
Carey Orr (1890-1967) had one of the more interesting behind the scenes life among notable political cartoonists. Orr was a semi-professional baseball player while a teenager, and he worked as a player long enough to save enough money to put himself through art school in Chicago. After making a name for himself as a young cartoonist in Nashville, he triumphantly returned to Chicago and became a popular editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune for the next fifty years or so. Orr was one of the more notable conservative editorial cartoonist, and he spent many a cartoon knocking FDR and/or Communism (In another unique aspect of his work, Orr drew his cartoons BEFORE showing them to his editor to be accepted or denied, a very uncommon practice for editorial cartoonists, who usually get sketches approved first). Orr did the comic strip The Kernel Cootie, and his niece, Martha Orr, created the comic strip that would ultimately evolve into Mary Worth, which remains in print today! After returning to Chicago, Orr began teaching cartooning at the same school he went to as a teenager. While there, around 1917, he taught a young cartoonist who never quite made it as a newspaper cartoonist. That cartoonist, by the name of Walt Disney, eventually ended up going into a related field.
In any event, towards the end of Orr’s career, he received a Pulitzer Prize for a cartoon that was published in October of 1960 about the so-called “Congo Crisis” of 1960.
In 1959 going in 1960, the people of the Belgian Congo were trying to free themselves from Belgian rule, and ultimately, in June of 1960, they did so.
The first Prime Minister of the Congo was Patrice Lumumba, who was a major reason why the nation gained its independence.
The Congo quickly became a player in the Cold War because of their natural resources. Fifty percent of the world’s supply of uranium came from the Congo, and the United States received almost all of that uranium. So it was with great worry when Lumumba took power, as he was known to be at least somewhat friendly with the Soviet Union.
This led to secretive support given by the Western and Soviet powers to various other factions in the Congo, and by the end of September, the “Congo Crisis” began, as Lumumba was removed from power and a Civil War began involving a number of different factions, each connected to different foreign interests.
It was with this in mind that Orr drew the following cartoon, titled “The Kindly Tiger”…
It’s truly fascinating to see the Soviet Union depicted this way when it was later revealed that President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to assassinate Lumumba, a democratically elected official, simply because he had some sort of favorable feelings towards the Soviets. A few months later, Lumumba was captured and then later assassinated, but it appears as though the U.S. was beaten to the punch, and it was just by one of the various factions (one could argue that since it was done by the faction that had at least tacit support from the West, that it was LIKE the U.S. helped kill the guy, but that’s probably a bit of a stretch).