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 Edmund Duffy’s 1934 award-winning cartoon.
I’ve already shown you folks Duffy’s first Pulitzer Prize winning cartoon, and now, three years later, Duffy won his second (of a record-tying three total) with a pointed exhortation of the Governor of California.
One of the major issues that angered Duffy was lynching. Mostly, he complained about situations like the Ku Klux Klan lynching African-Americans, but unsurprisingly, the anti-lynching cartoon that Duffy actually won the Pulitzer Prize for was for a “white-on-white” crime that had an absolutely surreal feel to it that worked wonderfully for a lampoon.
Brook Hart was the son of a wealthy San Jose businessman, and Hart was quite popular in the area, known as one of the most eligible bachelors in the Bay Area. On November 9, 1933, he was kidnapped by two men, Thomas Harold Thurmond and John M. Holmes. They killed him that night and then asked for a $40,000 ransom.
After the two men had been arrested, the body was still missing. Agitated mobs of people roamed the streets. California Governor James Rolph was asked to bring in the National Guard. He repeatedly refused. In fact, he actually canceled a trip to a National Governors Meeting in Idaho because he was afraid that his chief political rival, the Lieutenant Governor, would call in the National Guard in his absence.
Finally, Hart’s body was found. The mob (at least 5,000 people – some folks claim it was as many as 15,000 people) charged to where the two killers were held and lynched them in St. James Park on November 27th. Thousands of people gathered and after the lynching, people began tearing pieces from the lynching tree as souvenirs (the next month, the city ordered that the tree be cut down and destroyed).
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this case was the Governor’s response:
If anyone is arrested for this good job, I’ll pardon them all. The aroused people of that fine city of San Jose were so enraged…it was only natural that peaceful and law abiding as they are, they should rise and mete out swift justice to these two murderers and kidnappers.
Rolph added that he would like to release all the kidnappers and murders in San Quentin and Folsom prisons and deliver them to the “patriotic San Jose citizens who know how to handle such a situation.”
Such an absurd situation lends itself perfectly to mockery, and here is Edmund Duffy’s response, in the November 28th edition of the Baltimore Sun, “California Points With Pride”…
Strong condemnation by Duffy, and also perhaps a bit of a make-up for not awarding his past lynching cartoons.