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 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.
Today we look at Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling’s 1924 award-winning cartoon.
I covered Jay “Ding” Darling during my Month of Political Cartooning Stars. Darling was a legendary cartoonist who was so well known for his cartoons about the environment that FDR gave him a position in his administration dealing with National Wildlife!!
Today we look at the first of two cartoons of Darling to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.
The cartoon appeared in the Des Moines Register and Leader in May of 1923, only months before one of the subjects in the following cartoon passed away (and a mere five and a half years before another one of the subjects of the cartoon ended up taking the job of the fellow who passed away!!!).
The cartoon was titled “In Good Ol’ U.S.A.”
It is a very nice commentary by Darling about the importance of having drive to achieve success in life, although to be frank, as well-executed as it was, it seems hard to believe that this was considered the most notable political cartoon of the entire year. In fact, this was only the second cartoon ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning!
That being said, let’s take a look at the three men discussed in the cartoon.
The first was born in 1874 and died in 1964. His parents died in 1880 and 1884, leaving him an orphan at the age of 9 (which is odd, since Darling says 8). He was raised by his grandparents and his uncle, and worked during his teen years while attending night school on his own. He attended Stanford University in 1891 (the very first year the place opened!) and graduated with a degree in geology in 1894.
He went to work for a London-based firm in Australia, and eventually became one of the top engineers in the world. He was sent to work in China for a private corporation. While there, he and his family were actually trapped in their settlement during the Boxer Rebellion.
He became an extremely successful businessman, and when World War I broke out, he used his clout to do a great deal of charity work.
After the war, he got involved in politics and was the Secretary of Commerce for Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, a post which he turned into one of the preeminent roles in American politics during his time in the Cabinet.
He eventually would be elected to succeed Coolidge, and he became the 31st President of the United States.
Also known as Herbert Hoover.
Next we have Dr. Frederick Peterson (I don’t actually know this one for sure, it’s just my own detective work, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s Peterson), 1859-1938), who I will have to take Darling’s word that he was the son of a plasterer (that’s not exactly the sort of thing that makes it into bios).
Peterson WAS one the world’s leading neurologists (in a time when neurology was quite a new science) and was an early proponent of psychoanalysis, being one of the first people to ever publish Freud and Jung’s theory of Free Association.
He also was a great humanitarian, and he DID, as Darling mentions, do a great deal of work for children, specifically improving the teaching of good health in the public school systems.
He also happened to be a good friend of Ding Darling.
The last subject is Warren Harding, the 29th President of the United States, who passed away in August of 1923.
Harding did, indeed, apprentice as a printer, but his father also happened to own a newspaper, which is where Harding truly became famous. He bought the Marion Daily Star (in Marion, Ohio) and soon turned it into one of the most popular newspapers in the country.
He was elected to the US Senate in 1915 and in 1920, he was elected President of the United States, becoming the first of only three sitting US Senators to become the President of the United States (with the current President being the most recent).
He died of either a heart attack or a stroke in August of 1923.
The six youths standing around the drug stores all died penniless and unloved.