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, on the last day of the month, we take a look at the first cartoon to win the award, Rollin Kirby’s 1922 award-winning cartoon.
As I mentioned yesterday, a theme that many of the cartoons featured this month were most concerned with was the threat of Communism, so it is quite fitting that the first cartoon ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize was a cartoon by Rollin Kirby denouncing Communism.
It’s interesting, though, to note that in denouncing Communism, what Kirby (and the American government, really) did was to turn Communism into this alluring mystical “thing” instead of just a political system.
At the time of this cartoon in August of 1921, little was known of the Russian Civil War and of the fact that a civilian journalist, Leon Trotsky, was defeating experienced generals and admirals in battle.
The United State government decided not to make a big deal out of Trotsky, for fear that he would become a bit of a folk hero among the world, so instead, the message delivered to Americans was basically what Kirby delivers here in “On the Road to Moscow”…
All we see is a black void with Death apparently leading a procession of people to presumably their deaths, only as we look closer, we see that they are not a procession but rather are chained together as slaves on the way to death.
THIS was the image of Russia that most Americans had in 1921, a black void of not knowing WHAT the heck was going on, and all that was left was the idea that “Communism” was this powerful force, and the next X amount of decades were dedicated against this force.
The cartoon itself is powerful, if one of Kirby’s weaker pieces from an artistic standpoint (Kirby was a much better draftsman than this cartoon would suggest – but you’ve all seen that already in the other two cartoons of his featured this month).
Okay, that does it for this month!
Hope you all enjoyed it!