Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.
Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.
Today we look at the first cartoonist to ever win a Pulitzer Prize.
Rollin Kirby is intriguing, because he was sort of like Robert Minor (who was clearly a huge influence upon Kirby), but he was a bit of a toned down Robert Minor – or rather, a mainstream version of Robert Minor, if that makes any sense.
He was political in a lot of the same ways that Minor was, but never so political that he would turn off the mainstream. And he was MUCH more willing to work with the government and higher-ups who wanted to censor his voice than Minor, so he was treated a great deal better than Minor by the mainstream.
As a result, Kirby not only won the very first Pulitizer Prize awarded for editorial cartoons, he won a total of THREE of them, which I believe is the most Pulitizer Prizes ever won by a cartoonist (a couple others also won three, but no one has ever won four, I don’t think).
Rollin Kirby was born in Illinois in 1875, and as a young man, he studied art in Paris and New York before becoming an illustrator in the very early 20th Century at a number of magazines, like Colliers, Life and Harper’s. He was not particularly successful in this field, so in 1911, he turned to cartooning.
In 1911, Kirby began working for the New York Mail, doing political cartoons. He then went to the New York Sun. In 1913, he began drawing for the New York World, which is where his reputation was mostly made. Here, Kirby used his cartoon as a platform for his mostly liberal viewpoint on the world.
Kirby was big proponent of women’s suffrage, and contributed to a number of women’s journals…
Probably the biggest issue facing women, vis a vis not having a voice in elections, was the way that they were treated on the employment front.
Here, Kirby derides the proposals in 1915 by the New York State Legislature to remove most of the restrictions on hours women were allowed to work…
Similarly, Kirby shows what he thinks of the Supreme Court’s decision on minimum wage…
Your constitutional right to starve…classic!
In the days leading up to World War I, Kirby even applied the concepts of women’s suffrage overseas, where the women of Belgium also were not allowed to vote…
In Belgium : and yet when she wanted the vote they told her a woman’s place was in the home
During World War I, Kirby did some strong war-related work.
Here, he shows the battle of Verdun in its basest form…
And he has some pretty anti-German takes on these post-War cartoons…
Vandals in Victory, Vandals in Defeat
Here, the Kaiser’s autocracy is given…
The death sentence
And here, Uncle Sam himself congratulates Wilson…
Kirby was a supporter of civil rights, as well. Here is a great mocking cartoon of William Allen White (a member of the Ku Klux Klan)’s bid for Kansas Governor in 1924…
A Real American Goes Hunting.
Kirby was staunchly opposed to Prohibition, and even created a character named Mr. Dry to mock the Prohibition movement…
Now then, all together, “My Country ’tis of Thee”
Kirby was opposed to Isolationism, as seen in this cartoon of Uncle Sam…
It was during this time period that Kirby was his most popular and also his most acclaimed, capturing the Pulitizer Prize in 1922 (the first year it was awarded), 1924 AND 1929.
I actually couldn’t get a hold of ANY of the three cartoons.
They were titled “The Road to Moscow,” “News From the Outside World” and “Tammany,” respectively.
If someone could find those three cartoons, I’d be most appreciative!!
But in the meantime, I’ll describe them.
The first one is a basic commentary on the problems in the Soviet Union with the Revolution.
The second is depiction of outside nations to the formation of the League of Nations. It shows the countries not in the League of Nations as basically bums, cut off from the “civilized” world.
The last of the three is probably the best. In it, Kirby plays on the Tammany Hall figures that Thomas Nast made famous, only now Kirby is saying that the Republicans can no longer complain about Tammany, because they have more than their share of corrupt officials. It shows a big figure representing the GOP shouting about Tammany, but in the background is a motley crew of Republican figures who did corrupt things. It’s a great piece – I hope someone can find it so I can share it with you all here!
In the days following the Stock Market crash, Kirby had this amazing, if truly sad, cartoon…
Around this time, New York World was purchased by Scripps-Howard, and was merged into the Evening Telegram as the World-Telegram. Kirby went along for the ride, but his heady days of total freedom were over.
Still, he made some strong cartoons (Kirby was also in his mid-50s by this time), like his depiction of Roosevelt cleaning up the country after becoming President in 1933…
Still, Kirby began getting edited frequently, and finally, in 1940, he parted ways with the World-Telegram.
He drew for a few different places through World War II, doing some strong work, still…
But by now, Kirby was completely mainstream.
In fact, check out these series of propaganda posters he produced for the US Army to urge Americans to make more metal for the war effort…
Very well drawn, of course, but for a guy whose initial work was based on Robert Minor, having folks talk about how they want to do whatever it takes to stop the Japs? A bit of a letdown.
Kirby passed away in 1952.
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