I grew up informed and amused by Vancouver’s great editorial cartoonists Len Norris and Roy Peterson. At home, there is an original Norris on the wall, purchased at a 1981 elementary school fundraiser that benefited from the artist’s generosity during another time of restraint in public education.
Browsing through works at The Simon Fraser University Library Editorial Cartoons Collection is a favourite pastime. This irreplaceable library contains over 9300 original drawings published in Canadian newspapers between 1952 and the present. Beyond Norris and Peterson, you will find other great Canadian artists, including Bierman, Harrop, Krieger, Murphy, Olson, Raeside and others.
To prove the title of this blog post, I offer one of Len Norris’ cartoons from March 1954:
|“… lately there’s been some criticism of frills in schools, and I understand Grade II keeps a goldfish and a pair of rabbits …”|
Political cartoons can be timeless. Ethan Georges Rabidoux in The power of political cartoons, published in the Toronto Star, provides evidence of their potential clout.
“Stop them damn pictures! I don’t care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures.”
William Magear Tweed understood the power of a cartoonist’s pen. Tweed was a wealthy New York politician during the 1870s and a character in the 2002 movie Gangs of New York. He was also the target of vociferous attacks by Bavarian-born cartoonist Thomas Nast when he made this statement.
Tweed and his acolytes at Tammany Hall stole between 40 million and 200 million tax dollars in their day (between $1.5 billion and $8 billion today when adjusted for inflation). The New York Times ran a story detailing their graft. The public never caught on until Nast’s political cartoons brought the information to the commoners in a language they understood. Tweed was convicted of larceny and spent the rest of his days in prison. It could not have been done without Nast’s work. The powerful were brought to their knees when their corruption was exposed through cartoons.
|Thomas Nast, Who Stole the People’s Money? Cartoon showing
William Tweed, Peter Sweeney, Richard Connolly and Oakley
Hall that appeared in Harper’s Weekly (19th August, 1871)