Herblock

Herblock

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Herbert Lawrence Block, commonly known as Herblock (October 13, 1909 – October 7, 2001), was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 editorial cartoonist
Editorial cartoonist
An editorial cartoonist, also known as a political cartoonist, is an artist who draws editorial cartoons that contain some level of political or social commentary....

 and author best known for his commentary on national domestic and foreign policy from a liberal perspective.

Career


Block was born in Chicago to a Catholic mother, Theresa Lupe Block, and a father of Jewish descent, David Julian Block, a chemist and electrical engineer. He started drawing at a precocious age, and started taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago when he was eleven. He adopted the "Herblock" signature in high school. After graduating in 1927, he became a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau and did freelance artwork. He attended Lake Forest College for two years, but then a summer job temporarily replacing the editorial page cartoonist for the mass-circulation Chicago Daily News
Chicago Daily News
The Chicago Daily News was an afternoon daily newspaper published between 1876 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois.-History:The Daily News was founded by Melville E. Stone, Percy Meggy, and William Dougherty in 1875 and began publishing early the next year...

 became a permanent job; he backed up the paper's front page political cartoonist, Vaughn Shoemaker. Block moved to Cleveland in 1933 to become the staff cartoonist for Newspaper Enterprise Association, a feature syndicate that distributed his cartoons nationally. He won his first Pulitzer in 1942, then spent two years in the Air Force doing cartoons and press releases. Upon discharge Block was hired as the chief editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post; he worked there until his death 55 years later. His personal assistant for 44 years was Jean Rickard, now Executive Director of The Herb Block Foundation. He never married, and, in the Posts employee index, he listed his address and place of residence as simply "The Washington Post."

The Herb Block Foundation awards the annual Herblock Prize
Herblock Prize
The Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning is an annual $15,000 after-tax cash prize, and a sterling silver Tiffany trophy....

 in editorial cartooning, beginning in 2004.

Cartoons


His first cartoon appeared in the Chicago Daily News
Chicago Daily News
The Chicago Daily News was an afternoon daily newspaper published between 1876 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois.-History:The Daily News was founded by Melville E. Stone, Percy Meggy, and William Dougherty in 1875 and began publishing early the next year...

 on April 24, 1929. It advocated the conservation of America's forests. Herblock said that his family were conservative and that his father voted for Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was the 31st President of the United States . Hoover was originally a professional mining engineer and author. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he promoted partnerships between government and business...

 in 1928. But with the onset of the Great Depression, he became a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 and the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

, becoming a lifelong liberal Democrat. He pointed out the dangers of Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 aggression, the growing Nazi menace, and opposed American isolationists
America First
America First may refer to:*America First Committee, a group that opposed entry of the United States into World War II*America First Credit Union, a credit union in Utah*America First Party , an isolationist political party...

. While he criticized Stalin and other communist figures, he also believed that the United States was overreacting to the danger of communism.

In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy
Joseph McCarthy
Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy was an American politician who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957...

 was one of his recurring targets, for whom Herblock coined the term "McCarthyism
McCarthyism
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term has its origins in the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by...

" in a particular cartoon in 1950. He won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1954. When the Washington Post officially endorsed Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election (as opposed to Herblock's support of Adlai Stevenson), they pulled his cartoons, but restored them after a week. He always insisted on total editorial independence, regardless of whether his cartoons agreed with the Post's stance on political issues. As a lifetime Democrat, he focused most of his attacks on Republican figures, but Democrats who displeased him were not immune from criticism. As an example, he (despite being an ardent admirer of FDR) found it necessary to attack the president's 1937 court-packing scheme.

During the '50s, Herblock criticized Eisenhower mainly for insufficient action on civil rights and curbing the abuses of Senator McCarthy. In the following decade, he attacked the US war effort in Vietnam, causing President Johnson to drop his plans of awarding the cartoonist with a Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

 (the cartoonist would eventually be awarded this honor by Bill Clinton in 1994).

Some of Herblock's finest cartoons were those attacking Nixon Administration during the Watergate Scandal, winning him his third Pulitzer Prize in 1979. Nixon canceled his subscription to the Post after Herblock drew him crawling out of an open sewer (a motif he had once used for Senator McCarthy). He also ended up on the president's infamous enemies list. In the '80s and '90s, he satirized and criticized Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton in addition to taking on the issues of the day such as gun control, abortion, the influence of fundamentalist Christian groups on public policy, and the Dot Com bubble. The tobacco industry was a favorite old target of Herblock, who had smoked at one time, but gave it up and had criticized cigarette companies even before that.

Stating that he never got tired of his work, Herblock continued as the 21st century began by attacking newly-elected president George W. Bush. He died on October 7, 2001 after a protracted bout of pneumonia three days short of what would have been his 92nd birthday. His illness prevented him from drawing any cartoons about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and his final one appeared in the Post on August 26.

A characteristic feature of many of Herblock's cartoons was a distinctive extended geometric border of 45° angles and parallel lines along two sides of the cartoon pane, making the cartoon appear to be drawn on the top surface of a flat block, rather than just sketched on a flat sheet of paper.

Honors


During the course of a career stretching into nine decades, he won three Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

s (1942
1942 Pulitzer Prize
-Journalism awards:*Public Service:** Los Angeles Times for its successful campaign which resulted in the clarification and confirmation for all American newspapers of the right of free press as guaranteed under the Constitution.*Reporting:...

, 1954
1954 Pulitzer Prize
-Journalism awards:*Public Service:**Newsday, Garden City, N.Y. for its expose of New York State's race track scandals and labor racketeering, which led to the extortion indictment, guilty plea and imprisonment of William C...

, 1979
1979 Pulitzer Prize
-Journalism awards:*Public Service:**The Point Reyes Light, a California weekly. For its investigation of Synanon, .*Local General or Spot News Reporting:...

), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994), the National Cartoonist Society Editorial Cartoon Award in 1957 and 1960, the Reuben Award in 1956, and the Gold Key Award (the National Cartoonists Society Hall of Fame) in 1979.

In 1986, Block received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy
Elijah P. Lovejoy
Elijah Parish Lovejoy was an American Presbyterian minister, journalist, newspaper editor and abolitionist. He was murdered by an opposition mob in Alton, Illinois during their attack on his warehouse to destroy his press and abolitionist materials.Lovejoy's father was a Congregational minister...

 Award as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College
Colby College
Colby College is a private liberal arts college located on Mayflower Hill in Waterville, Maine. Founded in 1813, it is the 12th-oldest independent liberal arts college in the United States...

.

In 2008 Herblock's work was the subject of exhibitions entitled Herblock's Presidents at the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

's National Portrait Gallery (United States)
National Portrait Gallery (United States)
The National Portrait Gallery is an art gallery in Washington, D.C., administered by the Smithsonian Institution. Its collections focus on images of famous individual Americans.-Building:...

, and Herblock's History at the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

. In late 2009 and early 2010, the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 showcased a new exhibition called Herblock!. This exhibition included cartoons that represented Block’s ability to wield his pen effectively and artfully, using it to condemn corruption and expose injustice, inequality, and immorality on topics including the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and World War II, communism and the Cold War, Senator Joseph McCarthy, race relations, Richard Nixon, the Reagan era, the 2000 election, and more.

Books of collected cartoons by Herbert Block

  • Block, Herbert. Herblock: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist ed. by Harry Katz (2009), 304pp; prints more than two hundred fifty cartoons in the text; comes with a DVD containing more than 18,000 Herblock cartoons
  • Herblock's history: political cartoons from the crash to the millennium. Library of Congress, 2000.
  • Herblock: a cartoonist's life. Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993.
  • Herblock at large: "Let's go back a little ..." and other cartoons with commentary Pantheon Books, 1987.
  • Herblock through the looking glass Norton, 1984.
  • Herblock on all fronts: text and cartoons New American Library, 1980
  • Herblock special report Norton, 1974
  • Herblock's state of the Union. Simon and Schuster, (1972)
  • The Herblock gallery. Simon and Schuster, (1968)
  • Straight Herblock. Simon and Schuster (1964)
  • Herblock's special for today. Simon and Schuster, (1958).
  • Herblock's here and now. Simon and Schuster, (1955).
  • The Herblock book (1952)
  • Herblock looks at Communism [1950?]

Further reading


"This retropsective volume...illuminates his life and times and reinforces the importance of editorial cartoons as a vital means for expressing political opinion in America."

External links


  • Many of Herblock's works can be found at the Library of Congress.
    • Enduring Outrage: Editorial Cartoons by Herblock (online exhibition from the Library of Congress
      Library of Congress
      The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

      )
    • Herblock! (online exhibition from the Library of Congress
      Library of Congress
      The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

      )
    • Herblock's History (online exhibition from the Library of Congress
      Library of Congress
      The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

      )
  • The Herb Block Foundation
  • Herblock obituary at New York Times