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Herbert Lawrence Block

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Herbert Lawrence Block

Herblock coined the term "McCarthyism" in this cartoon in the March 29, 1950 Washington Post
Born Herbert Lawrence Block
(1909-10-13)October 13, 1909
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died October 7, 2001(2001-10-07) (aged 91)
Washington, D.C., United States
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist
Pseudonym(s) Herblock
Notable works editorial cartoons

Herbert Lawrence Block, commonly known as Herblock (October 13, 1909 – October 7, 2001), was an American editorial cartoonist and author best known for his commentary on national domestic and foreign policy from a liberal perspective.[1]


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, began 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 attended Lake Forest College for almost two years. 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 Army doing cartoons and press releases. Upon his discharge Block was hired as the chief editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post, working there until his death 55 years later.[2] His personal assistant for 44 years was Jean Rickard, who was Executive Director of the Herb Block Foundation for its first 10 years. He never married, and, in the Post's employee index, he listed his address and place of residence as simply "The Washington Post."

While in high school and then in college he began drawing some cartoons for the Evanston News-Index, mainly for the pleasure of being published. Toward the end of his second year at Lake Forest, he took some of these published cartoons and some unpublished ones to the Chicago Daily News hoping to get a summer job. The editor who looked at them said they would get in touch if they had anything. A few days later they phoned and asked Block to come in. An editorial page cartoonist was leaving the city and they could give him a try. He started Monday and never went back to school.

The Herb Block Foundation is committed to defending the basic freedoms guaranteed all Americans, combating all forms of discrimination and prejudice and improving the conditions of the poor and underprivileged through the creation or support of charitable and educational programs with the same goals. The Foundation is also committed to improving educational opportunities to deserving students through post-secondary education scholarships and to promoting editorial cartooning through continuing research. All efforts of the Foundation shall be in keeping with the spirit of Herblock, America’s great cartoonist and his lifelong fight against abuses by the powerful.


His first cartoon appeared in the Chicago Daily News on April 24, 1929. It advocated the conservation of America's forests. Herblock said that his family was conservative and that his father voted for Herbert Hoover in 1928. But with the onset of the Great Depression, he became a supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. He pointed out the dangers of Soviet aggression, the growing Nazi menace, and opposed American isolationists.[4] 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 was one of his recurring targets, for whom Herblock coined the term "McCarthyism" in a particular cartoon in 1950. He won a second Pulitzer Prize in 1954.[5] The Washington Post officially endorsed Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election. Because Herblock supported Adlai Stevenson, the Post pulled his cartoons, but restored them after a week. He always insisted on total editorial independence, regardless of whether or not his cartoons agreed with the Post's stance on political issues. He focused most of his attacks on those public figures in power, often on Republican figures but also Democrats who displeased him were not immune from criticism. As an example - despite being an ardent admirer of FDR - he 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 for not 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. The cartoonist would eventually be awarded this honor by Bill Clinton in 1994.

Some of Herblock's finest cartoons were those attacking the 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 in 1954. He had once used the same motif for Senator McCarthy.[6] 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: Gun control; abortion; the influence of fundamentalist Christian groups on public policy; and the Dot Com bubble. The tobacco industry was a favorite target of Herblock, who had smoked at one time. He 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 six days short of what would have been his 92nd birthday. His final cartoon appeared in the Post on August 26.


During the course of a career stretching into nine decades, he won three Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning(1942, 1954, 1979), shared a fourth Pulitzer Prize in 1973 for Public Service on Watergate, 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 1966, he designed the U.S. postage stamp commemorating the 175th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. In 1986, Block received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College. In 1999 he received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Harvard University.

In 2008 Herblock's work was the subject of exhibitions entitled Herblock's Presidents at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery (United States),[7] and Herblock's History at the Library of Congress.[8] In late 2009 and early 2010, the Library of Congress showcased a new exhibition called Herblock!.[9] This exhibition included cartoons that represented Block’s ability to wield his pen effectively and artfully. He used it to condemn corruption and expose injustice, inequality, and immorality. His topics included 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 (W. W. Norton, 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

  • Robert C. Harvey. "Herblock" in American National Biography Online April 2004 Update online

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

  • Rickard named her son after her boss, Raymond "Lawrence" Bonieskie, and then he later named his son, Andrew "Lawrence" Bonieskie, after him as well.

External links

Biography portal
  • Many of Herblock's works can be found at the Library of Congress.
    • Library of Congress)
    • Library of Congress)
    • Library of Congress)
  • , November 14, 1993.
  • The Herb Block Foundation
  • New York Times

Template:PulitzerPrize EditorialCartooning 1922–1950 Template:PulitzerPrize EditorialCartooning 1951–1975 Template:PulitzerPrize EditorialCartooning 1976–2000

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