Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Revolutionary War

This year, 2015, is a year of anniversaries by tens: the 200th anniversary of the end of the War of 1812, the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, and the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is also the 240th anniversary of the beginning of the Revolutionary War. That beginning took place on April 19, 1775, at Lexington and Concord when British forces engaged and were forced into retreat by the Minutemen of Massachusetts. The war carried on for eight more years, with the last British troops leaving New York City on today's date--November 25--in 1783. In 1776, we declared our independence. In 1777, we won the battles that turned the tide. And in 1778-1781, we secured our freedom by defeating the British in the West and in the South, with a culminating victory at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Artists, writers, historians, thinkers, and the American people at large have celebrated those events ever since. Illustrators and cartoonists from Indiana are of course among them.

Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937) of Maples, Indiana, was renowned for her Twins series of books. Here is the cover of The American Twins of the Revolution, published in 1926, presumably to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Independence. The Revolutionary War is unique in our history. Fought on our own soil and in every part of our young nation, it touched and influenced the lives of every American as no war has in the time since. Those lives included the lives of children. I would hazard that there have been more children's books about children participating in the Revolutionary War than about any other American war. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1943) leaps to mind.

Roy Frederic Heinrich (1881-1943) was born in Goshen, Indiana, but lived much of his life in the East. Late in his career, he executed a series of historical drawings for the National Life Insurance Company of Montpelier, Vermont. Here is his depiction of the Battle of Hubbardton, July 7, 1777, in what is now Vermont. The British and their Hessian mercenaries won the battle but at great cost.

Frederick Coffay Yohn (1875-1933) of Indianapolis was a wunderkind artist, recognized by age twenty-five as one of the nation's top historical illustrators. He specialized in paintings of the American Revolution, many of which were published in Scribner's. Shown here is a scene from the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777, in which the American General Nicholas Herkimer was mortally wounded in a loss to Loyalists or Tories and their Indian allies.

Yohn's painting was used as a design for a postage stamp in observance of the American Bicentennial.

Ten days after Oriskany, on August 16, 1777, American forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Bennington. F.C. Yohn was the artist.

The caption here tells the story. The drawing is by Roy F. Heinrich. Again, the war was one in which all Americans might have taken part, including a housemaid wearing a dress as striped as her flag.

On October 17, 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered his forces to General Horatio Gates, thus bringing an end to the Saratoga campaign and helping to assure foreign recognition of the American cause. The artist was once again Yohn.

"The Interrupted Christmas Dinner--A Revolutionary Incident" by T. Dart Walker (1868-1914) of Goshen, Indiana. This image was published by Leslie's in 1900 and illustrates a story with which I am unfamiliar. The fineness and bravery of American women (and children) is evident here, as the American man in uniform hides under the table. 

Despite its victories, the Continental Army under George Washington suffered through a hard winter in 1777-1778 at Valley Forge. F.C. Yohn painted this monochromatic picture.

In 1777, the British opened a new theater in the war, the war in the West. From September 7 to September 18, 1778, Shawnee warriors, allied with the British, laid siege to Fort Boonesborough in what is now Kentucky. (The date on the picture frame is 1777.) The siege failed and only two died on the American side, including a slave named London. Daniel Boone and his brother Squire were at the siege. Squire Boone now lies buried in a cave in southern Indiana. The picture here was painted by Gayle Porter Hoskins (1887-1962) of Brazil, Indiana.

In February 1779, George Rogers Clark, with his small force of men, moved against Vincennes in what is now southwestern Indiana, crossing the flooded Wabash River bottoms from the Illinois country to the west. The children of Indiana learn of Clark's feat in fourth-grade history class and remember it forever after, if only for the story of men wading for miles through freezing floodwaters on their approach to the settlement. Frederick Coffay Yohn painted this picture in 1929. . . 

Only a few years after having painted this picture of the surrender of Fort Sackville at Vincennes, which took place on February 25, 1779. Henry Hamilton, the leader of the British forces, is on the right. George Rogers Clark, older brother of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame, is on the left. Note the drummer boy on the far left and the girl in the blue dress on the far right. Indiana author Maurice Thompson's bestselling Alice of Old Vincennes (1900), illustrated by Yohn, is set against the backdrop of the Vincennes campaign.  

Yohn's painting was used as a design for a postage stamp commemorating the sesquicentennial of the surrender in 1929. 

For the British, the Southern theater of operations was far more active but only slightly more successful than the war in the West. Among the American heroes of the South was Francis Marion, the famed "Swamp Fox," who gave his name to Marion County, home of the capital city of Indiana. The drawing here is by Carl Kidwell (1910-2003) of Washington, Indiana. It adorns the dust jacket of The Swamp Fox by Marion Marsh Brown (1950). Note the unintentional double pun in the author's name.

In 1775, a newspaper comic strip called The Sons of Liberty went into syndication in anticipation of the American Bicentennial. The creator of the strip was Richard Jo Lynn (1937-2010) of Lagro, Indiana. Here is a piece of promotional art reprinted in Cartoonist Profiles magazine No. 36 (Dec. 1977). 

The Sons of Liberty culminated on the day of the Bicentennial, July 4, 1976, with a Sunday page, the only Sunday during the run of the strip. I believe this is the ending strip, but I can't say for sure, as the magazine article does not identify it as such. In any case, Happy Birthday to the Revolution that began in earnest 240 years ago!

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, November 20, 2015

Cartoonists and Power

On November 13, 2015, Islamic terrorists attacked several sites in and around Paris, in the process killing 130 people and injuring nearly 400 others. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. One of the attackers had only recently arrived in Europe in the flood of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.

The attack of November 13 was the second major attack to take place in Paris this year. On January 7, Islamists attacked the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The attackers killed eleven people and injured eleven others. Five of the dead--Jean Cabut, Stéphane Charbonnier, Philippe Honoré, Bernard Verlhac, and Georges Wolinski--were cartoonists. Wolinski was also Jewish. There were further terrorist actions in and around Paris over the next two days and countervailing shows of solidarity with the people of Paris in the following weeks. Our current president was conspicuously absent from the largest event, which took place on January 11 in Paris and included two million people and more than forty world leaders. 

On November 17 in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry had the following to say about the two attacks:
There's something different about what happened [on November 13] from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of--not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they're really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn't to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.
It isn't clear whether Kerry was speaking for himself, the President, the United States government, or anyone else, despite his claim that "everybody would feel that." He may not have been speaking in any formal capacity at all. His words sound informal and off the cuff. They are very nearly incoherent. Nonetheless, Secretary Kerry seems to have revealed his true thoughts, and his use of the word "legitimacy," despite any subsequent correction, places him in a category with Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League; cartoonist Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame; and several members of PEN International, all of whom have suggested that the five murdered cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo provoked their own deaths or even that they deserved to die.

In response to the attacks of November 13, more than two dozen governors have stated that they will not accept Syrian refugees into their states, while at least five others have requested that any refugees be screened before entering. Among the governors not accepting refugees is Kentucky Governor-Elect Matt Bevin. On November 19, the Lexington Herald-Leader published an editorial cartoon by Hoosier cartoonist Joel Pett. The cartoon shows Bevin quaking with fear and hiding under his desk. On the floor is a map of Syria and a newspaper with the headline "Paris." On the governor-elect's desk are three pictures of his children. A fourth is being held by one of Bevin's aides, who is saying: "Sir, they're not terrorists . . . they're your own adopted kids!" I should point out that Matt Bevin is the father of ten children, four of whom are adopted from Ethiopia.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Indeed, today, the Lexington Herald-Leader chose to articulate with great clarity the deplorably racist ideology of "cartoonist" Joel Pett. Shame on Mr. Pett for his deplorable attack on my children and shame on the editorial controls that approved this overt racism.
Let me be crystal clear, the tone of racial intolerance being struck by the Herald-Leader has no place in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and will not be tolerated by our administration.
Pett, who lived in Africa for five years in his childhood, said that he is not a racist. He chalks up Bevin's reaction to "inexperience on his part."

Joel Pett's cartoon may or not be on target. It may or may not be in good taste. That's beside the point. The point is that a cartoonist here in the United States is facing threats, veiled as they may be, from someone far more powerful than he is, simply for expressing himself as an artist. In this country, that threat is ridiculous. Joel Pett is obviously not taking it seriously. In Paris, however, five cartoonists paid for their art with their lives. Contrary to what Garry Trudeau said, they were not operating from a position of power. They were not "punching down." They were in fact punching up against people far more powerful than they were. Their only weapon was a pen. Their killers used firearms and explosives.

What the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists drew may at times have been in poor taste, just as what Joel Pett and other political cartoonists draw may at times be. The issues, however, are simple: either artists have the right to express themselves or they do not. The threat or use of force against them is either legitimate or it is not. Where the Islamic terrorists stand on these issues is clear. Their position is not surprising. What is less clear is just where John Kerry, Garry Trudeau, and Matt Bevin stand. That's the part that is surprising, and I have to say, alarming.

Original text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Ernie Pyle and G.I. Joe-Part Two

Today, November 11, 2015, is Veteran's Day, and on this occasion I would like to write a little more about Ernie Pyle and G.I. Joe.

I was in Irvington on October 31 for the annual Halloween Festival. For those not familiar with the history of Indianapolis and its neighborhoods, Irvington is on the east side of the city. Founded in 1870 and later annexed by Indianapolis, Irvington is characterized by winding avenues and historic houses. It was once a place for artists and writers. Kin Hubbard, creator of Abe Martin, lived there. So did painter and teacher William Forsyth. Many of the streets are named for artists and writers as well, including Audubon Avenue, Irving Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue, and Bolton Avenue, named for Hoosier poet Sarah Bolton. The first Irvington Halloween Festival took place on October 31, 1927. This year, in the sixty-eighth year of the festival, we walked among Batmen, Storm Troopers, Princess Leias, and other characters. We even found Waldo. Towards the end of our stay, we stopped in at Bookmamas, a small, independent bookstore on our old street. There I found a book I had never seen before, An Ernie Pyle Album: Indiana to Ie Shima by Lee G. Miller (1946). In that book is the following image:

Photo by the American Red Cross.

That's Ernie Pyle on the left and cartoonist Dave Breger on the right. Breger is showing the journalist a mural he created for a Red Cross club either in Northern Ireland or England. The caption doesn't make it clear where this photograph was taken (it was probably in Northern Ireland), but it would have been in the summer of 1942, about the time that Breger's G.I. Joe made its debut in Yank. Ernie Pyle flew to Ireland in June 1942 and spent about six weeks visiting with troops in the British Isles. In November 1942, he shipped out for North Africa to cover the Allied invasion.

In the first part of this article, from May 27, 2014 (here), I speculated about the origin of the title of the G.I. Joe comic book from the 1950s and the name of the Hasbro action figure from the 1960s. I think it more likely that the comic book and action figure were named after the Ernie Pyle biopic The Story of G.I. Joe (1945) than after Dave Breger's comic panel from 1942, but this photograph confirms that Pyle knew of the expression G.I. Joe almost from the beginning, if Breger was in fact its originator. Whether the title of the movie came from the title of Breger's cartoon creation is still an unanswered question.

Here are some other images of Ernie Pyle from the same book:

In London with a cartoon by David Low (1891-1963), a cartoonist born in New Zealand but thought of as a Britisher. Low inscribed the cartoon to Pyle. Photo by Ferenz Fedor.

Four sketches by combat artist Carol Johnson (ca. 1916-2003). Links to articles about Johnson: "Voices: Honoring Veterans Exhibit Opens Nov. 10" and "Carol Johnson’s WWII Illustrations on View at Art Center’s Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall" by Christine Spines.

A portrait drawing by combat artist George Biddle (1885-1973) from June 15, 1943.

Finally, a cartoon from Yank: The Army Weekly, from October 6, 1944, by Sergeant Al Melinger.

I saw The Story of G.I. Joe not long ago and kept my eyes peeled for a soldier with a flower stuck in his helmet strap. I didn't see him, but that doesn't mean he wasn't there. (I missed the first few minutes of the movie.) If the soldier had been in the movie, a link might be made between it and the comic book. In any case, the story of the expression G.I. Joe is a little fuller now with the first image shown above. 

Happy Veteran's Day to all. Let us honor all those who have fallen by devoting ourselves to the cause of human freedom for which they fought.

Text and captions copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley