Art Young’s Needle-Sharp Cartoons

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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If you have never encountered Art Young‘s cartoons from the early 1900s, you are missing one of America’s most strident and witty political and social cartoonists. Just look below:


Aside from two very entertaining autobiographies, On My Way (1928) and Art Young: His Life and Times (1939), his Art Young’s Inferno was a 600-year romp through hell with all the bankers, politicians, prelates and monarchs whose greed made life hellish for others. He also worked for The Masses, where he practiced his distinct brand of satire. In 1913 Young and editor Max Eastman were charged with criminal libel for statements against the Associated Press for the cartoon “Poisoned At The Source.” After war was declared in 1917, The Masses‘ writers and artists, including Young, attacked government war policy. The antiwar stance of the magazine caused it to lose mailing privileges and in July, 1917, authorities claimed that cartoons by Young and others had violated the Espionage Act. Trials and tribulations ensued.


Young did not focus his barbs only at the wealthy and powerful. He also tweaked characters from his hometown of Bethel, CT. A few weeks back, I stumbled upon a beautifully produced recent printing of Art Young’s Types of the Old Home Town published by Seraphemera Books and available at the Art Young Gallery in Bethel in conjunction with the Bethel Historical Society.


Young wrote in his second autobiography: “These Types pictures I regard as my best contributions to folklore Americana. Here was work which I greatly enjoyed, conjuring up from the days of my youth the characters that I had known back home. And I had traveled enough to realize that they were not just local, but that their prototypes were to be found in hundreds or thousands of towns.”


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