The Colonel Visits Oregon

He's Good Enough for MeOf all the famous personages that Homer Davenport knew and called friend during his brief years in the limelight, perhaps none was more influential than the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Davenport’s respect and enthusiasm for “The Colonel,” as he preferred to be called, supposedly was the reason Davenport left Hearst in 1904. This year he also created one of his more famous cartoons, the influential He’s Good Enough for Me (left), with Uncle Sam’s arm resting on T.R.’s shoulder.

Many have said that this single cartoon elected a President. Whether or not that’s true, the facts are that two years later at Davenport’s request, President Roosevelt directed the State Department to initiate contact with the Ottoman Empire, for the purpose of importing Arabian horse breeding stock. This acquisition expedition was a success, and today the Davenport Arabian Horse is the offspring of that one cartoon.

Colonel Roosevelt has remained a household word over the years, and even boasts a head on Mt. Rushmore. So much so, that in mid-May of 2013, the Oregon Historical Society with sponsorship by Wells Fargo Bank hosted a week-long “Roosevelt Roadshow” featuring Theodore Roosevelt re-enactor Joe Wiegand. They visited numerous Oregon communities, culminating with his last performance at the OHS Annual Membership Meeting in Portland.

I figured it might be a good gesture for The Davenport Project to present the Colonel with a framed reproduction of the He’s Good Enough for Me cartoon. I assumed that I could walk up after his talk and present the cartoon and maybe get a picture. That was the plan anyway. As it turned out, I arrived too early for the festivities, so I killed some time exploring the Museum.

The Colonel plugs Davenport

The Colonel plugs Davenport

While in the USS Oregon/Spanish American War room door stairs, I encountered a familiar character who immediately struck up a conversation with me, introducing himself as Theodore Roosevelt. I shook hands and said “A pleasure to meet you, Colonel.” to which he exclaimed that “My friends call me Colonel! I detest Mr. President.” He asked where I was from and if anyone of note was from there. I answered that I was from Silverton, Hometown of one of his old friends. I then gave the “Homer Davenport” elevator speech and mentioned the famous cartoon.

I then presented him with the framed copy I was carrying. The Colonel was obviously impressed. He was quite well acquainted with this particular cartoon, but was apparently unaware of Davenport’s Oregon roots. He said it was the best gift he had yet received during this trip. I included a letter with a brief bio of Davenport and his T.R. connection. He then asked me if he could incorporate the picture into his talk, and the rest was a delightful presentation of history, complete with a rather robust tribute to Davenport and Silverton! And as Homer could attest, even this “T.R.” put on a great show!

“Theodore Roosevelt is a humorist. In the multitude of his strenuousness this, the most human of his accomplishments, has apparently been overlooked. There is a similarity between his humor and Mark Twain’s. If Colonel Roosevelt were on the vaudeville stage he would be a competitor of Harry Lauder. At Denver, at the stock-growers’ banquet during his recent Western trip, Colonel Roosevelt was at his best. He made three speeches that day and was eating his sixth meal, yet he was in the best of fettle. You couldn’t pick a hallful that could sit with faces straight through his story of the blue roan cow. He can make a joke as fascinating as he can the story of a sunset on the plains of Egypt.”

—Homer Davenport. Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 23, 1910

A Cousin’s Memories

Frank S. BowersHomer Davenport was known around the world as a former citizen of Silverton. His friends are erecting a monument to his memory in Silverton, where he was buried. He was a cousin of Mr. Frank S. Bowers (right—from a Geer family group photo, ca. 1895), who has written the accompanying article. As Mr. Bowers is a cartoonist of national fame, he is able to speak with assurance on his subject.—Murray Wade; Editor & Publisher, Oregon Magazine, 1924.

Laying all blame for this article on the shoulders of the editor, at whose instigation I am at­tempting it, I will only make this one apology—”I am not a writer.”

So much has been published regarding the boyhood and life of my cousin, the late Homer Davenport, that anything one might say along that line would simply be needless repetition. Therefore I shall simply endeavor to give the reader of the Oregon Magazine, as faithfully as I can, a short account of Hom­er and his works as it has impressed one who has always been more or less vitally interest­ed in the line of endeavor that made him famous. Cartoons. Al­low me to say that I consider him Oregon’s one outstanding nation­al character.

A born democrat and humorist—understand when I say democratic I make no reference to the party-type of political democrat. He was democratic in every tendency and in his work.

It was this quality in him, I feel, that gave him the love and admiration of a host of friends ranging in the social scale from pauper to millionaire.

At Homer’s birth, his father, who was an ardent student and believer in phrenology, looking at him said: “If he lives to manhood he will he a humorist,” and to be a humorist must one not also be democratic?

This quality of humor and his gift of character was plainly exhibited in his earliest attempts at drawing. While just a toddler he covered all the available white paper that came within his reach such as fly leaves from a lot of old patent office re­ports that had been sent to our grandfather, R.C. Geer, with drawings mostly of animals. These drawings showed a skill that did credit to one much older than he. He had the faculty at that early age, to draw a monkey so you knew at once that it was a monkey, and other animals were depicted with equal faithfulness. Each animal was however, caricatured just as were his men of later years.

We have all heard the expression—“More Natural Than Life.” If that was ever true it could be said of his character studies. They were unmistakable exaggerated likenesses—a gift of his at which he excelled any man before or since his time. Added to this likeness they depicted the subjects character. Something that never shows in a photo­graph nor in life to the eye of the casual observer. On a visit to the National Capital, I sat in the press gallery and recognized about half of the U.S. Senate from Homer’s sketches. His work was full, not only of human interest but also of humane interest. His pencil was possessed of a brutal frankness that caused him to be feared by some who came under its point.

Richard Croker

R. Croker

CrokerismTake for instance his gorilla cartoon (left—from “Cartoons” 1898click for detail) of Richard Croker, who was depicted as a gorilla clasping the form of a woman labeled democracy, in one great hairy arm while lifted in the other hand was a stone to crush out her life. The face of the beast was all gorilla and at the same time unmistakably Croker.

This cartoon was taken from a famous European statue (“Gorille enlevant une Femme” by Emmanuel Frémiet in 1887. The arrow labeled “George” is in reference to politician, writer and economic theorist Henry George). From underneath the base of the statue protruded the tail of a serpent on which was lettered the name of a Croker henchman. [Thomas F. Grady (1853-1912)]

The next day Croker, whose impenetrable crust had turned the shafts of New York editors as a two inch plank would turn straws, was heard to tell that particular henchman that he must drop him as the papers were making it too hot for him.

Homer was the closest observer of small details of any of the world’s cartoonists. If a man’s coat tails were inclined to turn up, turn up they did in his drawings.

He was without art school training. In his early San Francisco days he tried studying art at the old Mark Hopkins Art school. After making numerous sketches of some casts of horses heads and a few unflattering likenesses of instructors, he made the fatal mistake by telling one of them of his ambition to cartoon—getting this reply: “Get a wide brush and a straight edge and you are as good as any of them.” That was when he graduated from Art School. He also in those days, had an ambition to rival Frederic Remington on horses.

I think perhaps one of the strongest features of his work was that he never shot over the head of the public in general. Even those who were not of the reading kind read his pictorial editorials, and either loved or hated him for them. In not shooting over the heads of the public he has been credited with pretty much demolishing the political heads of a number of men whom he has opposed.

In one of our eastern cities stands a monument to George Dixon for so long light weight champion boxer of the world built by his admirers.

In marked contrast to this is the final resting place of Homer at Silverton, Oregon. Will Oregon be content to let this be so? To let her one real big National character to go without some memorial of esteem?

It need be nothing pretentious. A dignified massive rugged stone, typical of the West, with a huge tablet telling future generations who Homer Davenport was and what he did.

In Clover at Last

Orison Swett Marden

Orison Swett Marden

In 1904, the New York-based “Success Company” published a book entitled “Little Visits with Great Americans or Success Ideals and How to Obtain Them.” It was edited and written by Orison Swett Marden (right), who is described by Wikipedia as “…a spiritual author in the New Thought Movement.” This volume contains numerous sketches of successful folks of the era, comprising a wide range of backgrounds. “Successful” authors, politicians, actors and even cartoonists, had short interviews or biographical sketches of them.

What follows is Marden’s interview with a now very successful Homer Davenport, at his home in East Orange, New Jersey in the Roseville neighborhood. Of interest is the reference to Homer’s sister, who could have been either Alice or Adelaide. Davenport’s own self-depreciation enters in also, as he relates getting fired from various newspapers, but lands other jobs on other papers for more money. Of particular note is his comment that he worked for the Oregonian for “…just a day.” Davenport researcher Barry Bernard uncovered a steady-stream of Davenport illustrations from March through September, 1890 in the Oregonian archives. The interview and images are from Google Books, the great new research resource.

Rebuffs and Disappointments Fail to Repress a Great Cartoonist’s Genius.

Homer C. DavenportTo-day Homer C. Davenport is the “first cartoonist” of America, and yet he is but thirty-five years old. Mr. Davenport has a small place in Roseville, on the outskirts of Newark, New Jersey.

He is a tall, handsome man, with large, humorous eyes, beneath heavy eyelids, that give him an expression of perpetual thought.

“I suppose you want to see my studio?” Mr. Davenport said. We went upstairs.

“This is it,” he said, with a chuckle. It was merely a small, square room, with a few framed pictures on the papered walls, and a desk in the corner. There was no easel in the room, but I saw a drawing-board under the desk.

Davenport’s Unique Studio.

“You work on that board, when on the desk?”


“You are disappointed,” said his sister, with a smile. “It is not what you expected.”

It wasn’t. I had expected to see a typical studio, with unfinished cartoons, and the usual artistic surroundings.

Mr. Davenport laid an unfinished cartoon on the desk, representing a chariot race, and laughed when he explained what it would be and mean; and this told me that he enters heartily in whatever he draws, which is requisite to success in art as well as in other things. Then we adjourned to another room and sat about a wood fire.

“Tell me of your beginning,” I said.

“Well, I was born in Oregon, thirty-five years ago, on my father’s farm. As a child, I was perpetually drawing, and to my father I owe much, for it was he who encouraged me, my mother dying when I was very young. I would lie flat on my stomach, and draw on the floor, if I had no paper. As I spent hours this way, the habit became injurious to my digestive organs, so a flat cushion was made for me. I was a hopelessly poor student, doing more drawing on my slate and on the margins of my books than studying. To sit in school for any length of time made me sick and nervous, so my father called on the schoolmaster and gave instructions that, whenever I got tired, I should be allowed to draw, or to go home.”

He Drew Cartoons in School.

“This was rather demoralizing to the school, for even then I drew cartoons. Finally, I was taken away, and my father painted a blackboard, four feet high by fifteen feet long, on the side of a room in the farm­house, where, with plenty of chalk, I drew to my heart’s content. I would draw all day.”

“And you received no instructions in drawing?”

“I never had a lesson in my life. It was my father’s ambition for me to become a cartoonist. When, in later years, I did anything that he considered particularly good, he would carry me off to Portland, and I would submit it to the Portland ‘Oregonian,’ where my attempts were always laughed at. Then, much crest­fallen, I would return to the farm.

“‘Now, my boy,’ my father would say, ‘that is good enough to be printed,’ and off I would go again.

“At length, the news spread that I had a job on the Portland ‘Oregonian.’ The whole town became interested, and when the day arrived for my departure, the band of which I was a member, and many of the towns­people, escorted me with due honor to the railroad station.”

His First Disappointment.

“‘Well, I heard some say, ‘I guess we will never see him again. He’s too big for this place.’

“I was on the Portland ‘Oregonian’ just one day.

“’What’s the sense of this?’ I was asked. ‘You can’t draw,’ and back I went.  ‘I had before me the mortification of meeting the righteous disgust of my friends. On my way back to Silverton, I heard that they were short of a brakeman at the Portland end, so I beat my way back to Portland, and, walking into the office, offered myself.

“’What!” said the man. ‘What do you know about braking? I would like to know who sent you on such a fool’s errand?’ and he raved and stamped, and swore he would discharge everyone on the train. But on the next train, I went out as head brakeman. All the elements got together, it rained and snowed and froze, and when I got to Silverton, almost frozen, I slipped from the train and tramped home, a much disheartened young man.

“But just to show my father I had something in me, and wanted to make my way in life, I asked to be sent to an institution of learning, where I stayed just one week. Then I got a place attending to the ink roller in the local printing office, where the town paper was published, which, to this day, I do not think can be beaten,” and Mr. Davenport laughed in his hearty way.

At Ten Dollars a Week.

“Finally, my star rose on the horizon. I went to San Francisco, and was taken on trial on the ‘Examiner.’ I remember the day well,—February 2, 1892. For one mortal week, I simply hung around the office. Then I was put to work at ten dollars a week. But I proved unsatisfactory. I drew the man over me aside.

“’Look here,’ I said, ‘I can’t draw. I want you to write to my father and tell him what a failure I am, and that his belief that I am an artist is the delusive mistake of a fond parent. He sat down to write, and, as he was doing so, my fingers, always itching to draw, were at work with a pencil in sketching horses, on a piece of paper on the table.

“’When did you do that?’ he asked, picking up the paper.

“I did it just now,” I replied, sheepishly.

“’What? Do it again.’

“I did so. He looked at me curiously.

“’Wait a bit,’ he said. He took the paper into the office. ‘Come in here,’ he said, ‘the boys won’t believe it. Do some more.’

“’Davenport,’ said the manager, ‘you are too old to strike a path for yourself. You must put yourself in my hands. Do nothing original, not one line.’ If the manager caught me doing so, he tore it up.

“I remember one time, Ned Hamilton, a star writer on the ‘Examiner,’ some others, and myself, were sent to a Sacramento convention. I drew what I considered very good likenesses, and that night, when I retired, with a fire burning brightly in the room where we all bunked, I fairly kicked my heels in delight, in anticipation of the compliments of the ‘Examiner.’ I was awakened by the tearing of a paper that sent the cold shivers up and down my back. Ned Hamilton was grumbling, and throwing my labor into the fire.

“‘If you can’t do better than that,’ he said, ‘you ought to give up.’

“I almost wept, but it took any conceit I might have had out of me, and the next day I did some work that was up to the mark.”

He was Discharged in Chicago.

“But my walking papers came in due time, and I went to the ‘Chronicle.’ It almost took my breath away when they offered me twenty dollars a week. Before I was discharged from there, I had risen to a higher salary. I went to Chicago, and got on the Chicago ‘Herald,’ at thirty-five dollars a week. I was there during the World’s Fair. It seemed to me the principal thing I did was to draw horses. But the greatest blow of all was when the Chicago ‘Herald’ discharged me. It seemed as if everything were slipping from beneath my feet. I went back to San Francisco and got on the ‘Chronicle’ again. It was then, and not till then, —1894, —that I was allowed any freedom. All that I had been asking an outlet for found vent, and my cartoons began to attract attention.

“William R. Hearst, of the ‘Examiner,’ asked, in one of his editorial rooms: ‘Who is that Davenport, on the ‘Chronicle,’ who is doing us up all the time?’

“‘Oh, we bounced him; he’s no good,’ was the reply.

“’Send for him!’ said Mr. Hearst.

“No attention was paid to the order. Mr. Hearst finally sent for me himself. I was engaged at forty­five dollars a week. Then a thing happened that I will never forget, for no raise before or since ever affected me to such a degree.

“I drew a cartoon of Senator ‘Steve’ White and his whiskers. The whiskers so pleased Mr. Hearst, that he called me in and said that my pay would be raised five dollars a week. I went home that night, and woke up my wife to tell her the glad news. She fairly wept for joy, and tears trickled down my own cheeks, for that increase meant appreciation that I had been starving for, and I felt almost secure, —and all on account of Senator ‘Steve’ White’s whiskers.”

Here Mrs. Davenport, who had brought us two large books, in which she had fondly pasted all of her hus­band’s work, said:­

“Yes, no subsequent increase, no matter how large, has ever equaled that five-dollar advance.”

In Clover at Last.

Mr. Hearst, as soon as he bought the New York “Journal,” telegraphed to the “Examiner:” “Send Davenport.” He is now receiving a very large salary, and his work is known throughout the world.

Two years ago, Mr. Davenport went abroad and drew sketches of the members of the houses of parliament, and Mr. Phil May, the English artist, became his fast friend.

In Washington, Senator Hanna insisted upon meeting Mr. Davenport, and shaking him by the hand. He was the first to immortalize Mr. Hanna, with that checkered suit of dollar marks.

Such is the man and artist, Homer C. Davenport, who, in 1894, had not drawn a public cartoon, and who, today, has a world-wide reputation, and the esteem of even those whom he has caricatured, and who cannot help enjoying their own exaggerated portraits. Davenport’s success has come rapidly, but not until he had sustained reverses that would have discouraged any man of a less resolute character.

Chief Joseph’s Interview

Chief Joseph, 1903

Chief Joseph, 1903. Photograph by F.T. Cummins, from the First People Website.

In 1903 Nez Perce Chief Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, also known as Chief Joseph, visited President Theodore Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. Apparently he first visited New York City, where he was interviewed by the media of the day. One such interview was performed by fellow Oregonian, cartoonist Homer Davenport, then working for William Randolph Hearst’s New York American. Davenport was a “value-added” artist, who often wrote his own features that he likewise illustrated. And once again, another unique glimpse is offered into the background of this “simple country boy.” Like the fact that he was apparently semi-fluent in “Chinuk Wawa,” the Chinook jargon. His reference to his Uncle John Davenport is also interesting. The town of Davenport, Washington is named for “Uncle John.”

Chief Joseph, a voice of conscience for the West and his people, died less than a year after Homer’s interview, still in exile from his homeland, according to his doctor “of a broken heart.” This piece of Davenport trivia comes to the Project courtesy of Davenport researcher Barry Bernard of Portland. It was reprinted in the Morning Oregonian, on Saturday, October 10, 1903. The photo of Chief Joseph was taken around the same time as the interview in 1903, by F.T. Cummins, (from the First People Website). Davenport’s portrait comes from a second generation Xerox copy printed from microfilm. And since this was manually transcribed, (by me!) from the a fore mentioned Xerox copy, I may have gotten some characters scrambled, especially in the Chinook passages.

Chief Joseph and the Artist
Homer Davenport Interviews the Famous Chief of the Nez Perce in New York

In 1879, I was in Colfax, Washington, at that time one of the thrifty towns of the Northwest, a town threatening to be a city, a center in those days for all the Indian trade of the Palouse District. This day I have in mind was a perfect day. The sky was apparently a million miles high and the blue was that of the Mediterranean. A breeze was blowing, but I don’t recall which way.

Anyway, the day was perfect, and about noon my uncle, then the leading merchant of that place, called my attention to a great cloud that was visible up the valley some three miles or more away. He said, “What is it?” and after some moments gaze I pronounced it a storm cloud. “No,” he said, “It’s some Indians bring two or three hundred wild horses in for me to see, and that’s the dust they are raising.”

The old Indian sat on his pony facing a spotted stallion. On him he kept his eyes for a few moments, as this horse was a leader, and when he became quiet, all were quiet, or where he went all others would follow. Uncle John was very mad. They had torn through Mr. Cooper’s garden in mistake for a street, and as a result Cooper’s garden was now a street and nothing more. Uncle went up to the old Indian, who was all smiles, and said, “Platote, confound you! I thought I told you not to bring these horses in. Keep them away. I never want to see them again, or you either.”

The old Indian, still smiling, shifted in his saddle and said, “Now witka now witka, hias skookum tennas cultan,” meaning “I understand, I understand, but I wanted to show you the fine little colts.”

“I know,” said uncle, “but don’t bring then in any more. They tear down fences, break the sidewalks and some day they’ll run over some child, and then they’ll hang you. If you love me take them back to Snake River and keep them there.” At this point I saw uncle drop a $5 gold piece quietly into the old Indian’s prepared hand as quick as you would tip a policeman. Then uncle left in disgust and went to the store, while I remained with the old Indian.

I always remembered the name of old Platote, though I never saw him but that once. Yesterday I had an appointment with the management of Madison Square Garden to see and have an interview with Chief Joseph, the greatest chief the Nez Perce (Pierced Nose) ever had, and more than likely the greatest Indian chief now living, the greatest war general, greater than Geronimo, because Joseph never considered cold-blooded murder warfare.

The gentleman who arranged my interview with the chief said the old man couldn’t talk, and he disliked interviews. I came at the appointed hour and brought a child along to see if children meant anything to this Indian. [No doubt one of Davenport’s own children.]

As we entered his room in the Garden, the old chief arose from a blanket on the floor alongside of a bed; he had been resting, as the bed evidently tired him. As he arose he grew more and more in a dignified way, like an old Indian Hamlin Garland once told me of that grew in his estimation till he looked 17 feet high, and so as Chief Joseph straightened and reached out his long right arm to be shaken, he looked like a great Roman senator in bronze. He frowned with his brows, but his lips smiled, that he might make me feel more at home.

If you were going to interview a President that would be easy. You could say that you were leading a strenuous life and were in favor of good citizenship, and that would lead up to something, but to this man that meant nothing. He had done that all his life. If you were to interview an actor you could say that you saw him in his last play, then he would do the rest.

Chief Joseph, drawn from life by Davenport

Chief Joseph, drawn from life by Homer C. Davenport, 1903

But to draw and talk to a solemn old chief, 85 years old, made doubly melancholy by the presence of tall buildings instead of tall mountains, who had closed up tight as a clam, was something not at all easy. I thought of a chance. I remembered my uncle had bought his [Chief Joseph’s] horses, and that in his general merchandise store he had trusted all of the Indians over which this man had once ruled. Perhaps he might remember, so I asked him in jargon, “Do you know John Davenport, at Colfax?”

The old chief quickly lifted his head, his eyes lit up with a bright twinkle. “Now witka, hias skookum John Davenport. Skookum, skookum, skookum, hi youtl potlatch quitan, hi youtl potlatch quitan, hi youtl potlatch chickamen, sluh Colfax.”

In my joy I happened to think of old Platote, and I asked if he knew Platote.

Instantly the old chief, who had again become a boy, stood up. “Platote,” he exclaimed over and over, in loud, deep tones. Then he asked if I knew Platote, and I told him yes. He shook with laughter. The other Indians in the room all laughed and said Platote. Finally from a roll of red blankets that lay on the floor in the corner of the room came a grunt and the muffled words, “Charley Platote, hi youtl quitan.”

Gayety reigned for many minutes. Indians laughed that hadn’t smiled since they left their tepees in the far Northwest. The old Indian peeked out of the blankets that he might see the old friend of Platote. I asked if Platote was still alive. “Yes” the chief said, “and he is still herding horses.”

I was in the midst of a drawing by this time of the old chief’s face, when he burst into a noiseless laugh. Turning to Chief Red Shirt, he talked in a different language about a minute, and the only word I caught that I understood was “Platote.” I asked the interpreter what he said. He said to Red Shirt, “What kind of world is this? We come away from Indian country and come through mountains, then pass more Indian country and come through days of great wheat fields, then come where everything is corn, and pass through some big cities, and then come way here among these high buildings and find a man who knows Charley Platote, the Nez Perce horseman.”

The expression on the chief’s face changed noticeably into that of deep melancholy. He was more dejected than he was a few minutes before he had been so happy. He stood up over six feet and trod back and forth with bowed head. He was a grand sight, although a dejected person.

Chief Joseph, a pure Indian of the Nez Perce tribe, is past 85 years old, but looks 50. His skin is a s soft as satin, though his flesh is hard and firm. He is the type of man and art where the work of A.B. Frost stops and where that of Frederic Remington begins. On the other hand, you get melancholy when you see a great, broad-minded man like Chief Joseph. You see a man representing a race that were not dealt with as they should have been. This prisoner of war was never charged with cruelty. The only charge against him was that as he was ordered from his home and the hunting ground of his ancestors before, he said, “I don’t want anything the white man has. I only want to be let alone and let live in the beautiful Wallowa Valley, where my ancestors lived and died, and where my boyhood days were so happily spent.”

Notwithstanding this simple plea from a just and honest Indian, the troops came to take him to a reservation and he naturally fought, and when he fought, he fought in a manly, dignified way, and had he had as many warriors as we had he would have caused our Generals to blush. As it was, he proved almost a Napoleon. He rightly figured that the whites and the progress of civilization might have spared to him the beautiful little valley at the junction of the Wallowa and Snake Rivers, in Eastern Oregon. There he could live as he had always lived at the head of his tribe, a well-behaved band of Indians.

The buckskin smell and the odor of a wilder country had made me homesick and blue, and as I started to leave the room, as I passed the dignified old Chief to say goodbye he said that I had made him feel very bad, but he was here where the houses are “slah, slah,” pointing to the sky, and at the railroads were “slah,” and that the mention of old Platote had made him homesick. “Hi youtl homesick.”

Hospital Bed Endowment

Thomas NastIn a testament to cross-checking in research, I have uncovered a media account involving Davenport and his inspirational mentor, cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902). Homer’s mother, according to Davenport family lore, asked her husband on her deathbed to encourage Homer’s art so that he might become another Nast. This occurred, and then some. By 1901 both men were successful and living in New Jersey. Nast, on the downside of an incredible career; and Davenport almost midpoint into his.

But did they ever meet each other? The closest reference that I found was a short piece in the New York Times in 1903, about six months after Nast died of Yellow Fever in Ecuador. It recounted a lecture Davenport held in Nast’s hometown of Morristown, which at the end he pledged to help raise funds for a commemorative statue of Mr. Nast. The Nast archives are likewise silent of any mention of Davenport. However, Nast was not known as a letter writer, according to his biographer Albert Bigelow Paine.

Now, I have uncovered a media account of Davenport and Nast, leading to an interesting tale of a Hospital Bed Endowment Fund, “Florodora” Girls, Baseball and ultimately fraud. It all started with Ebay.

I purchased nine pages from The Strand Magazine, an arts and literary periodical from Great Britain. This particular article detailed elsewhere in these pages, include short biographical sketches of Davenport and three contemporaries. Two I was familiar with, but the other, Mr. R.C. Bowman, I had never heard of before. So I started Googling…

Rowland Claude Bowman (1870-1903) was a political cartoonist from the Minneapolis Tribune, and who had published a couple of books prior to his untimely death at 33: Several volumes of his work for the Tribune, and one book of children’s verse entitled “Freckles and Tan.” The first edition, published in 1900, featured illustrations by Bowman himself. However, a second edition, published a year after his death, was illustrated by one F.Y Cory.

Fanny Young Cory (1877–1972) was unique for her time, a highly talented and successful artist in her own right. She went on to illustrate numerous books, (including early editions of L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series) and several comic strips over the years. She lived a long and productive life, working from her and her husband’s Montana ranch. Her book of paintings and verse, A Fairy’s Alphabet is still in print. Turns out, she had a similarly talented brother, John, who was a New York political cartoonist who lived in New Jersey.

John Campbell Cory (1867-1925) doubled as a strip and political cartoonist. He eventually wrote The Cartoonist’s Art in 1912, as kind of a “how to” manual for aspiring young cartoonists. He also worked for Hearst’s New York Journal during the same time Davenport did.

A cross check with “Cory” and “Davenport” yielded a delightful link to “The Strippers Guide” a blog by historian Allan Holtz dedicated to comic strip artists. A feature on Sydney B. Griffin, a strip cartoonist from this same era, recounted the details of a short article from the New York Sunday Telegram.

The September 22, 1901, story reported the upcoming charity baseball game between actors and artists to be held at the New York at the Polo Grounds on October 7. The goal of the game was to raise money to endow a hospital bed for newspaper artists. The list of players was a veritable “who’s who” of the New York political art scene: Besides Syd Griffin, the group included Richard Outcault, Louis Dalrymple, James Swinnerton, and J. Campbell Cory. Outcault was manager, Davenport is listed as pitcher, with Jimmy Swinnerton as shortstop.

A final paragraph notes that “…Miss Lillian Russell from the first accepted the position of official scorer, and the veteran [cartoonist] Thomas Nast will be her associate in that delicate but important office…” This would have been just over a year prior to Nast leaving for Ecuador, having been appointed Consul General by President Theodore Roosevelt. Lillian Russell (1860-1922) was an famous actress the era, and friend  of the Davenports, having attended several of the exotic Barbeques hosted there.

So I started scouring the papers for late September and October in hopes of finding more details about the game. Keyword “Nast” brought up a short piece from the New York Times, dated September 26, in which Mr. Nast the sent a congratulatory cartoon to the Times, in honor of that paper’s fiftieth anniversary, (right).

The next hit came from the New York World, run by Hearst’s arch rival Joseph Pulitzer. This article, dated October 7, the day of the game recounted the practice game held the day before. Obviously written by a member of the World’s dramatic staff, it only mentions the names of the actors playing, which included members of the cast and chorus line of the hit Broadway musical production of “Florodora.” Indeed, the “Florodora Girls” as they were known were to be the major draw.

The next day, The World ran a rather lengthy account of the game itself. It included an illustration, no doubt by one of the World’s staff cartoonists, (below).

There appears to be a “G” in the lower left corner of the cartoon, possibly representing Syd Griffin. Again, no artists were mentioned by name, although many of the actors were. The illustration however did include an apparent caricature of Jimmy Swinnerton running, (Upper-left, “When an Artist saw a ball coming.”).

In the lower right corner, an “artist” is painting the scene with easel and paint tray. The artist, while looking rather stereotypical of a bohemian type: Goatee beard and western-style hat, had the main attributes of Mr. Nast. Indeed the self portrait from September 26 Times piece was very similar to the “artist” in the cartoon.

The final score was 31 to 12, in favor of the Actors. The article even included the entire score broken out by innings. The World reported that “A small crowd saw the game.”

The umpires were listed as Eugene O’Rourke, P. Wilder, Christy Mathewson and “Rube.” Of these folks, Eugene O’Rourke (1863–1917) and Marshall P. Wilder (1859–1915) were both actors, although Wilder was also an artist.

Christopher “Christy” Mathewson (1880–1925) however was a Major League pitcher with the New York Giants at the time. “Rube” might have pitcher Charles Edward “Rube” Waddell (1876–1914) who was at the time of this game ostensibly playing for the Chicago Orphans, but notoriously bouncing around quite.

O’Rourke had started out playing third base, but “retired” to the umpire position. At which point, vaudevillian comic actress Marie Dressler (1868-1934) stepped up to the plate and volunteered. The article reports: “After a consultation between Louis Harrison, Dan McAvoy, Eddie Foy and Burr McIntosh, it was decided that the gentlewoman could do more effective work as a mascot.” Dressler went on to an extensive career in films, eventually winning the Best Actress Oscar in 1931.

Then a final clue. From the Monday, October 12 edition of the New York Dramatic Mirror, also from “The Strippers Guide” site. The Mirror reported that the frosty weather kept the attendance low and official scorer Lillian Russell and the chorus girls away. After five innings the game was called. As it turned out, Davenport did not pitch because he had left for Oregon to see his ailing father. So Nast may well have been on scene, but Davenport, Lillian Russell and the Florodora Girls were not.

One final article from the New York Time, dated October 15 recounted how several “solicitors” were at the game, supposedly collecting funds for the Hospital Bed Endowment, but were in fact fraudulent operators. The article included a notice of a reward of $100 for “…information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons representing themselves as newspaper reporters who solicited or obtained subscriptions in the name of the Actors and Artists Hospital Bed Endowment Fund.”

The contact for the game and charity was listed as “A. Stone,” with an address in the N.Y. World Building. This would have been Abram Stone, one of the principals involved in the New York School of Caricature, of which Mr. Cory, Syd Griffin and Lou Dalrymple were also involved. No further word as to the outcome of that investigation however.

In the long run, one of those research dead-ends. But an interesting story nonetheless! The search for the Nast / Davenport connection will continue elsewhere it would appear.

The American Cartoonist

Introduction: Through Ebay, I recently obtained a selection of nine original pages from the October, 1902 number of The Strand Magazine from London. This was an article entitled The American Cartoonist and His Work by Arthur Lord and featured short bios and examples of four “famous” cartoonists of the day: Homer Calvin Davenport, William Allen Rogers, John Tinney McCutcheon and Rowland Claude Bowman. What I found interesting in this piece, besides the fact that it opened with Davenport, was the noted variations between styles of the four chosen by this British author, to represent the “American Cartoon” community.

The deeper I dig into the history of Davenport and his world, the more surprises I find. W.A. Rogers I had been familiar with for years, as his career extended into fine art as well as cartooning. J.T. McCutcheon I chanced upon earlier this year in a small county history museum in Richmond, Indiana. And subsequent research reviled that he and Davenport were acquaintances of one another, as detailed elsewhere within these pages. He, like Rogers had a long and distinguished career, with numerous collections of his work readily available.

The forth cartoonist profiled in this article was a pleasant surprise. I had never heard of R.C Bowman, but was immediately taken by his interesting style. There was very little information on him, with the bulk of it gleaned from the blog of a contemporary cartoonist, Mr. Paul Berge. He had one of Bowman’s books, a collection of cartoons he did for the Minneapolis Tribune, and posted them on his blog. He also did his own research and uncovered a few additional facts:

“I turned to the listserve of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. J.P. Trostle referred me to the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. There I discovered that Bowman’s full name was Rowland Claude Bowman, and that he lived from 1870 to 1903. It also appears that the OSU BICL&M might have a copy of the 1903 book, and I hope it’s in better condition than my copy of the 1901 edition.”

His relative obscurity today, not unlike Davenport’s, is no doubt due to his early demise, at the age of 33. Obviously, room for much more research! At any rate, here is the entire article, reproduced here with the original illustrations. The high-quality printing process employed by The Strand Magazine can be seen in these reproductions. This also allowed for a relatively easy “OCR” process to convert the text as well. Note, that as a product of the UK, the grammar and spellings represent standard usage of “The King’s English,” from the other side of the big pond. These I have left as-is. Enjoy!

The Strand Magazine, October 1902
The American Cartoonist and His Work
by Arthur Lord

He who first wrote of the political cartoon as a “picture editorial” writ better than he knew. He invented a term which expresses the thing exactly. Since the days of Hogarth and Gillray there have been “cartoons,” “caricatures,” “political sketches,” or “pencillings,” as Punch once called them, but no one has been able to classify all varieties of work and style under one distinctive head. Here, however, we have a double-barreled title which shoots unerring to the mark.

It is a term pretty in its connotation. It carries us back to the time when the influence of the editorial first began to wane and something equally potent began to take its place. That “something” was the political or social cartoon, daily or weekly enforcing a lesson which might well have been enforced in type had not the public got tired of written sermons. Editors were not slow to recognize that the printed picture contained more power for good than a column of double-leaded lines. The man in the street, it was noted, would stop to look at the picture before he tossed his paper into the mud, and the audience to which the picture appealed became almost as numerous as the people in the street. The cartoon took unto itself a cumulative increase in power, and the improved mechanical appliances in newspaper illustration made it well-nigh impossible for any modern newspaper, pressed as its editorial columns are by the competition in, and acquisition of, news, to succeed in bringing home moral lessons to the public without the aid of the editorial drawn by an artist’s hand. The change from old conditions to new occurred with greatest rapidity in the United States, where the editors are as prompt in observing what the public wants as the public is quick in showing what it likes, and it is with these “picture editorials” and their American makers that this series of articles has to deal.

Homer Calvin Davenport

There are many who look upon Mr. Homer Davenport (left), as the leading cartoonist in the United States. This noted draughtsman possesses many of the qualities which should entitle him to the most prominent consideration; yet it is well that the real question of his pre-eminence should be left open to doubt. He works, it is true, for one of the most widely circulated papers in America. His fertile brain and facile pen have full swing. He attacks with uncommon straightforwardness, and at times a positive brutality, all the evils of the day, either social or political, and his cartoons go direct to the heart and intellect of the American people. His picture editorials speak with no uncertain voice, and if the results of one’s preaching were to entitle any cartoonist to the position of pre-eminence in the cartooning ranks, then Davenport would be first and all others behind.

Young Baby among the Nations

Young Baby among the Nations

But in work of this sort something more than mere effectiveness should be considered. There are numerous workers on the American pictorial Press who, if somewhat less skillful than Davenport in hitting the bull’s-eye of public appreciation, are in every way better draughtsmen. They wield their pencils with more technical accuracy, and each cartoon they draw is a lesson in the best newspaper art. Davenport makes no pretense to being a great artist. He has lacked the training which others happily possess, and his success is due rather to his brutal effectiveness in the objective treatment of a subject than to his technical manipulation of line.

He is a rapid worker, and has been known to discard half-a-dozen drawings before satisfying his own criticism. He has improved in his work conspicuously while he has been on New York Journal, and if he still finds it impossible correctly to draw the human form in a variety of action, he has come dangerously near making Presidents. As Gillam invented the “tattooed man” in the Blaine campaign of twenty years ago, so has Davenport given to Hanna a dollar-marked store suit which has become inseparably associated with the name of our great political organizer.

Conquerors And Enslavers Of Mankind - Whisky Leads The Horde.

Recently his cartoons in the Journal have enforced moral lessons, such as the evils of whisky, gambling, church bigotry, etc., and one of these, called “Conquerors and Enslavers of Mankind—Whisky Leads the Horde,” we are able to reproduce. A more powerful cartoon, perhaps, was that called “Whisky—That’s All,” which represented a woman and three or four children standing by the coffin of husband and father in a poverty-stricken room. Here was a moral lesson enforced with a poignancy which, according to the opinion of many judges, should be totally outside the province of the newspaper cartoon. Davenport and the paper he works for evidently thought otherwise, and it is not for us to say that they were incorrect.

Davenport was born in a small Oregon town in 1867, and in his thirty-five years of life has been at different times a jockey, railroad fireman, and circus clown. He possesses no school education. In 1892 the San Francisco Examiner gave him employment, and in 1895 Mr. Hearst took him to New York, where he has since lived and worked. It was against him and his cartoons that the attempt was made in 1897 to pass the Anti-Cartoon Bill in New York. Besides the Hanna suit, which we have already mentioned, Davenport invented the well-known giant Trust figure in 1899, and from a Republican point of view it is not entirely to his credit that he nearly made Bryan President.

In an article recently published in a San Francisco weekly Mr. Davenport has told the interesting story of his own career. Much of this is an elaboration of the main facts just cited, but the artist has something to say about his methods which should here be re-told. “With me,” he writes, “as with all cartoonists, I suppose, there, is that feeling within the soul that there is a great cartoon of national and international importance that will someday be drawn. I am striving to that end, and I hope someday to achieve my ambition.”

“I love,” he continues, “to draw strong cartoons, in the line of brute force, but I prefer those of the pathetic order, and I am satisfied that between the two lies the real power of cartooning. Humorous cartoons are pleasing and restful, but they don’t leave the lasting impression that should go with serious work. My work has been a great pleasure to me, and the greatest reward it ever brought me was when Admiral Dewey, sobbing like a child, told me that my cartoon, ‘Lest We Forget,‘ drawn in his behalf when the of the nation were a people abusing him, prompted him to content himself in America when he was seriously thinking of going abroad to make his home.”

W.A. RogersThe name of Mr. W. A. Rogers (right), is possibly best known to our readers through the cartoons which for many years have appeared in Harper’s Weekly. There are those who hold that Rogers is greater even than Thomas Nast, who worked for the same periodical. Nast could not draw a human foot correctly; Rogers can. He is a thorough artist as well as an effective moral preacher, and some of his attacks upon bad government in New York City have passed into municipal history.

How High Up Does It Go?

The cartoon which we reproduce, called “How High Up Does It Go?” (left), probably made the strongest impression of anything Rogers ever did, and it was so distinctly serious in tone that it appealed particularly to the intellectually-minded, who hold that cartoonery should be something else than buffoonery. When published in Harper’s Weekly this cartoon was commented upon widely by the public Press, and a large number of letters flowed in upon the publishers from many parts of the United States complimenting both paper and artist upon the masterly and compelling qualities of this memorable attack upon municipal corruption.

For those who, in their knowledge of the evils of to-day, have forgotten the evils of yesterday, it may be well to say that Rogers in this cartoon pictures a sewer flowing with filth, a series of stone steps leading upwards, with a policeman on the lower step, a captain of police on the step above, and higher up a pair of clutching jeweled hands. As the captain passes his bags of money to the hands above he deducts his part of the spoil, the policeman receiving the bags from a woman’s hand stretched out from the eddies of filth in the sewer. Municipal degradation could have gone no farther in the days when this cartoon was made, and we doubt if anyone beside Rogers could have so fitly exposed such degradation to the public view.

Father Knickerbocker's Peril

Another of Rogers’s cartoons, called “Father Knickerbocker’s Peril” (right), showed a good little “Goo-goo,” or good Government club, refusing to help poor Father Knickerbocker out of the clutches of the Tammany tiger because he did not approve of the others who were trying to rescue him. The little “Goo-goo” is now forgotten, but the moral of the cartoon remains. President Roosevelt told Rogers a short time ago that he considered it about the best thing the artist had ever done.

The Turk and the Christians

Another effective cartoon is that called “The Turk and the Christians” (left), intending to show-that the stake does not always go to the winner. It was published in Harper’s Weekly during the Greco-Turkish War, and excited considerable attention. Rogers was born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1854, and, after being educated in the common schools, was employed in business offices until his eighteenth year. He was on the staff of the New York Daily Graphic in 1872-3, and was engaged by Harper’s Weekly in 1877; for which paper he has worked almost continuously since.

The wide difference that exists between humorous and serious cartoon work is admirably shown by a comparison between the examples of Davenport and Rogers, which we have just passed, and the following examples from the pens of McCutcheon and Bowman. At first glance it might appear that the difference was a mere distinction between East and West, for McCutcheon and Bowman possess the Western spirit, whereas Davenport and Rogers speak with the more serious language of the East. The two Western men are genuinely funny, and their work shows the quality of caricature as it is more familiarly known. There is a burlesque broadness about it that appeals — and we hope it may be said without offense to the Western mind — to the less developed intellect of the new and enterprising homogeneous civilization.

John T. McCutcheonThey look at things in a new way in this wonderful West of ours. They see the comic side of life. They are just a little vulgar, but it is a vulgarity which does not wholly annoy, and if there is a suspicion shoddiness in the social side of life, it is that same shoddiness which the cartoonist delights to bring before the public. John T. McCutcheon (left), in his remarkable series of cartoons published in the Chicago Record-Herald at the time of Prince Henry’s visit, called “The Cartoons that Made Prince Henry Famous,” went almost as far as it is possible to go in exposing the pretensions of the vulgar rich, their fervid hunt for recognition by those of Royal houses, and the tendency to toadyism which at such a time is, in certain classes, let loose. It is said that Prince Henry was so pleased and impressed by McCutcheon’s cartoons that, at the request of the Imperial German Consul, the originals were presented to him and were sent framed to Kiel.

Entertaining Prince Henry

Entertaining Prince Henry

A mere glance at the selection we have made from this entertaining series shows the good and bad qualities of McCutcheon’s style. He possesses splendid ability in depicting action, and his manipulation of crowds is noteworthy. He possesses a rough and ready facility in facial expression, and can do much in the least possible number of lines. The captions in his cartoons are among his happy hits; and that he thought of the Prince Henry series and carried it to such a successful conclusion in the short time allowed him by the exigencies of newspaper illustration and the feverish haste of the German Prince’s tour is the best evidence of his ability as a topical illustrator. McCutcheon’s faults are due perhaps to this same pressure under which cartoonists abhour. There is an unfinished appearance about his work, an exaggeration of detail, and a slight tendency towards that vulgarity in subject treatment which we have mentioned as common to Western draughtsmanship. Were his cartoons, however, less full of faults they would not be half so funny.

At Last Mr. Harrison Has Come Out of the WoodAn early cartoon — “At Last Mr. Harrison Has Come Out of the Wood” (left) — is in many ways the best thing McCutcheon ever did, and we are glad to know that the artist himself looks upon it as his best. The episode which brought it into being is now almost forgotten, except by those who follow political movements closely, but the political movement of the late Mr. Harrison shown in this cartoon is interesting from the first footstep to the last. We speak under correction, but we are prompted to believe that the figure of cowboy Teddy, with his pistol and sombrero, is the first appearance of that famous figure in political illustration. Another of McCutcheon’s cartoons, “Oom Paul Calls on Some Gentlemen of Europe” (below right) is one of those on the subject of the South African War which attracted attention and was widely reprinted in the early days of that struggle.

The Record-Herald is to be congratulated on having in McCutcheon one whose pen is ever ready either for writing or illustration. We may call him a cartoonist, but he is a correspondent as well. He has been connected with the Record-Herald since 1889, when he was nineteen years of age, and became prominent through his cartoon work in the campaign of 1896. In his cartoons of this time he introduced a queer and wonderful little dog which trotted beside caricatures of Bryan and Hanna, and formed a conspicuous part in various drawings of parades and other political satires. In 1897, through an invitation from the Treasury Department, McCutcheon started on a tour round the world on the revenue cutter McCulloch, and reached Hong Kong in time to join Admiral Dewey before the American fleet went to Manila. He was on board that vessel during the Battle of Manila Bay, served until April, 1900, as a correspondent in the Philippines and the Far East, then went to the Transvaal to represent his paper on the Boer side, and returned to America in 1900, again to take up cartoon work. Since that time he has been constantly engaged in illustration, and to-day possesses one of the best-known names as a highly-paid, up-to-date, and forceful caricaturist. McCutcheon is essentially good-natured in all that he does.

R.C. BowmanMr. R. C. Bowman, of the Minneapolis Tribune, belongs also to the ever-spreading good-natured school. This artist, who began at the age of nineteen on the Arkansas Traveler, has devoted about twelve years to caricature, and he possesses theories about his work which many a less-known man might take to heart, with accruing advantage to himself and the public. Bowman believes — and the strength of his belief is shown in the specimens of his work here reproduced — that a cartoon can be to the point without malicious, and that it is not necessary to make ogres of men in order to show that you differ with them politically. A running glance at his various cartoons shows that Bowman has pronounced ideas of right and wrong, and that he takes his stand conscientiously on all matters of social and political import, but you will hunt in vain for any trace of partisan spleen.

Great Guns! What Is It?During the five years he has been with the Tribune his output has been as enormous as its scope has been varied, and he friendships he has made have been not only among those of his own party, but also among his political foes. The man who laughs most heartily at a cartoon when that cartoon is good – humoured is very often the subject of the cartoon himself. Where Davenport, in short, would make an enemy, Bowman would make a friend, so great is the difference in the styles of the two men. Bowman is a careful student of politics, and his picture editorials always present a strong argument. He possesses a rare originality and spontaneous humour, and that his drawings are well thought out is proved by their simplicity in detail. It is not too much to say that in connection with the work of Bartholomew, of the Minneapolis Journal, which will be treated of in our next article, the topics of the times are more effectively illustrated by these two cartoonists than by any others in the United States. Bowman is a humorist and not a satirist, and has attained his success through close adherence to well-defined principles of directness, simplicity, and gentleness. The Tribune reader opens his paper with the knowledge that he is going to get a laugh, and the man made fun of may open his copy with the knowledge that he is not going to squirm.

Look, by the way, at Bowman’s cartoons, and see if you can find the dog. The Bowman dog has become famous. This remarkable little canine, which the cartoonist introduces into nearly all his work, is full of expression, and the keynote to the story is often to be found in the antics of the pup. If he is scared, in common with the elephant and the donkey (above right), at the advent of the Third Party, you will find him running into the distance with marvelous alacrity. He rests, with wonder-eyed demureness, beside Carnegie and Morgan while John Bull tacks down his island (left), and when the battleship Kentucky arrives off the coast of Turkey (below right) he is—well, find him for yourself. If the small boys of Minneapolis, as it is said, may be seen chalking Bowman’s dog on side-walks and fences, it is a proof of the popularity of the cartoonist which needs no further to be proved.

The Battleship "Kentucky" Arrives Off The Coast Of TurkeyBowman has a great fondness for children, and we believe it is his highest ambition to become a successful writer of child verse. He has already published one volume which contains verses of this sort, that may reasonably be compared with the late Eugene Field’s. He is also a “chalk talker,” and indulges now and then in a funny lecture which he illustrates with his own hand. In our photograph we may see him, an able-bodied, happy, and good-natured gentleman, standing by the side of his blackboard as if in lecture pose, and from the appearance of the man and the examples of his work reproduced in this article we may easily understand the quality of the reputation made by him throughout the great and enterprising West.

Our Next Great Work - The Pacific CableIncidentally, in our treatment of the men, we have dropped a hint or two as to the qualifications necessary for successful cartoon work. In so far as nearly every paper of importance in the United States goes in for this form of illustration, and as nearly all the principal journals are partisan, it is obvious that the competition between newspapers for the services of the best draughtsmen is intense, and the successful cartoonist is the man who most effectively expresses the political tenets of his paper. On newspapers independent in politics the cartoonist’s office is no sinecure, and often the artist has to sacrifice his own independence of thought in order to make his work correspond with the “ideals” of the managing editor. Where, however, the cartoonist’s honest feelings coincide with the party feelings of the paper he represents we get the sappiest of results, for no man preaches so effectively as when he preaches what he really believes. We know of cases where Republican cartoonists have done extremely clever work for Democratic journals, just as we may find cases where editorial writers with Democratic leanings have been engaged at high salaries to write Republican editorials, but success in such cases is the exception rather than the rule.


The Issue of To Day

The Dollar or the Man

In 1900, Homer Davenport published his second book of political cartoons, The Dollar or the Man? The Issue of To Day. It was another collection of over 50 political cartoons, this time dealing specifically with the influence of monopolistic corporate trusts on society. The cartoons were hand-picked by Horace L. Traubel (portrait below), who also wrote the introduction.

Traubel (1858-1919) was an American essayist, poet, magazine publisher, and author. He was closely associated with the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States and published a monthly literary magazine called The Conservator from 1890 until the time of his death. Today Traubel is best remembered as the literary executor and biographer of his friend, poet Walt Whitman, about whom he compiled nine volumes entitled Walt Whitman in Camden.

Horace L. Traubel

Traubel knew Homer Davenport, as well as his father. A letter to T.W. Davenport listed in the Davenport archives at the University of Oregon as “From Unknown,” bares the signature of Traubel. He also wrote a glowing literary review of Homer Davenport’s autobiography, The Country Boy.

The cartoons in this volume originally appeared in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal, between 1898 and 1899. It was a smaller book that the previous “Cartoons” from 1898, also hardbound, but measuring just eight by eleven inches, with the binding along the short side.

These images, of which the famous “Trust Brute” makes his debut, also features the reliable “Dollar Mark” Hanna, and often President McKinley himself. Also present are several featuring Theodore Roosevelt, then a fresh new VEEP, complete with Rough Rider hat. And the usual corporate suspects.

The book’s rarity no doubt is due to the fact that its publication preceded the assassination of President McKinley by several months. Previously  Hearst editorialist Ambrose Bierce had written a poem about the assassination of Governor William Goebel of Kentucky, to convey a general feeling of dismay and fear, (the way much of today’s media operates—if it bleeds; it leads). Of course after McKinley was shot in 1901 it seemed to foreshadow the crime:

“The bullet that pierced Goebel’s breast
Can not be found in all the West;
Good reason, it is speeding here
To stretch McKinley on his bier.”

William Randolph HearstHearst (right, as pictured by Davenport in the preface of DOTM), was thereby accused by rival newspapers—and by then Secretary of War Elihu Root—of having called for McKinley’s assassination. And this probably cut into Davenport’s book sales. Curiously, Hearst neither revealed Bierce as the author of the poem, nor fired him.

The only previously known copy of DOTM rests in the archives of the Silverton Country Historical Society. When this copy was discovered online for sale by a Salem book dealer, it was decided that this was an investment in the future worth making.

GoogleBooks had previously scanned in the entire book from a college library, and many of these images have been used over the last several years. Additionally, an Adobe Flash Web App was created with the contents, (sorry iPad users!)

Now with our own original copy of the book, The Davenport Project can take on the next “Annotation” project, with these timely ‘toons, which 112 years later remain the “Issue of Today.”

Homer’s Statue

Homer C. DavenportAfter Homer C. Davenport passed away in 1912, a group of his friends pursued the notion of honoring Oregon’s first media superstar with a suitable monument. A statue was proposed, possibly due to the fact that Davenport’s half-sister Adelaide was an up and coming sculptor herself. A proposal was put forth for an integrated statue and fountain, to be placed in downtown Silverton. Adda, as she was known completed a bust of her famous brother, and then contacted one of Homer’s artist friends, the noted sculptor S.J. Farnham. Farnham’s small “sketch” of the final design is shown here (right).

Sally James Farnham (1869-1943) is arguably best known today for her Simon Bolivar monument in New York’s Central Park. Yet she had a long career producing a wide-range of sculpture ranging from portraits, trophies, medals, plaques and various studio works. Special care has been taken in highlighting works not often associated with Farnham studio. Though “untrained” in her craft technically, she achieved the acclaim and notoriety that few “trained” artists ever achieve. – From the Sally James Farnham Website

Davenport met Farnham through their mutual friend Frederic Remington. All three also shared a love of horses, and were frequent guests at Red Gables, the Davenport Farm in Morris Plains, N.J. Adda no doubt met Farnham there, and established a connection and friendship that remained for years.

The Davenport Statue campaign was launched several years after Homer’s passing, and was gathering steam when World War I intervened. After the war, the momentum for the statue was lost, so that by the time the Twenties roared onto the scene, there were only sufficient funds to construct a robust marble marker instead of the originally proposed statue and fountain. This was done, and included an engraving of the cartoon Davenport drew after his father passed away in 1911.

Over the years, Davenport’s memory faded from view. But the idea of a statue keeps coming up. As new generations discover the life and times of Homer Davenport, maybe the time is once again ripe to float that notion!

Kickstarting Davenport

Annotated Cartoons by DavenportUpdate: With Homer Days here, the Annotated Cartoons is finally a reality! The Kickstarter premiums are being assembled, and will be available for pick-up this weekend in Silverton. For our out-of-state backers, your packets will be mailed out at the same time. The author will be on hand to sell and sign copies. Noon to 2:00 on the loading dock of the Historical Society’s Depot Annex, and out at GeerCrest Farm on Sunday.

A little after 7:00 am on July 1, the Kickstarter Fund Raising Project for The Annotated Cartoons by Davenport successfully wrapped up. Over the course of 30 days, dozens of folks from around the country, contributed varying amounts of money, to help get 200 copies of the second revised edition produced.

The main action that put us over the top occurred 24 hours earlier, when Dr. Michael Kim, DDS, of Silverton, pledged the balance of the amount needed in the name of Dr. Kim’s No Cavity Kids Club. The amount was just shy of $1,300, and insures publication. Thanks Doc!!!

In 1898, Homer Davenport published Cartoons By Davenport, a collection of over 80 cartoons which originally appeared in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal. It was a large format work, with hardbound cover and an introduction by Senator John J. Ingalls, (R-Kansas).

In 2006, Davenport historian Gus Frederick researched, compiled and reprinted a fully annotated edition of this historic work. The faces and the issues behind Davenport’s witty, satiric caricatures were teased out in a cartoon-by-cartoon commentary. However, due to the costs associated with the production, this edition was limited to just 100 strip-bound copies.

We are coming to Kickstarter to raise funds to make possible an updated, revised edition of the 2006 reprint.

Using state-of-the-art print-on-demand technology, this soft-cover perfect bound annotated edition will provide commentary which add historical context to these amazing images. Funds are needed to purchase and register our ISBN number, get it plugged into Amazon, and facilitate the printing of an initial run of 200 copies of the final book.

This revised, expanded edition will number just under 200 pages, and measure slightly over 8 by 10 inches. “Annotated Cartoons by Davenport” will be the first publication of The Liberal University Press, based out of Silverton, Oregon. Additionally, in recognition of many more works of merit now forgotten, the Liberal University Press will serve as a conduit. Using the best technologies of today to reproduce for a new generation the thoughts, ideas and art of our ancestors.

Future titles include the collected works of Timothy W. Davenport, (1827-1911). The Cartoonist’s father was a prolific social commentator. His writing reflects a very unique view of different aspects of society from the 19th Century. Davenport’s second book, “The Dollar or the Man?” is slated for a similar treatment as this current edition. As well as a collection of fifty cartoons from the 1920s created by Portland Oregonian cartoonist Edward S. “Tige” Reynolds, (1877-1931).

Why a 2012 re-issue of a 1898 book?

During the three-year sliver of time captured by Davenport’s newspaper cartoons, the Republicans regained control of the White House in what many pundits have identified as the first modern political campaign. This was also a time of great economic debate, concern about special interests influencing the government, jobs, and of course the immigration issue. On the global scene, the United States was beginning to flex its military muscles, a conflict with Spain was starting to simmer, and a border dispute in Venezuela threatened war with Great Britain.

Through it all, Davenport was there, wielding his pen to spray a steady stream of caustic caricatures onto the notables and notorious of the global political scene. Davenport went on to author three more books; A second collection of cartoons in 1899 entitled The Dollar or the Man? The Question of To-Day; a travel book on his 1906 acquisition expedition to to Syria to purchase Arabian horses, My Quest of the Arabian Horse; and his autobiography, The Country Boy, written towards the end of his life in 1910.

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Gilded Age Networking

John T. McCutcheon

In 1895, William Randolph Hearst purchased the struggling New York Journal. His goal was to do to New York what he did to San Francisco, journalism-wise. One-time mentor Joseph Pulitzer, was now his direct competition. Few paid attention to the brash Westerner. But this dude from the pacific slope had a vast war chest behind him.

The archives have Hearst sending for many of his key Examiner talent from San Francisco, including Davenport, sports writer Charles Dryden and “sob sister” Winifred Black. Once set up and running, Hearst went about “staffing up” in earnest by hiring away any number of talented specialists from other papers. Many however, did not succumb to the temptation of Hearst’s generous salaries.

Apparently, he also asked those in his inner circle to pump their own contacts. This included Davenport himself, as evidenced by a newly discovered letter from Davenport in the Newberry Library in Chicago. It was written to fellow cartoonist John Tinney McCutcheon (1870-1949). McCutcheon, originally from Indiana, moved to Chicago early in his career. He ended up for years as staff cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, where he became known as “The Dean of American Cartoonists.”

McCutcheon - Self-Portrait

I became aware of McCutcheon while visiting Indianapolis, Indiana to research the Smith family archives of the Indiana Historical Society for “Davenport droppings.” On the last full day there, my host and Navy buddy Mark and I drove down to Richmond, Indiana, the self-proclaimed “Home of Recorded Jazz.” The Gannett Record Company was once there, where many of the early powerhouses of jazz first waxed phonographically.

The recording studio was long gone, but the local Wayne County Historical Museum was open for business. In the front room, Mark pointed out a display of numerous cartoons from the early twentieth century. The docent introduced me to the work Mr. McCutcheon, whom I had never heard of before.

Back home in Silverton, I searched the Web for McCutcheon, a Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist, and discovered several of his collections of cartoons, downloadable from Google Books. John was much “softer” on his victims than Homer. But had that same “country boy” look and feel to his work. His “Boy in Spring” series, (including other seasons) was one of his most famous, as were his cartoons of “Bird Center” a swanky high society community of characters.

Eventually I ended up at the above-mentioned Newberry Library, final resting place of the J. T. McCutcheon family papers. As has been customary of late, I scanned through the listings for Davenport.

I found exactly one entry: “Homer Davenport – Job Offer, 1895.” I thought it odd that Homer would be asking John for a job, having just been sent to New York City. So for a nominal fee, I ordered a copy of the item. Sure enough, it’s the other way around! He was trying to get John to move over to Hearst! Below is the text of Davenport’s letter to McCutcheon, written on letterhead from the New Hoffman House (right), the “Absolutely Fire Proof” New York hotel Davenport was temporarily living in at the time:

The New Hoffman House, New York

October 25, 1895

Mr. John McCulcheon

My Dear Sir: You are no doubt surprised to see that I am in New York, but come on to the city with Mr. Hurst and will remain I suppose in this city for the next few years. I rather like it here but of course it is not Frisco. We expect to have a great paper out of the “Journal” soon.

Mr. Pruitt Share is in charge of the art dep. and among the crew are Trobridge, Weil, Anthony, Kerr and several I don’t know.

I wish you were out here. Hurst is the greatest man in the world to work for, and if you are with him once you would work for no other. He has just bought $500,000 worth of new presses among them a color press unsurpassed by any now in use.

How are all of our old friends in the different art departments? Let me hear from you at your earliest convenience. Tell me if you want to come to New York and I will see that you get work on a paper that will be the paper in short order.

Yours truly, Homer Davenport

c/o Morning Journal, Art Department

No doubt, Davenport and McCutcheon became friends while the former was working in Chicago in 1893 during the Columbian Exposition. Of the names mentioned, (Pruitt, Trobridge, Weil, Anthony and Kerr), I have found nothing yet. Possibly due to the fact of Davenport’s notoriously poor spelling, (in this letter, he opens with an”l” instead of “t” in McCutcheon’s name, and refers to the world’s greatest boss as “Mr. Hurst”).  At any rate, McCutcheon was not swayed by Homer’s offer. But he felt obliged to keep the letter!

Hoe Universal Web Press

What is notable was Davenport’s mention of the new “unsurpassed” color printing press. In William Randolph Hearst: A New Appraisal by John K. Winkler, the author relates that this new press was custom-built, and immediately after, the Journal’s circulation sky-rocketed.

“The leap in circulation was especially noticeable when the Journal installed a markedly improved color press, a product of the combine inventive skills of George Pancoast, experts of R. Hoe & Company, and of Hearst himself … The result was that by the fall of 1896, the Journal possessed a special Hoe color press capable of printing from four to sixteen pages in color.”

McCutcheon was not the only old pal Davenport recruited. He also snagged his former Portland Oregonian colleague, columnist James J. Montague. Montague, also a poet, penned the poem When Davenport’s in Town, which was reproduced in Davenport’s 1911 autobiography, The Country Boy.