The Art of Ill Will: The Story of American Political Cartoons

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2008 Association of American University Presses Award for Jacket Design

Author interview on Brian Lehrer Live
Podcast with KERA in North Texas

The Art of Ill Will is a comprehensive history of American political cartooning, featuring over two hundred illustrations. From the colonial period to contemporary cartoonists like Pat Oliphant and Jimmy Margulies, Donald Dewey highlights these artists uncanny ability to encapsulate the essence of a situation and to steer the public mood with a single drawing and caption. Taking advantage of unlimited access to The Granger Collection, which holds thousands of the most significant works of Thomas Nast and the other early American cartoonists, The Art of Ill Will provides a survey of American history writ large, capturing the voice of the people—hopeful, angry, patriotic, frustrated—in times of peace and war, prosperity and depression.

Dewey tracks the cartoonists role as a jester with a serious brief. Ulysses S. Grant credited cartoonists with helping him win his election and was not the only president to feel that way; political bosses and even state legislatures have sought to ban cartoons when they endangered entrenched interests; General George Patton once promised to throw beloved wartime cartoonist Bill Mauldin in jail if he continued to spread dissent. (Mauldin later won the Pulitzer Prize.)

Despite the increasing threats they face as daily newspapers merge or vanish, cartoonists have given us some of our most memorable images, from Theodore Roosevelt’s pince-nez and mustache to Richard Nixon’s Pinocchio nose to Jimmy Carters Chiclet teeth. At a time when domestic and foreign political developments have made these artists more necessary than ever, The Art of Ill Will is a rich collection of the wickedly clever images that puncture pomposity and personalize American history.

Cartoonists include: Benjamin Franklin (whose Join, or Die was the first modern American political cartoon), the astoundingly prolific Thomas Nast, Puck magazine founder Joseph Keppler, Adalbert Volck, suffragist Laura Foster, Uncle Sam creator James Montgomery Flagg, Theodore Geisel departing from his Dr. Seuss persona to tackle World War II, Herbert Herblock Block (who so enraged Richard Nixon that the president canceled his subscription to the Washington Post), Daniel Fitzpatrick, Jules Feiffer, Paul Conrad, Gary Trudeau, and the controversial Ted Rall.

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Editorial Reviews

Elsa Dixler
…an afternoon with The Art of Ill Will is time well spent.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Dewey, a writer of fiction and nonfiction (James Stewart), explores the evolution of American political cartooning from its origins in the 18th century through its proliferation in the 19th and up to its current state, beleaguered by, among others, litigation and political correctness. Dewey's review of racist portraits of blacks and Jews is commonplace, but elsewhere he explores less familiar territory, such as attempts to censor political cartoons. After a lengthy introductory essay, Dewey presents five thematically organized chapters with more than 200 cartoons. The chapter on presidents includes Bill Mauldin's mournful response to JFK's assassination and Doug Marlette's portrayal of Jimmy Carter as the cowardly lion and Ronald Reagan as the tin man in the 1980 presidential election. The most surprising and clever cartoon in the "Wars and Foreign Relations" chapter is a 1902 skewering of American imperialism, showing Uncle Sam, dressed as Santa Claus, presenting a gift bag to a suspicious Filipino child. Dewey's chapter prefaces occasionally shed fascinating light; in the chapter on "Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Issues," he observes that most 20th-century newspapers have shied away from "cartoonists with skeptical views of mainline churches and their espoused Christian values." This will make a nice coffee-table title for political junkies. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
“[A] handsome and bracingly irreverent history of the form.”
-New York Sun

“Dewey makes a strong case that the political cartoons has played a uniquely formative role in American history.”
-Cartoon News

“An afternoon with The Art of Ill Will is time well spent, especially when followed by Funny Times, the cartoon monthly, and The Colbert Report.”
-New York Times Book Review

“Not just a story of cartoons but a history of America through cartoons. A great gift book.”
-Brian Lehrer Live

“The true stars of this book are the cartoons themselves. During a period when an entire government seems drawn by a sartirist, its instructive to look back at a history of politics reduced to two dimensions.”
-Village Voice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814720158
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 251
  • Sales rank: 931,915
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Dewey is the author of twenty-five books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles published throughout the world. He wrote acclaimed biographies of actors James Stewart and Marcello Mastroianni, and has been awarded the Nelson Algren Prize for fiction. His history of baseball fans, The Tenth Man: The Fan in Baseball History, was cited by numerous publications as one of the best books of 2004. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

1. Presidents
2. Wars and Foreign Relations
3. Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Issues
4. Local and Domestic Politics
5. Business and Labor
About the Author

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