A century of Sun cartooning

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The sad honor of bringing nearly a century of distinguished and distinctive political cartooning at The Sun to an end fell to Kevin Kallaugher last week.

Better known to readers as KAL, he has regularly amused and ticked them off since joining the newspaper's staff in 1988.

For his final cartoon published last Sunday, he drew the presidents, Maryland governors and Baltimore mayors who were in office during his tenure at The Sun.

They are Presidents Clinton, Bushes 41 and 43; Maryland Governors Schaefer, Glendening and Ehrlich; and Baltimore Mayors Schmoke and O'Malley. KAL has them dressed as frolicking cheerleaders who are obviously overjoyed at his departure.

Amid all of this merriment, KAL has drawn himself sad-eyed and heading off the page carrying a pad and a fistful of drawing pens.

At the bottom of the cartoon, a man turns to a woman, and says, "I see the editorial cartoonist is leaving."

"Why do you think the politicians are cheering," she replies.

The Sun's first political cartoonist was McKee Barclay, a Louisville, Ky., native whose editorial cartoons and caricatures began appearing in the paper in 1908. His work appeared on the front of the newspaper's second section, which would be the equivalent of today's Maryland section.

His younger brother, Thomas Pollard Barclay, whose signed his cartoons "Tom Bee," began working for the newspaper the same day. The brothers' work alternated in the same space while McKee contributed a series of illustrated articles titled "Thumbnail Sketches" to The Evening Sun, which had been founded in 1910.

Tom Barclay died during World War I, and McKee left The Sun in 1920 to work in advertising. He died in 1947.

"McKee Barclay wasn't too funny, but he was the first," Joseph R.L. Sterne, retired Sun editorial page editor, said in an interview.

Boardman Robinson, who later became a major influence on American political cartooning, worked for The Sun from 1921 to 1922.

Edmund Duffy was profoundly influenced by Robinson, who had been his teacher at the Art Students' League in New York City. He was 26 when he joined The Sun in 1924, and during the next 24 years earned three Pulitzer Prizes for his work.

H.L. Mencken, who admired Duffy's cartoons and brought him to The Sun, thundered, "Give me a good cartoonist, and I can fire half the editorial staff."

It was also Mencken who persuaded Duffy to abandon the crayon and chalk he used in his drawings for the brush and pen and lithographic crayon he used for background and shading.

Duffy's years on the newspaper coincided with the dark years of the Depression, racial inequality and World War II, and his work reflected that.

"Duffy had a slashing style, and he had great people to tear into, such as Hitler and Stalin," Sterne said.

Author and journalist Gerald W. Johnson once observed that Duffy "contained an immense capacity for hatred, but his hatred does not rise to incandescence except when it is turned on injustice."

R.P. Harriss, a former Evening Sun editorial writer and later a critic for the News American, wrote that "if the pen is mightier than the sword, then Edmund Duffy's grease pencil is more effective than a well-aimed brick."

Duffy abruptly left The Sun in 1948, for reasons that remain unknown, to become a cartoonist for The Saturday Evening Post. He died in 1962.

He was succeeded by the larger-than-life Richard Q "Moco" Yardley, whose capacity for Maryland oysters, crabs and oceans of chilled beer were as well-known as his whimsical cartoons that began entertaining readers of the The Sunday Sun and The Evening Sun in 1923.

"Yardley was very much a local guy who always included certain things in his cartoons, such as 5-cent crab cakes and cats. No one could be as funny as Yardley day in and day out, yet, he could get screamingly angry in his work," Sterne said.

Yardley left The Sun in 1972 because of failing health and was followed by Tom Flannery, a Carbondale, Pa., native who had drawn for Yank magazine during World War II.

He was hired as The Evening Sun's first editorial cartoonist in 1957, and with Yardley's departure, moved over to The Sun.

"While he had a light touch, he was quite often absolutely serious," Sterne recalled.

"No shoot-from-the-hip curmudgeon, he was a cartoonist of rare erudition, basing his beliefs on omnivorous reading," wrote Neil A. Grauer, a Baltimore writer and caricaturist, in a Sun op-ed page piece after Flannery's death in 1999.

Flannery's replacement was Mike Lane, a self-trained artist and former General Electric Credit Corp. auditor, who continued as a cartoonist with The Evening Sun until its demise in 1995, and then moved to The Sun. He left in 2004 after taking a buyout.

"He could really skewer people with a certain relentlessness. He was a marvelous cartoonist with a matching drawing style," Sterne said.

In a 1988 Sun Magazine profile, Lane said of his work: "It's death if you take yourself seriously. There's absolutely nothing serious about this job. The only serious thing about it is the paycheck."

When Flannery stepped down in 1988, Sterne hired KAL, whose specialty has been deflating politicians through pen and ink.

"KAL had a total mastery of perspective, and there is never a line out of place. And he could really reproduce the way people looked better than his predecessors. He really had a good time with William Donald Schaefer, for instance," Sterne observed.

Sterne said he is unhappy that KAL left as part of a buyout offered by The Sun.

"It doesn't make any sense to me. I think with more and more emphasis on local news, a local cartoonist would be the last person to be offered a buyout," he said.

When Grauer wrote a piece on political cartooning in 1980 for The Sun, there were about 170 political cartoonists working at U.S. newspapers. Today, he says, the number has fallen to about 80.

"It's a dying profession, unfortunately, and I'm sorry to see The Sun adding to its ills. It just astounds me," Grauer said in an interview this week.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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