Charles Preston – RIP

Wall Street Journal cartoon editor Charles Preston has passed away.

Charles M. Preston
November 6, 1921 – October 2, 2020


Instigator, idea man, and long-time editor of the Wall Street Journal cartoon panel “Pepper … and Salt” Charles Preston passed away Friday.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Seventy years ago a Columbia undergraduate named Charles Preston pitched a daily cartoon feature focusing on business themes to Journal editors, hoping to spruce up the paper’s columns of gray newsprint. He got the assignment, and his first cartoon ran on the editorial page on June 6, 1950. The editors used a headline from 1915, “Pepper … and Salt,” and slapped it above the cartoon.

Preston, who died Friday at age 98, once observed that “I’ve looked at more cartoons than anyone in the history of mankind.”

above: the first Pepper … and Salt panel by Walter Goldstein © Cartoon Features Syndicate

As the Wall Street Journal told it in 2006:

One day in 1949, Mr. Preston picks up a copy of the Journal, scans the inky vastness of important information and sees…a palette! This solemn rag, he decides, needs a bit of jazzing up.

And so, in an amazing frontal assault, Mr. Preston strides into the offices of the Journal, stands before the editor, William Henry Grimes, a glowering, no-nonsense man, and insists, politely, that what the paper needs is a cartoon and a few jokes on the editorial page.

He is shown the door.

He then abandons frontal assault and resorts to stealth, of a sort, and the very next year a little single-panel cartoon appears on the very gray newspaper’s gray editorial page under the quaint title “Pepper … and Salt.”

That 2006 article was on the occasion of Charles donating a collection of WSJ cartoons to Harvard Business School’s Baker Library, where a gallery of cartoons sorted by decade can be read.

above: Bruce Cochran cartoon from the 1960s © Cartoon Features Syndicate

Back to the WSJ obituary:

Over the years Preston also contributed articles on skiing and sailing to the Journal. He edited crossword puzzles and quote acrostics, which appeared in hundreds of newspapers, including USA Today, where he was the puzzle editor for 15 years. His taste for outdoor adventure extended to sailing across the Atlantic and the annual spring ski down Mount Washington’s steep Tuckerman Ravine, which he accomplished into his 70s.

More about the careers of Charles and Linda at SeaCoastOnline from 2008:

Charles and Linda Preston are the editors of the crossword puzzles published in the Coast Star and an estimated 100 other newspapers.

“Linda does the work,” he says. “I get the glory. I receive comments only when a solver becomes frustrated.”

Charles is a former Kennebunk Beach summer resident, racing-car driver and member of the original editorial staff of Sports Illustrated, where he was the cartoon editor.

An assignment from The National Observer to edit crossword puzzles resulted in a new career, but he didn’t give up cartoons.

above: © Mike Lynch and Cartoon Features Syndicate.

Cartoonists Mike Lynch and Eli Stein have had Charles as editor.
Both Mike and Eli have more about WSJ cartoons.




One thought on “Charles Preston – RIP

  1. Thanks for this. Charles (and Linda) was one of the first editors who ever bought my cartoons. It was kind of tough to sell to WSJ. You had to have a little bit of a unique twist on a business topic. And “tyrannical boss” cartoons didn’t sell, what with bosses being the people who read the paper. Charles was always responsive, getting back to me quickly with rejections and the occasional okays, and answering a lot of my questions back in the beginner cartoonist days. He really loved gag cartoons, and I’m so glad he convinced a business paper to add some humor on a daily basis since 1956. I think he holds the record for the longest-running cartoon editor!

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