National Cartoonists Society Diamond Anniversary

A Murder of Crows. A Barrel of Monkeys. A Reuben of Cartoonists?

75 years ago a group of cartoonists got together and decided to form a club.

It had been tried before without lasting success. This time it lasted.

No one better than R. C. Harvey to give the details:

ON FRIDAY NIGHT, March 1, 1946, 26 cartoonists assembled at the Barberry Room on East 52nd Street in Manhattan. They met at 7 p.m. for drinks and dinner, and after dinner, they waved their inky-fingered hands and conjured into being the National Cartoonists Society. Then when the voting was over, they started a heated argument about how to define a cartoonist and retired to pour cooling emollients on the conflagration.

No attendance was taken that first night; no charter signed. So there is no roster of the first members. But if we don’t know exactly who the 26 charter members were, we know they must be among the 32 names [Milton] Caniff listed as having paid dues by March 13: strip cartoonists Wally Bishop (Muggs and Skeeter), Martin Branner (Winnie Winkle), Ernie Bushmiller (Nancy), Caniff, Gus Edson (The Gumps), Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka), Harry Haenigsen (Penny), Fred Harmon (Red Ryder), Jay Irving (Willie Doodle), Al Posen (Sweeney and Son), C.D. Russell (Pete the Tramp), Otto Soglow (Little King), Jack Sparling (Claire Voyant), Ray Van Buren (Abbie ‘n’ Slats), Dow Walling (Skeets), and Frank Willard (Moon Mullins); syndicated panel cartoonists Dave Breger (Mister Breger), George Clark (The Neighbors), Bob Dunn (Just the Type), Jimmy Hatlo (They’ll Do It Every Time), Bill Holman (Smokey Stover), and Stan MacGovern (Silly Milly); freelance magazine cartoonists Abner Dean and Mischa Richter, editorial cartoonists Rube Goldberg (New York Sun), Burris Jenkins (Journal American), C.D. Batchelor (Daily News), and Richard Q. Yardley (Baltimore Sun); sports cartoonist Lou Hanlon; advertising and illustration, Russell Patterson; and comic-book cartoonists Joe Shuster (the artist half of Superman’s creative team), and Joe Musial.

The Cartoonists Society was now a reality.

A year later, as The National Cartoonists Society, the organization publicized itself by handing out a Cartoonist of the Year award – “The Barney.” By this time membership numbered around 125 cartoonists and would continue to grow.

The annual Cartoonist of the Year award would keep the group in the public’s mind, as would other charitable deeds such as frequent Savings Bond drives and cartoon exhibitions.

The Reuben Award, renamed after Billy DeBeck’s widow died, would expand in the mid-50s to include the divisional awards. But by 1948 they began honoring longtime cartoonists with The T-Square in addition to the Cartoonist of the Year. These were handed out at various times getting the Society into newspapers throughout the year.

Cartoonists themselves weren’t bashful about keeping the fraternity’s name in the public arena, either through their syndicated features or with special projects.

A tradition that continues into the present.

© Wiley, Ink

Also continuing to this day are their good deeds and the spreading of joy.

A diamond anniversary for a gem of an organization.




2 thoughts on “National Cartoonists Society Diamond Anniversary

  1. 3D ! Glad I caught this posting. NCS started out in service to the service back in ’46. They were zany and softhearted. But, they weren’t afraid to ruffle feathers … even showing up in LBJs office during the war after often skewering him. YAY to our pen ‘n’ tinker’s. More to come; never let up.

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