The political cartoons of Herbert Lawrence Block (1909–2001), who was known by the pen name “Herblock,” appeared in American newspapers for more than seventy years. His particular interest in depicting American presidents is featured in the National Portrait Gallery’s new exhibition “Herblock’s Presidents: ‘Puncturing Pomposity.’”
The upcoming event, “Curator’s Conversation: Herblock: Drawn from Memory,” will focus on the life and work of one of the nation’s greatest political cartoonists. NPG senior historian Sid Hart will lead a conversation with three Pulitzer Prize winners: reporter Haynes Johnson, historian Roger Wilkins, and cartoonist Tony Auth. No reservations are required; seating is first come, first served. This event takes place at NPG’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium on Friday, June 27, at 7:00 p.m. More information is available here.
In this blog post, Sid Hart, curator of the exhibition, discusses one of the pieces, a cartoon Herblock drew of Nixon, published in the Washington Post on October 24, 1973 (shown above):
Events in the Watergate crisis moved so rapidly and dramatically on the weekend of October 19–21 that Herblock drew two cartoons to cover them. Tape recordings made in the Oval Office were the object of a jurisdictional struggle involving Congress, Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the White House. The tapes might determine if President Nixon was complicit in the 1972 break-in of Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex, and whether he had interfered with the FBI’s investigation of this crime. Nixon argued that the tapes were protected by executive privilege and national security; the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his claims but preferred that the parties reach an accommodation.
On October 19, Nixon agreed to give Congress a personally written summary of the tapes relating to Watergate, and give unlimited access to Senator John Stennis (D-MS), who would verify the accuracy of the summaries. Nixon ordered Cox fired, but the attorney general and his deputy resigned rather than carry out the charge. Instead, Nixon had the solicitor general fire Cox, and the whole affair was known as the “Saturday-night massacre.”
Herblock used this cartoon to bring back one of his most powerful graphic metaphors—the bloodhound that had been tracking Nixon since 1954—to illustrate that Nixon’s offering would not satisfy justice. The bones Nixon tossed to the dog represent his aides who had been forced to resign.
For more on Herblock visit the online exhibition, and see the previous blog post "Curator's Journal: Sid Hart on "Herblock’s Presidents: 'Puncturing Pomposity'"
October 24, 1973: "Look—Nice Tapes—Okay, Boy? Okay?"/ Herbert Lawrence Block/Pencil on paper/Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
© The Herb Block Foundation