Standard Cartoonists Highlight St. Catharines Historian’s Presentation

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An editorial cartoon published in the Standard in 1937 featured a real estate agent advising a client that he “better buy this place with that much money” because he has “no prospect of a place to rent”. .

The client responds, “St. Catharines is a great place to live if you can find a place to live.

The 86-year-old cartoon is one of many discovered by St. Catharines historian Arden Phair during his research that are as relevant today as they were decades ago.

“So many of them, you could take the cartoon and reprint it today, and maybe change a word or two,” Phair said.

Another cartoon from 1951 shows a knight carrying a shield with the word “knowledge” written on it, using a spear marked “early cure” to fight a dragon with “cancer” written on its body.

Phair said it was unusual for a newspaper in a relatively small market to hire a personal cartoonist, and a credit to the Burgoyne family who owned the Standard for most of its history.

“They were so ahead of their time.”

He said the newspaper had grown considerably under the ownership of Burgoyne, who had invested in new printing presses as well as equipment enabling the newspaper to engrave photographic plates.

“It was a huge step forward and a big investment,” Phair said.

This enabled the paper to hire a photographer, as well as the paper’s first cartoonist in 1936 – Josh Silburt.

After two years at the paper, Silburt left and was replaced by Rubin Kaell who published his work under the pen name James Allen from 1938 to ’45; freelance cartoonist Harold Marten from 1941 to 1951, Charles Pratt from 1950 to 1951, John Ednie from 1952 to 1956 and Harry Harley who held the post until the post was abolished in 1961.

“These guys are really good. This is the kind of quality illustration you would see coming out of the United States with syndication. It’s so good,” Phair said.

During Kaell’s seven years as the paper’s cartoonist, former Standard publisher Henry Burgoyne tried unsuccessfully to syndicate his work – offering to supply three editorial cartoons a week to other newspapers for a weekly fee of $3.

Many cartoons have focused on global issues, such as World War II as well as the troubles in Europe leading up to it, such as a cartoon by Silburt showing a woman labeled “democracy” with her head in a guillotine, as Mussolini and Hitler discuss his fate.

Phair, however, said cartoons focusing on local issues first piqued his interest, leading to the research he has conducted in recent years.

“I love that local content and that’s what it’s basically all about. This is the last problem that occurs,” he said.

Phair will discuss this research at a meeting of the St. Catharines Historical Society on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

The online presentation titled The Pun is Mightier than the Sword: The Art of Editorial Cartooning at The Standard, 1936-1961, is free and open to the community, including those who are not members of the historical society.

While next week’s online presentation will focus on cartoonists from the St. Catharines Standard, Phair is also planning an in-person presentation at the LR Wilson Heritage Research Archive, Port Colborne at 7 p.m. on November 24, where he will discuss editorial cartoons published in The Welland and Port Colborne newspapers as well.

He said the presentation scheduled in Port Colborne is “kind of like a second chapter” to the St. Catharines discussion.

Phair hopes to draw attention to the work of locally published cartoonists who are often overlooked.

“There are a number of cartoon and comic book websites, museums and institutions and I plan to share a lot of what I find with them,” he said.

In his own search for information on local cartoonists, Phair said he could find only a brief reference to Harley – the Standard’s last cartoonist.

“I want to get the word out there,” he said.

“Somehow there’s six guys here, even though they’re not on the same trajectory as Duncan Macpherson or Roy Peterson, they’re still part of this history of Canadian cartooning or world history Canadian and much of what they do with their political cartoons around the world, it is worth studying.

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