Tuesday, September 10, 2019

From the Dick Buchanan Files: The Cartooning Roth Brothers

It's hard enough for one person in the family to make it as a cartoonist. The Roths had four. All four Roth brothers became successful gag cartoonists. Here is my friend Dick Buchanan with their story and some great samples of their cartoons. Thanks and take it away, Dick!




It all started in 1934 when Ben Roth sold his first cartoon to Colliers Magazine. He returned home and told his brothers that he had found a way for them all to make a living. He was right. They became known as the “Cartooning Roth Brothers,” cartooning’s answer to the Marx Brothers—Irving was the one with the mustache. The only brother who did not change his name professionally was Ben Roth. Abraham signed his work Al Ross. The other two were known as Irving Roir and Salo.

The Roth family came from the village of Seletyn, Romania, and lived in Vienna. The family settled in East Harlem in the USA in 1922. All four brothers studied at the prestigious Art Students League. They began their careers at the top with sales to Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post and continued for decades with their cartoons appearing in virtually all the leading magazines of the mid-20th century, Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Liberty and Esquire. They also filled the pages of the many minor publications which featured jokes, cartoons and, sometimes, pinup girls—magazines such as 1000 Jokes Magazine, Cartoon Humor and the legendary Humorama publications.

The Roth brothers were a prolific, talented bunch with a keen gag sense. Many of their cartoons were of the “Battle of the Sexes” variety--everyday husbands in business suits and wives in aprons were frequent subjects, as were sports and cops and robbers. It was not unusual to find two or three of the brothers' cartoons in a single issue of The Saturday Evening Post or Collier’s.

Here’s a small sample from the many thousands of gag cartoons created by the talented Roth Brothers.


SELF PORTRAIT from Best Cartoons of the Year 1947.

Ben was the eldest Roth brother. Not long after he sold his first cartoon to Collier’s his cartoons began appearing in many of the era’s leading magazines—Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Liberty Magazine and College Humor to mention but a few. During World War II he served in the Office of War Information in Australia. After completing his Army tour, Roth resumed his gag cartooning career. In 1945 he created the Ben Roth Agency, which syndicated American cartoons in foreign countries.

1. BEN ROTH. Collier’s April 15, 1944.

2.  BEN ROTH.  Collier's April 15, 1944.

3. BEN ROTH. Liberty Magazine, June 1946.

4. BEN ROTH. Liberty Magazine March, 1949.

5. BEN ROTH. American Legion Magazine August, 1953.


SELF PORTRAIT from Best Cartoons of the Year 1945.

Al Ross was born Abraham Roth. Ross was always considered to be the most talented draftsman of the bunch. His cartoons appeared in a great many magazines, including Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Cosmopolitan and Maclean's.

Ross sold three cartoons to The New Yorker between 1937 and 1940 before disappearing from its pages until 1959, when he emerged to become one of their most revered cartoonists. He kept contributing to The New Yorker, although intermittently, until 2002 when already in his nineties.

Over time, Ross began to adopt a looser and more minimalist style which finally evolved into a pure extemporaneous line. He eventually drew directly in ink with no preliminary sketching in pencil.

1. AL ROSS. The Saturday Evening Post June 5, 1943.

2. AL ROSS. Cartoon Humor Fall, 1949.

3. AL ROSS. Gags October 1, 1951.

4. AL ROSS. American Legion Magazine March, 1954.

5. AL ROSS. 1000 Jokes Magazine April-June, 1963.


SELF PORTRAIT from Best Cartoons of the Year 1943.

Irving (Irv Roir) Roth had the most illegible signature of the four brothers. Besides contributing gag cartoons to the era’s leading magazines, he was the brother whose work most often appeared in color. He was a cover artist for several magazines such as Judge and Gags. He was a regular contributor to Esquire. He also contributor of gag cartoons and illustrations to Pictorial Revue. From 1954 to 1956 he drew a gag panel titled Of All Things, syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate.

1. IRV ROIR. The Saturday Evening Post February 7, 1942.

2. IRV ROIR. Liberty July 13, 1946.

3. IRV ROIR. Collier’s February 26, 1949

4. IRV ROIR. Esquire July, 1952.

5. IRV ROIR. True Magazine October, 1958.


SELF PORTRAIT from Best Cartoons of the Year 1945.

The youngest Roth brother was Salo. He sold his first cartoon, to the Saturday Evening Post, in 1937. Beginning in 1946, Mr. Roth drew for the Chicago Tribune. His gag panel, “Laughing Matter” appeared for thirty years on the editorial page, though it had nothing to do with politics or opinion—it was simply funny. In 1976, Mr. Roth retired from the Tribune and moved to Boca Raton, Florida. There he continued to draw and sell cartoons to many publications.

1. SALO ROTH. Collier’s April 26, 1941.

2. SALO ROTH. American Legion Magazine March, 1944.

3. SALO ROTH. The Saturday Evening Post December 7, 1946

4. SALO ROTH. Liberty Magazine June, 1949.

5. SALO ROTH. Collier’s May 30, 1953.

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