Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Dick Buchanan: "Can Cartoonists Predict the Future?" Gag Cartoons 1948 - 1959

Well, here is something really interesting that Dick Buchanan put together for all of us fans of the golden age of cartooning: Can cartoonists predict the future? Are they creative visionaries? Can they predict things like tech support, selfies, identity theft, the rise of AI??? What did they think the future might look like from their view in post-war America? Walt Kelly phrased it as "the will be that was," which is more poetic than "retro-future." Well, take a look below and you'll see how gag cartoonists fared.

Take it away, Dick -- and thanks!!!



GAG CARTOONS 1948 - 1959

There was a fascinating symposium at last summer’s annual Crackpot Convention that dealt with a subject of particular interest to gag cartoonists and readers alike. The subject was “Visionary Cartooning . . . can cartoonists predict the future?” As expected, it was a lively session but in the end the subject never came up.

Returning to my Greenwich Village inner sanctum, undaunted, I delved into the Cartoon Clip File and much to my surprise I learned that several mid-century cartoonists did provide readers with a glimpse into the future.

Here are a few examples of cartoons that demonstrate ability of prognostication. In the interest of full disclosure, cartoonists weren’t infallible.

1. THE BABY MONITOR -- IRWIN CAPLAN --The Saturday Evening Post August 7, 1948.

2. ARTISAN BAKING -- GEORGE RECKAS. Liberty Magazine June 1948.

3. THE CONFERENCE CALL -- ROY L. FOX. The Saturday Evening Post April 18, 1953.

4. THE FOOD TRUCK -- CLYDE LAMB. True Magazine, May 1955

5. THE “SELFIE” -- HARRY MACE. The Saturday Evening Post October 29, 1955.

6. THE “ADULT ENTERTAINMENT” BAR -- CHARLES PEARSON. Collier’s September 11, 1948. It was the decline of burlesque rather than the advent of home television but nonetheless Pearson foresaw the coming of the “Adult Entertainment” bar.

7. COMPUTERS -- BOB SCHROETER. For Laughing Out Loud January-March, 1958. In the 1950’s, most folks had a tough time understanding computers purpose. Bob Schroeter got it right.

8. COMPUTERS -- BOB BARNES. Look Magazine March 17, 1959. Not everyone got it. Bob Barnes was one of many who missed the mark.

9. CREDIT CARDS -- BOB SCHROETER. For Laughing Out Loud September-November, 1954. Believe it or not, when credit cards appeared in the 1950’s many cartoonists assumed they were not worth stealing. Most Cartoon Editors agreed, publishing many variations of this gag.

10. CREDIT CARDS -- JOHN DEMPSEY. Look Magazine February 3, 1959. Wrong again. Many readers wrote to the Look Letters Dept. pointing out that credit cards were better than cash. But Dempsey’s holdup man was different . . . see why below.

11. Letters Dept. Look Magazine March 17, 1959

- This was an edited version of a blog entry from April 5, 2018.

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