Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charles Green Bush (1842-1909)

“I am obliged not only to use my pencil, but to study hard and read everything I can lay my hands on. The features of Roosevelt, Bryan, Hanna, and Croker may be familiar to me, but I must know what these men are doing. I must also know what the masses behind these popular characters think and believe. I must be conversant with the incidents and times from which I draw my inspiration. With 365 cartoons to draw during the year I must do an immense amount of thinking, for two-thirds of the ideas portrayed in my drawings originate in my own brain. I get my inspiration from newspapers, magazines, and people and I work methodically day after day. Without letting you into the secret of my political feelings, I may tell you that it very often happens that a cartoonist who is a Republican has to earn his bread and butter by ridiculing his own party and vice versa. You can draw your own conclusions from that statement, while I -- excuse me -- resume another sort of drawing!” -- Charles Green Bush quoted in “American Caricature and Comic Art,” The Bookman (US) 1903.


He Was Creator of Many Political caricatures --- Died in the South

Camden, S.C. Saturday, May 22, 1909, Trenton Evening Times.

Arrangements were made today for the funeral of the late Charles Green Bush, the noted cartoonist who died here last night following an attack of heart trouble.

For years he had been the acknowledged dean of American cartoonists, and his work has been copied worldwide. He was born in Boston in 1842, and at the age of 18 was appointed cadet to Annapolis Naval Academy, being a classmate of Admiral Sigsbee.

Leaving the Academy he became an illustrator at Harper’s, and later went to Paris where he studied at Rimmel’s and with Bonnat. He immediately took his place as the foremost political cartoonist of the country and until his retirement a few years ago, wielded a powerful influence with his pen pictures.

He was the creator of Father Knickerbocker as representing New York City; it was Bush who first gave David B. Hill his little high hat with its “I am a Democrat” plume and his strenuous Roosevelt in Khaki has been the model for all such efforts on the part of all cartoonists.

The ex-president has among his possessions in his library a cherished collection of the Bush cartoons. Bush was, to those who knew him best, a delightful many-sided gentleman. He took most pleasure from his choir work in Dr. Parkhurst’s church and was known as a genius in the design of model yachts. He was a botanist of rare knowledge and was considered an authority on the cultivation of old-fashioned flowers.

The body will be taken to New York for internment.


  1. An interesting look at how one generation's mighty are forgotten.

    Looking at Bush's cartoons he seems to my hindsight-blinded eyes to work in a generic cartoon style used by most political cartoonists of the period. Of course, he may, as the obituary suggests, have invented that style in the first place! There's no denying he really knew how to draw.

    It strikes me odd how coy Bush was about his politics. Many newspapers of the time openly supported one party or another. I presumed their cartoonists would be equally partisan. Or is this a misconception?

    1. Mr. Smurfswacker:
      In the article, Bush confesses that while he is partisan, his credibility is dependent on him criticizing his party. That is true of all cartoonists. The most partisan of early 21st century cartoonists is Michael Ramirez. He NEVER stops bashing Democrats. He is also rarely reprinted by any newspaper other than those that are staunchly conservative. However, apparently he makes enough money to continue producing his hack cartoons.
      From my research, I have found that a majority of cartoonists are free to produce what they want, and their editors will publish it whether it is in line with the political leanings of the publisher or not. Political cartoonists are hired to question authority. That a newspaper has its own cartoonist at all is an indication that the newspaper is serious about unbiased reporting. Most newspapers pull their cartoons from syndication.
      I know this is a bit late, but I hope it helps.
      Larry Bush
      Cartoon Historian
      University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College

  2. Rick Marschall commented once on the Platinum Comics Group that Bush was "a devastating partisan. He was right: he went from the generally Democrat "Herald" to the rabidly Democrat "World" -- no views-to-the-highest-bidder in his case."

    Some cartoonists may have shared the views of their employers, I don't know for sure. In the US, at least in the past,I think editorial cartoonists generally worked to the bidding of the newspapers they drew for.

    In Canada editorial cartoonists (who used to be treated like Artists with a capital A) boasted of their independence from editorial influence. Like their counterparts in the US newspaper cutbacks have made them a dwindling breed. the lucky ones moved magazines, others to the free independent alternate press tabloids available at the local malls.

  3. Hello,
    I picked up an original Charles Green Bush print. It is called "On the Beach At Newport" c. 1870's and am wondering if there is anything that you can tell me about this?? Thank you in advance.