"Mink is for peasants"
Herb Block used the mink coat, a familiar symbol of unethical conduct in public office, as a point of departure for a scathing denunciation of congressmen in collusion with big business. The title, voiced by his smug, crowned figures in ermine-trimmed robes decorated with dollar signs, makes the point that corruption has reached a grandiose scale previously unseen. Block highlighted his objections to the tidelands quitclaim bills, whereby Congress could vote to claim submerged oil lands off the coastlines of three states, and the continuation of tax loopholes for special interests including the oil and utilities industries.
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Although Herb Block frequently castigated President Richard Nixon and his Republican administration, in this cartoon he reminded the 91st Congress—led by Democrats—that they, too, had considerable skeletons in their closet. In the cartoon's foreground, Block derided the seniority system. The cartoonist later railed: “This is a system not for operating a representative government but for strangling it. It often makes fiefdoms of Congressional committees—fiefdoms in which the people's representatives are subject to the whims of chairmen who have little responsibility to anybody.”
Haunted House. Published in The Washington Post, July 12, 1970. Ink, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Quote from Herblock's State of the Union (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972). Herbert L. Block Collection. Prints and Photographs Division (7). Digital ID # ppmsca-11971
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"Quitting time and all's well"
This cartoon appeared after Congress failed to censure unethical behavior by elected members in both houses. In September 1976, the Senate ethics committee voted not to pursue allegations that minority leader Senator Hugh Scott (R-Penn) received $45,000 from Gulf agents, despite Scott's admission of doing so. On October 2, the House of Representatives refused to expel Representative Andrew Hinshaw (R-Calif), who had been convicted of bribery. Herb Block's image of both committees as fortress towers echoed his 1980 published statement: “Perhaps the biggest scandals in Congress are the ones in which it operates as a private mutual protection club.”
"Quitting time and all's well." Published in The Washington Post, October 3, 1976. Sketch 1. Sketch 2. Ink, graphite, opaque white, and blue pencil with paste-ons. Quote from Herblock on All Fronts(New York: New American Library, 1980). Herbert L. Block Collection. Prints and Photographs Division (8). Digital ID # ppmsca-11972
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Death of a Salesman
Dwight Eisenhower ran for president on a vow to clean up political corruption. On September 18, 1952, with the election just weeks away, the New York Post revealed that his vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon had received secret funding from California businessmen. Herb Block depicted Nixon cast aside, like the lead character Willie Loman in Arthur Miller's 1949 play of the same title. Nixon has packed up his bags, his corruption-sweeping brooms, and a $16,000 secret fund contribution. Nixon saved his political career and the Republican hold on the election with his now-famous “Checkers” speech, in which he defended his honor in a televised broadcast.
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