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March 11, 2003
Herblock Archives Donated to the Library of Congress
The Herb Block Foundation today announced the gift of the archives of editorial cartoons of Herbert L. Block (right) to the Library of Congress where they will be available to both scholars and the general public.
A special exhibition featuring some of the original drawings included in this major donation, "Herblock's Gift: The Herb Block Foundation Collection," will open in the Swann Gallery on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building on Wednesday, March 12, where it will remain on view through June 28. Hours for the exhibition are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Block, known to the world as "Herblock," was one of the most influential political commentators and editorial cartoonists in American history. The archives include approximately 14,000 original cartoons from a daily newspaper career that spanned much of the 20th century.
In addition to his cartoons, the Herblock archives include voluminous files of records, correspondence, clippings and photographs as well as thousands of preparatory sketches he drew to help conceptualize his daily work.
From April 1929 to August 2001, Herblock chronicled the major social and political events of the nation and the world, summarizing issues others had taken thousands of words to explain in a single 4-inch-by-6-inch drawing. Herblock spent the last 55 years of his career as the editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post.
Jean J. Rickard, executive director of the Herb Block Foundation and Block's longtime executive assistant, said "Herb Block selected the Library of Congress to receive his cartoon collection and papers, confident in his belief that there they would be preserved and shared with the public. He wanted to ensure that scholars, historians and others would have access to these materials. Now the Library of Congress will be home to his great works for the enjoyment and education of countless future generations."
James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, called the gift "typical of Herb's generosity. In tens of thousands of drawings during his 72-year career, he offered trenchant graphic commentary on virtually every notable incident and public figure from the Great Depression forward."
Herb Block caricatured 13 American presidents from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush, receiving in his storied career three Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartooning (in 1942, 1954 and 1979) and a fourth with Washington Post colleagues for public service during the Watergate investigation (1973). He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1994 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In spring 2000, the Library of Congress named Herb Block a "Living Legend" in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the nation.
Haynes Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a member of the board of the Herb Block Foundation, noted the timelessness of Herblock's cartoons. He said the gift will give the public a chance to view the whole body of work. "I am confident people will come away with a sharper appreciation of why Herblock was America's greatest cartoonist, its greatest defender of civil liberties, and its most effective fighter against tyranny and governmental and corporate abuses-and why in these turbulent times especially, his work remains more relevant today than ever," Johnson said.
When he died in October 2001, Block left the bulk of his estate to create the Herb Block Foundation to carry on his life's work of championing the cause of social justice. The foundation was charged with the task of providing financial help to causes that reflected his ideals: college scholarships to deserving students and assistance to cartoonists who followed in his footsteps.
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