Editorial cartoonists, like all Americans, do not always agree with one another. Their commentary, in fact, reflects the divergent opinions of the newspapers in which their cartoons appear, which, in turn, often influences or serves to gauge the political attitudes of their readership. Issues on which the nation was particularly divided in the twentieth century—the question of U.S. intervention prior to entering World War II, the Red Scare, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and events in the Middle East—provide the framework for this exhibition. These topics were particularly fertile ground for editorial cartoonists. Pointing Their Pens allows for comparisons of the ways in which cartoonists react and interpret current events, develop their own distinct visual vocabularies, and convey their diverse political points of view. The exhibition offers viewers an extensive opportunity to experience the work of Herbert L. Block (1909–2001)—commonly known as Herblock—alongside the work of his contemporaries over the period of four decades and provides visual insights into key moments that shaped the United States in the twentieth century.
Pointing Their Pens draws from the comprehensive collections of cartoon art acquired by the Library of Congress since the early 1900s, which include generous donations by cartoonists and their heirs. The exhibition is anchored by selections from the Herbert L. Block Collection of more than 14,000 drawings, donated to the Library by the Herb Block Foundation in 2002. Herblock worked as an editorial cartoonist at the Chicago Daily News, for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, and the Washington Post. During his seventy-two-year career, Herblock won four Pulitzer Prizes for his cartoons. The exhibition also draws heavily on the Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature which comprises more than 17,000 original editorial cartoon drawings by hundreds of men and women, donated to the Library in 2001. The collection, spanning three centuries, is distinctive and unparalleled in the depth of its holdings. Pointing Their Pens allows visitors an opportunity to explore and appreciate the art and expressive power of the editorial cartoon.