Strube: The World’s Most Popular Cartoonist, 2004

Strube: The World’s Most Popular Cartoonist
Author: Dr Tim Benson
Publisher: Political Cartoon Society
ISBN: 0954900804

This first biography on the life of Sidney Strube not only offers a cartoon journey through 20th Century British History, but also an insight into the world of editorial cartooning during its heyday. Strube was the editorial cartoonist of the Daily Express between 1912 and 1948. During these years, he assisted in making the Daily Express the best selling national newspaper in the world. In 1915, Strube enlisted in the Artists Rifles Battalion and served on the Western Front alongside other artists and writers such as Paul Nash and Wilfred Owen. Strube’s greatest creation was the ‘Little Man’, a figure large sections of the population then identified with. During the 1930s, Strube’s ridiculing of Hitler and Mussolini led the Daily Express to being banned in Germany and Italy. Strube’s name, alongside many other prominent critics of Hitler’s regime, was discovered on a Nazi hit list after the war. The book is packed with not only many of Strube’s most famous cartoons, but also photographs and cartoon related images that have never been published before.

Review by Dr Bex Lewis (2005-6)

Liberally scattered throughout with illustrations, this book is a well-constructed and informative read – based largely upon a combination of Daily Express material (the paper for which Strube was staff cartoonist for 36 years (1912-1948)) and material provided by Strube’s son George.

The author, Dr Tim Benson, wrote his PhD thesis on David Low, and is the owner/founder of the Political Cartoon Society based in central London. Low was a close contemporary of Strube’s – as the book notes they often met each other on the way to work across Hampstead Heath, discussing ideas despite working for rival papers, although this did not lead to plagiarism as they were accused of.

The biography follows Sidney ‘George’ Strube from birth (1891), within the sound of Bow Bells, through his marriage to a fashion artist who gave up her work to support his, to death (1956) following heart trouble – a publicity shy man (see p40) who felt his cartoons could be better understood if the cartoonist was not known. The book is full of fascinating details and provides insight to life of the cartoonist, and the Daily Express newspaper.

Chapter 4, in particular, paints a picture of a conscientious artist who always felt he had to put time into his cartoons – taking time on both the ideas and the execution of them. He was very rude about Osbert Lancaster who finished his work in 15 minutes. Strube, like Zec, was on the Nazi hitlist for the strong nature of his cartons, something his son felt was ‘a mark of honour’.

Starting in technical drawings, he turned to poster design under John Hassall, before moving on to political cartoons, eventually becoming in demand with the Daily Express, Even those who he ridiculed, including Lloyd George, approved that Strube gave them the ability to laugh at themselves.

In the First World War humorous cartoons were seen as inappropriate, so Strube joined the ‘Artists Rifles’ with others such as Bert Thomas, Wyndham Robinson and Fougasse. The book particularly follows Strube through the interwar years as he develops his ‘Little Man’, a significant change from the powerful ‘John Bull’ to a character representative of the ‘the people’ (something fully evident in WW2 propaganda), although he was not the only one to do so.

In the Second World War, Strube was regarded as too old and too valuable to enlist, a sure sign that the cartoonists role was to be recognised as effective in boosting public morale during wartime. Strube developed his ‘Little Man’ as the population had to, his ‘citizen’ got tough in a wartime role, as did Strube – sending his family to safety.

Towards the end of the war, there were editorial changes at the Daily Express, and with the arrival of ‘Giles‘, Strube produced less work, and ‘retired’ in 1948, continuing with freelance work.

Second World War Posters
Mass Communications Academic, @MMUBS. British Home Front Propaganda posters as researched for a PhD completed 2004. In 1997, unwittingly wrote the first history of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, which she now follows with interest.
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