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Art Young. Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Arthur Henry Young (Illimois, 1866), better known as “Art Young”, was one of the most widely recognised and followed cartoonists of the golden age of American radicalism. Young enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Design in 1884, where he studied under J. H. Vanderpoel.
A review of an exhibition of the cartoonist’s work at the Bookshop Gallery published in The Evening Star on 15 October 1939 tells us that he studied at the Académie Julian in Paris (he dedicates to this period in the first chapter of his second book).
Bougeaureau’s pencil sketch (¿William-Adolphe Bouguereau?) by Art Young
According to this review, one of his first cartoons appeared in “Judge” magazine around 1883, but Young states that his first cartoon was published in 1884 in the newspaper Nimble Nickel. From then on he worked for Life, Collier’s Weekly, The Masses, The Nation, Saturday Evening’s and other publications such as The New Yorker.
Art Young, from press photographer to cartoonist
He also worked as a news photographer. Young covered baseball games, bicycle races and court cases for the Chicago Daily News. Heywood Broun, in the catalogue of that exhibition, wrote: “Young will be a great man when he is dead“, but the editor of The Evening Star asserts in the review that “Mr. Broun is wrong because Young is still alive and writing his autobiography at his home in Connecticut. He is a great man now, let no one forget it”.
According to some biographical reviews, his early views were more along the lines of an “apolitical” Republican, but he became increasingly interested in the tenets of the left and by the time he was in his 40s he considered himself a socialist.
Young began to socialise with the likes of John Sloan and Piet Vlag, with whom he would later work on the radical socialist monthly The Masses, and became entrenched in the radical scene in Greenwich Village after moving there in 1910, as he himself related in one of his autobiographical works: “Art Young: His Life and Times” (1939), which can be read in Archive.
In 1928 he had already published another autobiographical book “On My Way“, a kind of diary of meditations and anecdotes. (Available here in PDF)
During the Monopoly Era (1877-1929) he sided with his drawings with the rising tide of socialist, labour and anti-capitalist mass movements. Art took a stand against racial and sexual discrimination, the unchecked power of monopoly capitalism, Wall Street finance and militant nationalism, and he defended women’s suffrage and anti-militarism.
Twice tried for espionage and sedition
Art Young, Max Eastman, Jack Reed and other members of The Masses magazine were tried twice for their opposition to the war. Before that, they had already suffered government persecution in various forms, one of which, typical of the time, was a ban on mail distribution.
They came to these federal trials as defendants charged with sedition and criminal conspiracy and faced life sentences in federal prison for violating the repressive Espionage Act (1917), which became the Sedition Act in 1918.
“Art Young on trial for his life”. Published in “The Liberator” in June 1918 and reprinted in his autobiographical diary “On My Way” in 1928. Self-portraits of the cartoonist drawn during the first trial of him and other workers at The Masses for “conspiracy” against the wartime government.
Young and his colleagues were acquitted in both trials, a rare victory for free speech amidst the violence and censorship of the early anti-communist period of the so-called “Red Scare“, but it was a partial triumph because the state eventually succeeded in shutting down The Masses magazine.
From left to right: Crystal Eastman, Art Young, Max Eastman, Morris Hillquit, Merrill Rogers and Floyd Dell outside the New York courthouse during the second conspiracy trial, May 1918. National Archives photo included in the book “Politics at the Margin: Historical Studies of Public Expression Outside the Mainstream” by Susan Herbst published in 1994 by Cambridge University Press.
The ideological turn of Max Eastam, editor of The Masses and The Liberator, who after having travelled to Russia to discover the revolution and even sympathised with Trotskyism, would make a trip to the deepest “right” to declare himself an anti-communist, is remarkable. This guy, who was tried for expressing and publishing his ideas and those of others, in the 1950s ended up supporting the persecutions of the McCarthyist inquisition.
After The Masses, The Liberator and Good Morning
Después del cierre de The Masses en 1917, Young y varios colegas crearon The Liberator, donde colaboró hasta que se fusionó con el Workers Monthly en 1924.
Young también se embarcó, entre otras cosas, en la creación de un boletín semanal llamado “Good Morning” del que terminaría convirtiéndose finalmente en su editor y único autor publicándolo hasta 1921, se publicitaba con anuncios en prensa como este de agosto de 1920.
Cover of the first (possibly) issue of Art Young’s newsletter “Good Morning”.
But if there was one thing Art Young stood up for throughout his career, it was workers’ rights and demands. And his son followed in his footsteps.
The Daily Worker, a newspaper published in New York City by the Communist Party of the United States, reported in 1932 that Donald Young, the cartoonist’s son, had been arrested in a mining strike in Ohio.
Prosecutor Paul V. Wadell threatened to declare martial law in Belmont County. The day before, Steve Bowen, a mining picket had been shot and killed.
Donald Young, Landine Young, Irvin Lerner and James Burris, who had come to support the strike, were arrested by the National Guard. They ended up imprisoned for violating a federal injunction issued in 1929 against picketing.
All the forces of the state were mobilised in an attempt to crush the Ohio coal miners’ strike. Thirty-five miners were tried and twenty-two arrested on charges of violating Ohio’s “Mob Law“. The Piney Fork mine finally opened but only 12 men went to work.
On the left is the news clipping from The Daily Worker of 13 July 1932.
Art Young was one of the founders of the Dutch Treat Club, which began by organising lunches for artists, writers and illustrators. And twice he tried his hand at politics. He ran unsuccessfully as a Socialist candidate for the New York Assembly in 1913 and for the State Senate in 1918.
Nevertheless, he lived much of his life in near poverty. In the 1930s, already suffering from the infirmities of old age which prevented him from carrying out his work, he survived on the financial support of his friends. In November 1934 they organised a tribute dinner “not as charity, but as a final tribute to the enduring value of his work”, raising enough money to allow him to live comfortably for the rest of his days.
Young died at the age of 77 on 29 December 1943 of a heart attack at the Irving Hotel in Gramercy Park in Manhattan. The New York Times wrote in an editorial that “he was a lovable soul despite his sometimes heterodox views” in whose defence “he had sacrificed the opportunity to accumulate a fair share of this world’s goods”.
News of Art Young’s death published in “United Automobile Worker”, newspaper of the automobile workers’ union. Detroit, Michigan on 15 January 1944.
Publish in “The Masses“. September 1917
One of his many anti-war cartoons. “After one war, they start raising babies for the next”, undated.
“Hell Up To Date”, Chicago: The Schulte Publishing Company, 1893.
“Authors’ Readings”, New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1897.
“Trees at Night”, New York: Boni and Liveright, 1927.
“On My Way”, New York: Horace Liveright, 1928.
“The Inferno”, New York: Delphic Studios, 1934.
“The Best of Art Young” (introduction: Heywood Broun), New York: The Vanguard Press, 1936.
Thomas Rowlandson (essay by Art Young), New York: Willey Book Company, publishers, 1938.
“His Life and Times”, New York: Sheridan House, 1939.
Bray, Glenn and Frank M. Young. “To Laugh That We May Not Weep: the life and times of Art Young” (introduction by Art Spiegelman), Seattle WA: Fantagraphics Books, Inc., 2017.