A Golden Age Cartoon
Drawn by Various Artists

No two people tell a joke exactly the same and no two artists drew a Golden Age cartoon the same way. If a dozen artists drew the same joke, how much would it vary?

The editors of England's Strand Magazine, posed that question in 1909 to regular contributors to the magazine.

The assignment for each artist: Create a cartoon illustration for the following scenario. A large fearsome dog dashes wildly through a crowded thoroughfare, panicked pedestrians scatter to safety.

A small boy, being whirled along by the dog's leash cries out, “What are you frightened for? Can't you see I've got hold of the dog?”

Each artist then created an original drawing to accompany the caption. The results were published in the Strand Magazine and circulated in America as well.

The cartoons proved so popular American artists wanted to give it a try; same joke, same gag line, different interpretations. Again, each artist styled the graphics to suit themselves with varied results.

In the cartoon above, Swiss-born American Eugene Zimmerman (known as ZIM) kept his spontaneous sketch loose, relying on the first idea for the boy and dog that popped into his head, admitting, “Perhaps tomorrow I should see them in a different attitude.”

Here are some of the best examples of a Golden Age cartoon from England and America:

Lawson Wood, English artist known in America for his paintings of monkeys, worked in pencil, highlighting the boy and shading the dog.

James Affleck Shepherd (Br.), also expert at rendering animals, centered the action around a huge St. Bernard pursuing a man's leg.

Will Owen (Br.)in his Golden Age cartoon turned to a St. Bernard also, but a friendlier, more comical version.

James Montgomery Flagg, American illustrator well known in Europe, explained “I have done it in an outrageously broad and fantastical manner...pure cussedness on my part. Isn't mine an awful nightmare of a dog?”

Lance Thackeray (Br.) depicted a nightmare dog as well, with the small boy seeming to enjoy his ride. Thackeray was killed in 1916 (World War I) while serving with the British Army's Artists Rifles Regiment.

H. M. Bateman's (Br.) pen and ink drawing added detail to the bystanders' reactions and downplayed the dog.

James Harrison Donahey (Amer.) treated the crowd as secondary compared to the powerful dog that dominates the composition.

Albert Levering (Amer.) drew a menacing dog creating panic through intimidation. The bewildered boy can't understand the crowds fear.

George Morrow (Br.), cartoonist and book illustrator, depicted calm but concerned bystanders as the dog tossed the boy aloft.

John Hassall (Br.) uses his broad cartoon style to good effect with the dog and his dangling boy at the center of the action.

Walt McDougall, American newspaper comic-strip artist and contributor to Harper's Weekly and Puck, reduces the joke to its bare essentials; boy, dog, a few bystanders, and a single building to indicate a street scene.

Henry “Hy”Mayer, American cartoonist and pioneer film animator, didn't see much humor in the situation or the punch line. The boy is saying to his calm, genial-looking St. Bernard, “I say its an awful joke.”

Be sure to see the Cartoon Gallery for even more
styles of the Golden Age Cartoon.

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