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Cartooning Rosewater

Victor Rosewater (1871-1940) succeeded his father, Edward, as managing editor of one of Nebraska's most influential Republican newspapers, the Omaha Bee, in 1895. Both father and son were prominent for many years in Republican political affairs in this state. The younger Rosewater's humorous article on the caricatures of him that had appeared in the state press during his political career, was published in the Bee, first in March 1912, and then in the Omaha Sunday Bee, on June 23, 1918.

"How does it feel to be cartooned?" Rosewater asked. "Well, that depends upon the cartoon and also upon whether it is a first experience. . . With the single exception of Mr. Bryan, who unquestionably holds the record for having been the target for more cartoons than any other person on earth, I believe, I have figured in a larger number of such pictorial portrayals than anyone else now living in Nebraska. This honor, or disgrace, whichever way it is viewed, is due to the persistent practice of personal politics pursued by the opposition in this city and state, by which I, as was my father before me, have been singled out personally to take the burden of every campaign instead of the candidates whom I may be favoring."

Rosewater discussed several notable cartoons of him which had appeared in various publications, including the first such caricature: "It was just a little one but the artist 'hit it off,' as it were. I had been on the ground at the legislature of 1901 in Lincoln somewhat actively engaged in supervising the job of electing two United States senators, assisted by, or assisting, a number of similarly self-sacrificing patriots with like purposes, among them District Judge [Benjamin S.] 'Ben' Baker. The judge and I offered the cartoonist just the sort of contrast that he revels in. I measure five feet four and a half inches, which is below the average, and weigh around 125 pounds, while Ben is large of height and girth and tips the scales quite generously. I have a head of hair that makes me get my money's worth whenever I patronize a barber shop, while 'Ben' combs his cranium with a washrag and, except for the small space occupied by an invisible fringe near the neck, keeps a roller skating rink for flies all the year round.

"I do not use tobacco in any form, while 'Ben's most constant companion is a big black cigar, so you can readily see what the cartoonist did to us. There is 'Ben' with feet on terra firma as against me perched high on a soap box placed on a chair, and then just able to get my mouth on a level with his ear. 'Ben' has his cigar at a rakish tilt and wears clothes that bespeak the man of the world, while I am made to look like an immature boy just out of college-it might have been kindergarten."

The Baker-Rosewater drawing and a number of other cartoons accompanied Rosewater's article in the Bee. Baker served as U.S. district attorney for Nebraska, 1890-94, and district judge in Nebraska's fourth district, 1896-1902.

(February 2007)

 

 

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