History of Editorial Illustration

“Join, or Die” was the caption marking the editorial illustration of a serpent that has been cut into eight
pieces. Each of these pieces was marked to indicate one of the 8 colonies. This piece created by
Benjamin Franklin, on May 9th, 1754, was used with his written column about the disunity of the
colonies. The illustration was an ideal tool to show the early colonies how they needed to be united as
they were in the middle of the French and Indian war. This piece today does not have the same
impact that it did back then as in those days may believed the folklore that had stated, “ a snake that
had been cut into pieces could come back to life if you joined the sections together before sunset”.
(Whitten, 2001) The parallel was ideal, as the colonies were not united at the time. This image is
known for being Americas first political cartoon.
Image Source: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/us.capitol/one.jpg
Editorial Illustration actually began before the printing press even existed. In Europe in the 1400’s
artists would do woodblock illustration. When movable type became more popular illustration became
easier and less costly to produce. The technique involved the artist sketching out their drawing on a
piece of wood, and then they or an engraver would create a relief for print. Ink would then be applied
and the wood relief would be pressed to paper or cloth. It was quite similar to the way we use a
rubber stamp today.

Sir John Tenniel was an illustrator that lived in the Golden Age and is known of for using a woodblock
technique. He would sketch his pieces on a woodblock and then have engravers prepare the block for
printing. He was a political cartoonist, but is better known for the characters he created for Alice in

Source: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Jtennielireland.JPG

Source: http://curiouscrow.typepad.com/.a/6a0120a5360147970c0128768fa3e7970c-500wi

As the printing press continued to evolve and production became less expensive, Illustration was in
high demand. It is hard to believe that in the early 20th century illustrators were revered similar to how
our celebrities are today. Norman Rockwell and other illustrators like Edwin Austin Abbey, and
Howard Pyle were paid very well for their talent and ability. In 1905 art schools told students the
illustration profession could earn from $25 to $100 a week, which by today’s standards is between
$600 - $2400. This all started to decline in the 1930’s when photography began to advance. Rockwell
and Abbey, also were able to begin their careers at a very young age.

Howard Pyle is known as being, “an artist who changed the way the world looked at illustration and
the way illustration looked to the world” (Vadeboncoeur, 1997). His pieces are known for their great
action. Previously illustration had a staged look full of props creating a very flat look. He was able to
complete a detailed action scene from a curious perspective.

Source: http://www.bpib.com/images/pyle-1.jpg

Today it is pretty hard to make a living as an editorial illustrator. Many clients prefer to have
photography and the compensation has not like it used to be. Illustrators today must put in many
hours and create vibrant portfolios to get the attention they need for a good stream of clients. Fred
Harper is all too familiar with the hard reality today’s illustrator faces. He has done work for
magazines like Time, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times Magazine. Even thought he has
had some great gigs, he still must work very hard to find more clients and jobs. He knows that there
will always be a need for illustrations, but magazines specifically are not looking to pay a lot of money
for the work.

Cover for The Week Magazine. 
 Source: http://www.fredharper.com/BLOG_STUFF/FredHarper_homeBlog/2010/SOSa.jpg

Cover for The Week.
 Source: http://www.fredharper.com/BLOG_STUFF/FredHarper_homeBlog/O_chezz_sm.jpg

Work Cited:
""Join or Die"" APStudent.com: U.S. History for AP Students. Web. 23 Aug. 2010.
Simkin, John. "John Tenniel." Spartacus Educational. 2003. Web. 23 Aug. 2010.
"The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume II: Philadelphia, 1726 - 1757 -- Join or Die." The History Carper -- Primary
Source Documents, Histories, and Stories. 2010. Web. 23 Aug. 2010.
Thompson, Wendy. "The Printed Image in the West: Woodcut". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/wdct/hd_wdct.htm. 2003.
Vadeboncoeur, Jr., Jim. "Howard Pyle Biography." BPIB - JVJ Publishing. 1997. Web. 23 Aug. 2010.
Whittin, Chris. "Don't Tread on Me: Gadsden Flag History." Founding Fathers. 5 July 2001. Web. 23 Aug. 2010.