For the last month, the pages of The Times have been peppered with pen-and-ink cartoons signed Gale—in fact some of them have already appeared in the blog, with Nathan’s post on Japanese hobos and mine on Marco Vessella. But that was only the beginning. By the end of the month, Gale’s cartoons have become a regular feature of The Times, usually paired with text by Harry Carr. Gale specializes in ethnic caricatures: Chinamen with long queues, bucktoothed Japanese, Mexicans with sombreros—and don’t even ask how he draws African Americans.
His name was Edmund Waller Gale, but he was known as Ted or “Cartoonist Gale” and he was an institution at The Times, drawing editorial cartoons for decades, on an irregular basis before they became a daily feature in 1922.
“I am not an artist,” he said in 1933.”I never thought I was and never tried to be one. The first work I ever did was cartooning and in this work it is the idea, not the drawing, that counts. Once I get my idea, my day’s work is practically done, for I put it on paper as fast as I can. I often spend six or eight hours figuring out my subject and one hour doing the drawing. I don’t think the actually task of transferring an idea to paper ever took me more than three hours.”
One of Gale’s more enduring creations was “Miss Los Angeles,” an attractive young Latina that provoked a great deal of criticism at one time, mostly for his inattention to detail.
“Funny how fussy people are about drawing, even in cartoons,” he said. “I really didn’t go through any brainstorms when I created Miss Los Angeles. I just dashed off a girl of a Spanish type to typify this part of the country and imagine my discomfiture when her appearance was greeted with a shower of sarcastic letters, informing me that no Spanish lady wore a bullfighter’s vest and a bolero and that the high comb was entirely wrong and the lady was just the same as nude unless I added a mantilla.” I’ll leave it to another historian to trace the history of Miss Los Angeles from Anglo to Latina. Here’s one version from 1929.
A left-handed Santa Claus (he claimed he didn’t even notice) and flags with the wrong number of stars and stripes were also Gale’s bugaboos. “Thousands of people seem to have nothing to do but count the stars and stripes and their ideas of what constitutes an insult to the colors is simply beyond belief,” he said.
Of his first cartoons, he said: “Times have changed a lot since those early days and the style of cartoons has altered too. Nowadays public opinion is molded rather than led and there is little or none of the vicious element that was deemed essential in the cartoons of former years.”
Gale quit The Times in 1934 in a disagreement over its editorial policies and went to the competing Examiner. He died in 1975.