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St. Louis political cartoonist highlights historical events in ‘Four Turbulent Decades’

Engelhardt portrait
Aaron Doerr

Tom Engelhardt, longtime political cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, joined “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh to discuss his book “Four Turbulent Decades: A Cartoon History of America.” The book includes some of Engelhardt’s illustrations of major events and eras in America, such as the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and 9/11 events.

"Addendum" by Tom Engelhardt
Credit Tom Engelhardt
"Addendum" by Tom Engelhardt

Engelhardt illustrated nearly 8,000 photos in his 35-year career with the Post-Dispatch. Particularly interested in civil rights issues, his first piece for the Post titled “Addendum” depicted the Confederate flag with a human skull drawn in the middle. Engelhardt came up with the illustration after witnessing the tumultuous reaction to James Meredith’s acceptance into the University of Mississippi’s law school in 1962. Meredith was the first African-American to attend the university.

“There was all this turmoil and I said this [illustration] is something I have to do,” Engelhardt explained. “I had been interested in civil rights forever it seems, so that’s what I did.”

Throughout his career, Engelhardt’s political drawings did not always receive positive feedback. Surprisingly, he delighted in the sometimes-negative reactions.

“You’re always going to get people who disagree with you. It’s not unusual,” Engelhardt said. “I kind of liked it when I got those nasty letters or phone calls.”

“The Post-Dispatch was really a great place to work,” Engelhardt added. “They had an unwritten gentlemen’s agreement that said, ‘You will never be forced to draw or write anything against your own beliefs, and conversely, we won’t print anything that goes against our principles.’ So, within that framework, there’s lots of leeway to play around with.”

On July 8, Engelhardt will appear at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters to discuss more about his book and the history of editorial cartooning.

Related Events

Tom Engelhardt Discussion and Signing

  • When: Wednesday, July 8, 7 p.m.
  • Where: St. Louis County Library Headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131
  • More information

Exhibition - Four Turbulent Decades: The Cartoons of Tom Engelhardt

  • When: May 9 - October 17
  • Where: State Historical Society of Missouri, 1020 Lowry St., Columbia, MO 65201
  • More Information

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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