October 2006

Stock Market, June 1978


CAPTION: "My answer is a qualified yes."

The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 21, 1990

The Chronicle of Higher Education is a weekly tabloid-size publication which I consider to be the newspaper of record for colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning. On March 21, 1990, the editors took five cartoons that they had previously purchased from me, and published them as a full-page spread, under the title "STEIN ON ACADEME".

A few weeks later, The Chronicle printed a Letter to the Editor from an Associate Professor at a well-known midwestern university. This is the entire letter. I am not identifying the name of the letter-writer or the university, for obvious reasons.

"I always enjoy the cartoons in your Section 2, especially Carole Cable's. They provide welcome comic relief from the depressing stories in the preceding pages on such matters as sex-discrimination suits, cases of sexual harassment, and the plague of racial incidents on campus.

Did anyone besides me, however, notice in the full-page of Eli Stein cartoons in your March 21 issue that of the 17 human figures depicted, all were white males except one, a white female cast as the stereotypical faculty wife, screening her husband's phone calls so that he can meditate uninterruptedly on his Next Brilliant Article? This page was dreary, if inadvertent, confirmation of the attitudes that generate those articles in your news section.

I am not amused."

When I read the letter, it blew my mind. For me, it was beyond comprehension -- I can understand "hate mail" and the driving forces behind hate, but this?? It was a real eye-opener for me to realize that there are actually people out there with nothing better to do than to note the gender and racial make-up of a pageful of cartoon characters and make a discrimination conspiracy issue out of it. (Also, remember, I didn't even have any input as to how the spread was assembled or laid out -- The Chronicle simply took five of my cartoons that they had on hand and put them together on one page).

After regaining my composure, I wrote a personal note to the Cartoon Editor and sent it with a new submission of cartoons. My note said, in part:

"What really disturbed me about [the Professor's] nitpicking letter is that when I showed it to my family and friends, it got more laughs than any of my cartoons ever did.

Be that as it may, [the Professor] is perfectly correct -- I don't much like to draw women. My forte is balding men with glasses, and I'm sure you'll find a fair share of them in the enclosed batch."

The Professor's letter didn't noticeably affect my relationship with The Chronicle, which continued to publish my cartoons for many years afterwards.

Here are the five controversial cartoons. What say you -- are we, or are we not, amused? chron032190a.JPGchron032190b.JPGchron032190c.JPGchron032190d.JPGchron032190e.JPGchron032190f.JPG

Food & Drug Packaging, September 1983


The publication of this cartoon in the trade magazine FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING in September 1983 prompted a Letter to the Editor that was printed a few issues later. The letter was written by a packaging company executive, and I'm quoting it in its entirety, because it also helps non-packaging-oriented people to understand what the gag is all about:

"The cartoon by Stein in the September 1983 issue of FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING was well done. It points out the new packages available to the supermarket shopper; however, one package is not commercially available and is still under market test, in selected parts of the country, after five years. The retort pouch is not yet considered to be a widely used package in the United States and this is true even after 20 years of development. Giving the retort pouch "equal billing" with ovenable paperboard and seamless aluminum cans is an injustice to total market conditions. Perhaps, in the distant future, the retort pouch will become a viable supermarket commodity. But, it sure isn't now!"

And now, after all these years, I get to comment on this letter. Yes, I knew all along that retort pouches were still in a testing stage. But I used the term because I found "retort pouches" to be a very funny-sounding name for a package (even funnier than "ovenable paperboard containers" or "seamless aluminum cans"). To this day, I can't help smiling when I think "retort pouch" -- try saying it and see if you don't have the same reaction.

And, after all, humor is what it's all about.

National Cartoon Museum

A few months from now, in early 2007, the "National Cartoon Museum" is scheduled to open on several floors of the Empire State Building in Manhattan. This is a reincarnation of the "International Museum of Cartoon Art", founded and funded by cartoonist Mort Walker of "Beetle Bailey" fame. The original museum was housed at first in a castle in Rye Brook, New York, then was relocated to a beautiful building in Mizner Park, an upscale shopping arcade in Boca Raton, Florida.

I first visited the museum in Rye Brook and when I let it be known that I was a cartoonist, Mort Walker came out from a back office and gave my wife and me a grand tour, which I certainly appreciated. I followed up by donating five of my original drawings to the museum's archives.

I also went to the museum in Boca a few times. The last visit was in 1999, when I was invited to see the traveling exhibit of the 50th anniversary of The Wall Street Journal's "Pepper . . . and Salt" cartoon feature.

Here are three photos of that visit.


This is me looking at a showcase display of many of the Wall Street Journal cartoon anthologies that Charles Preston compiled and edited over the years (he also edited other, non-WSJ cartoon anthologies, by the way). I'm proud to say that my cartoons are sprinkled liberally throughout most of those anthologies.


My wife Lila and me standing in front of an exhibit wall, with one of my cartoons between us.


Me looking very carefully at another one of my drawings (probably checking to make sure there were no typos in the caption printed below it).


Management Accounting, April 1988


CAPTION: "I've come to the conclusion, gentlemen, that there's no room in this corporation for yes-men or toadies! Am I right or am I right?"

Stock Market, February 1982


CAPTION: "And the beauty of it is, it's all tax-free!"