Long before an arbitrary alphabet made a written language possible, primitive men employed a system of picture writing which answered the simple intellectual needs of the time. By it barbarous prowess in battle, and successful adventure in the chase were recorded, the vanity of the adventurer satisfied, and the story of his deeds of daring preserved for the benefit of his children’s children. It was a process of reaching the intelligence and understanding, without greatly exciting the gray matter of the brain.
The wisest and best of men still have some primitive traits and tastes, and an appeal to the eye is to-day a direct and telling way of reaching the intellect.
The modern cartoon is the specialized picture writing of civilization, and is a most potent instrument for advancing good causes and undoing bad ones. Many a rascal and public plunderer who has heard vehement speech, and read vigorous writing denouncing him without blinking, had surrendered to the cartoon which so portrayed his badness that he was at least partially able to see himself as others see him.
To be telling the cartoon should contain as few objects as possible, and should be so simple that its meaning may be seen at a glance. The cartoon which has to be read and studied as well as seen is not forceful and fails to serve its purpose. In this connection it is but the truth to say that Mr. Stewart has escaped the error into which other cartoonists who have tried to illustrate the Prohibition idea and issue in picture writing have fallen. On the contrary he has grasped the idea and worked it out in telling sketches. So well has this been done that about the only purpose served by the text in this portfolio is to apply the lesson which the cartoons teach, and present the moral contained in them to the reason and judgment.
We trust that these cartoons may help to arouse interest in the cause, and so quicken conscience as to help in the settlement of the liquor problem, by securing the Prohibition of the liquor traffic, with a Prohibition Party in power to enforce the policy.
(from Prohibition Cartoons by D.F. Stewart and H.W. Wilbur, Defender Publishing Company, 1904)