E.C. has a wonderful (but not very politically correct) pocket-sized book inherited from her father called Reg Manning’s “Cartoon Guide to California” (1939). It is almost in its original condition, which is important in the valuation of books.
Manning, the original self-made journalist, was born Reginald West Manning (1905-1986) and had a high school teacher who taught him a few things about art, but he went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1951. The brilliant cartoon that won that prize had to do with the Korean War, featured a double palleted cartoon, of which the first image was glorious hats on a stick at the United Nations facility in Lake Success, N.Y.
The cartoon stated its title was “Hats”— and here we see shiny and wonderful tops hats on a hat stand, in a bare field with no background. Yet the next image is a lonely grave maker in Korea, a cross with a helmet, stating the title “Hats: Korea.” It’s a simple lonely grave marker of a cross with a soldier’s helmet at the apex.
That was the cartoon that won the Pulitzer Prize at the height of the Korean War in 1951.
Manning was syndicated in 170 US newspapers (1948-1971), and his editorial cartoons were discussed around water coolers for 40 years.
Although born in Kansas City, Mo,, he traveled to the West to St. Louis (where I was born). He went with his young mom to Phoenix after his mother lost her husband at the age of 39.
Reg began to love the desert, satirizing the West in such books as “Cartoon Guide to Arizona” and “Cartoon Guide to Boulder Dam Country” and the exemplary “What Kinda Cactus Izzat?” He discovered Arizona golf and published a book “From Tee to Cups” — and finally after really getting to know Arizona, “What is Arizona Really Like?”(1968).
In his later years, he bought a diamond edged wheel, whereby he etched crystal, with images of his beloved desert — and cactus — on vessels of glass. His etched glass works were published in a book ”Desert in Crystal” (1973).
Some people do fall in love with the desert, and he did wholeheartedly. His signature in his syndicated cartoons was a little cactus with a big nose, then his signature “Reg Manning.”
E.C.’s book was intended as a tourist guide to California, and it had a fold-out map. It included California history as it could be understood in 1939, and cities of note, and a visitor’s guide, as well as geographical oddities, as only a person from the Midwest could see those oddities in California.
Dealers who regularly sell Manning’s vintage books are kind of crazy themselves, as is K and B Books, in Tucson, who write that they specialize in outlier genres such as books on outlaws, lawmen, Tombstone and those people who in the day sought their fortune. In short, such book dealers sell to Wild West aficionado collectors. Who knew that was a genre? That pushes the valuation up.
E.C.’s book was published in 1939 by — of all places — in New York by Augustine Books.
The University Library of Wichita State University holds Manning’s archive, and if you browse his archive, you will see that Manning won the Freedom Foundation’s Abraham Lincoln Award .
The bond with the West, including Arizona and California, came early on in Manning’s life as his dad was a postal clerk with the Sante Fe Railway in the days when Missouri was the Gateway to the West. Reg’s mom must have been a trooper because Reg’s eldest brother had made a life in the West. She dragged three small boys to Arizona in the 1920s.
Manning, at age 21, began designing editorial cartoons for The Arizona Republic , and said, in later life, that the key to cartooning is that “there is no humor without knowledge of experience.” If we enjoy our modern satirists on late night TV, we will hear that echo of that sentiment.
Throughout his career, Manning published humorous postcards, and he liked to contrast the fabulously buxom women of the West with the scruffy cowboys of the West in the 1930-40, — and do remember — the West was a haven for divorcees. His series of “Travel Cards” issued by various publishers are in hot demand by postcard collectors today.
I see that a good copy in undamaged shape of “Cartoons of California” can bring $125 or more.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.