A Word from Charles Preston

Pepper ... and Salt: The Wall Street Journal

For more than fifty years, the logo above has headed the cartoon feature in The Wall Street Journal.

Until 1950, the only illustrations appearing in the Journal were graphs showing unemployment figures, pig iron production, railway shipments, and other business statistics. The paper's primary function was to convey information of interest to the business community in a timely manner. The New York Times during this period was known as the "gray old lady," and the Journal easily passed as her older sister.

Technologically, however, Dow Jones was well ahead of the curve. In 1929, the Journal inaugurated its San Francisco edition. By 1963, the paper was being printed at six different points throughout the nation, and had become the country's first national newspaper.

Today, the Journal has been transformed into an exciting publication featuring color, photographs, and innovative layouts. When I introduced my cartoon feature more than fifty years ago, however, some of the veteran editors were quite wary. But cooler and comically-inclined heads prevailed and, over the years, the cartoon became one of the paper's most popular features.

As its title suggests, the purpose of "Pepper...and Salt" is to provide a bit of seasoning amidst the important, serious and influential essays and commentaries. This cartoon condiment is not merely a clown's turn. Readers working through the thickets of animadversions on Sarbanes-Oxley, OSHA regulations or Texas gerrymandering welcomed a change of pace. The cartoons in the collection quickly reveal a direct connection to subjects and themes right off page one. "Pepper...and Salt" covered the same stories, but with humor and often irreverence.

The use of the Wall Street Journal Cartoon Collection at Baker Library is not restricted to research in business and economics. The broad range of subjects in the collection offers rewards to any student of twentieth-century culture. Feminism, fender fins, Vietnam, long hair, Pentagon excesses, yoga, hedge funds, dot-com's rise and fall—even Alan Greenspan. If it happened, "Pepper...and Salt" covered it.

The cartoonist's take on events brightens our lives and provides insight into even the most commonplace subjects. If a cartoon is to be useful and effective, however, readers and researchers must relate to it. The theme of the cartoon must be recognizable and the presentation credible. This is the vaunted property of mimesis discussed in Aristotle's Poetics—in this case, life represented in the cartoon. It is the work of the editor to seek out those cartoons that best articulate this property.

It is a tribute to Baker Library that they welcome these cartoons to the historical collections, adding this resource to the wide scope of material available to researchers. With this acquisition, researchers exploring troves of ledgers, diaries, old contracts, and images may come across a pertinent cartoon to enliven and edify their scholarly content.

It is this light touch that is the objective of "Pepper...and Salt".


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