John Wilson Bengough
|John Wilson Bengough|
John Wilson Bengough in 1920
7 April 1851|
Toronto, Province of Canada
|Died||2 October 1923
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Other names||L. Côté|
John Wilson Bengough (//, 7 April 1851 – 2 October 1923) was one of Canada's first cartoonists, as well as an editor, publisher, writer, poet, entertainer, and politician. Bengough is best known for his political cartoons which ran in Grip, a humour magazine he published and edited, and which was modeled after the British humour magazine Punch. He published some cartoons under the pen name L. Côté.
Born in Toronto in the Province of Canada to Scottish and Irish immigrants, Bengough grew up in Whitby, where after graduating from high school he began a career in newspapers as a typesetter. The political cartoons of the American Thomas Nast inspired Bengough to direct his drawing talents towards cartooning; a lack of outlets for his work drove him to found Grip in 1873. The Pacific Scandal gave Bengough ample material to lampoon, and soon Bengough's image of prime minister John A. Macdonald was famous across Canada. After Grip folded in 1894 Bengough published books, contributed cartoons to Canadian and foreign newspapers, and toured chalk talks internationally.
Bengough was deeply religious and devoted himself to promoting social reforms. He supported free trade, prohibition of alcohol and of tobacco, women's suffrage, and other liberal beliefs, though he was opposed to Canadian bilingualism. Bengough had ambitions to run for office, though Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier convinced him against running for Parliament; in 1907 he won election to the Toronto City Council. He was inducted into the Canadian Cartoonist Hall of Fame in 2005.
Life and career
Early life (1851–73)
Bengough's grandparents John (d. 5 April 1867), a ship's carpenter, and Johanna (St Andrews in Scotland in the 1790s and immigrated with their children to Canada at an unknown date; they are known to have been in Whitby on lake Ontario in the Province of Canada by the 1850s. They brought with them at least three children, including Bengough's father John (23 May 1819 in Scotland – 1899) who became a cabinetmaker. He was politically active: advocated social reforms such as the single tax and had several Town Council appointments, though he never held political office. He used the title Captain, which suggests he may have sailed ships out of Port Whitby at some time.Jackson, d. 18 March 1859) were born in
Bengough's father married Margaret Wilson, an Irish immigrant born in Bailieborough in County Cavan and the couple had six children: five sons and a daughter. John Wilson Bengough was the second, born into the deeply Protestant family on 7 April 1851 in Toronto. It is unkown when they moved to Toronto, but by 1853 it is known the family had moved back to Whitby.
Bengough attended Whitby Grammar School, where he was an average student; he won a prize one year for general proficiency, for which he received a book titled Boyhood of Great Artists. He was an avid sketcher, a talent which caught the notice of his teacher, who presented Bengough with a set of paints one Christmas. Bengough credited this act with setting him on the path to a career as an artist. Whitby residents later reminisced of the young Bengough drawing chalk portraits of his neighbours on fences. He described himself as a "voracious reader", particularly of the Whitby Gazette, a didactic weekly that stressed Christian values.
After graduation, Bengough tried his hand at a number of jobs, including photographer's assistant, and he articled to a lawyer for some time before getting a typesetting job at the Whitby Gazette. The Gazette 's editor was George Ham, an extroverted journalist who later worked as public relations chief for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Bengough contributed short local-interest articles. In mid-1870 Ham issued a four-page daily to capitalize on interest in the Franco-Prussian War and commissioned Bengough to provide a serialized novel for it. The popular reception of The Murderer's Scalp (or The Shrieking Ghost of the Bloddy Den) encouraged Bengough to devote himself to a journalism career. The serial went unfinished, as when the war died down Ham cancelled the daily.
The papers and magazines that came into the Gazette offices, in particular Harper's Weekly, introduced Bengough to the growing field of cartooning. Bengough reminisced, "I divided my time between mechanical duties for sordid wages and poetry for the good of humanity, and meanwhile I kept an eye on Thomas Nast the cartoonist." Bengough considered the politically and socially aware Nast a "beau ideal" whose "moral crusade against abject wrong"—in particular his relentless Boss Tweed cartoons—inspired the young Bengough to "emulate Nast in the field of Canadian politics". Bengough so admired the cartoonist that he sent a cartoon to Harper's of Nast confronting the Tammany Hall political machine, rendered in in Nast's style. Editorial catooning had no presence in Canadian newspapers at the time and was not to have one until Hugh Graham brought the practice to his Montreal Star in 1876.[a]
At twenty Bengough moved to Toronto and became a reporter on politician George Brown's newspaper The Globe. The Liberal paper was the most influential in the country; Bengough's family had had supported the Liberal Party since before Confederation, and these connections likely played a role in his getting the position at the paper. The lack of cartooning opportunities disappointed at him, and he enrolled briefly in the Ontario School of Art, which he found pedantic and stifling.
"the legitimate forces of humor and caricature can and ought to serve the state in its highest interests, and that the comic journal which has no other aim than to amuse its readers for the moment, falls short of its highest mission"—John Wilson Bengough, Grip, 1888
Bengough told of how he took up publishing: he had made a caricature of James Beaty, Sr., editor of the conservative Toronto Leader, and Beaty's nephew Sam found it so amusing that he made a lithographic copy for himself at the printer Rolph Bros. Impressed with his first exposure to lithography, and frustrated with the lack of opportunities to have his cartoons published, Bengough asked himself, "Why not start a weekly comic paper with lithographed cartoons?" His brother Thomas remembered a somewhat different story in which Bengough first began distributing copies of his cartoons on the street.
A raven character in the Charles Dickens novel Barnaby Rudge inspired the name of the magazine Grip. Its pages carried political and social commentary and cartoons, and its debut issue of 24 May 1873 declared: "Grip will be entirely independent and impartial, always and on all subjects." Bengough set the editorial policy and was the lead cartoonist. Only John Henry Walker's weekly Punch in Canada had preceded Grip in providing a regular outlet for Canadian political cartooning during its short run in 1848–49
Grip' initial financing came from Toronto publisher Andrew Scott Irving and listed its editor as a "Charles P. Hall", a name widely believed a pseudonym of Bengough's. Thomas Phillips Thompson took over as editor on 26 July under the pseudonym "Jimuel Briggs"; he lasted until the 6 September issue, when he printed a pro-alcohol article despite Bengough's prohibitionist views. The Toronto Globe's R. H. Larminie then took on co-editing duties as "Demos Mudge" with Bengough as "Barnaby Rudge".[b]
Grip 's early issues attracted little notice. Events arising from the Canadian federal election of 1872 shortly gave Bengough sufficient popular material to lampoon: accusations of bribery and other improprieties involving prime minister John A. Macdonald and business magnate Hugh Allan inflated into the Pacific Scandal, the most closely followed scandal in the young nation's history. Macdonald's features lent themselves to caricature and gave Bengough the chance to proselytize. Circulation rose to about 2,000 copies per issue at the time; Bengough's brother Thomas reported that each new issue was eagerly awaited at the House of Commons. A 23 August 1873 cartoon entitled "The Beauties of a Royal Commission: When shall we three meet again?" drew praise from newspapers across Canada, as well as from Liberal MP Lucius Seth Huntington in a speech to the House of Commons.
Despite their Liberal leanings, in 1878 Bengough and Grip took the side of the proposed Conservative National Policy of high tariffs on trade with the US, against the governing Liberal stance of free trade. The issue contributed to the loss of Alexander Mackenzie's incumbant Liberals to Macdonald's Conservatives in the election of 1878, despite Grip's prediction that Mackenzie would win again. The magazine supported no party officially in its early years, but made its support for the Liberals explicit in the elections of 1887 and of 1891, after Wilfrid Laurier had become party leader. In the mid-1880s the Grip Printing and Publishing Company took on printing duties for the Ontario Liberal government. This support, however, resulted in no federal election wins.
Grip had considerable influence on the public perception of politicians. That it was slanted in favour of Liberals and against Conservatives drove Conservative supporters to launch rival publications. The first of was Jester, begun in 1878, which featured cartoons by Henri Julien that painted Macdonald in a benevolent light. Jester failed to find an audience to match Bengough's and folded the following year. By 1886, Bengough reported a weekly circulation for Grip of 50,000.
From 1874 Bengough began giving comic chalk talk performances, which he toured across the country. During performances he impressed audiences ability to capture the likeness of audiences members in a single penstroke. He continued his chalk talks throughout his life and was to travel with them to the US, Australia, and New Zealand. He published an autobiography titled Chalk Talks in 1922, the year before his death.
At Bengough's request in 1882, early Canadian feminist writer Sarah Anne Curzon write the closet drama The Sweet Girl Graduate for the book The Grip Sack. The drama tells of a woman who disguises herself as a man to attend university at a time when women were barred in Canada from post-secondary education.
In 1883, Frank Wilson took over management of the printing of Grip. Thomas Phillips Thompson became associate editor. He shared with Bengough a radical political outlook and a taste for satire, though was less open to new ideas than Bengough, who was quick to attach himself to new causes. Thompson was anti-imperialist, and-capitalist, and anti-militarist. In 1892, the managers of Grip passed the editorship from Bengough to Thompson, and under the new editorship readership fell until in mid-1893 the magazine ceased publication. the tone had become increasingly strident: anti-French, anti-Catholic, pro-socialist. This and an increased use of racial caricature seem to have alienated readers. Bengough revived it in 1894 and softened its tone, but the content appeared rushed and it lasted only a year more. Macdonald had died in 1891, and Bengough blamed the publication's ill fortunes on the loss of such a target. Bengough had met the prime minister himself only once.
Later life (1895–1923)
After Grip ceased publication Bengough worked for the next quarter-century as a cartoonist for a variety of newspapers, including the The Globe, The Toronto Evening Telegram, the Montreal Star, Canadian Geographic, the American The Public and The Single Tax Review, and The Morning Chronicle in England.
Bengough continued to devote himself to political causes. He supported the Liberals in their successful win of the federal election of 1896 with cartoons in the Toronto Globe and a song he composed titled "Ontario, Ontario". He belonged to numerous political and social clubs. He was a founding member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1880, to which the Governor-General appointed him an Associate. He was professor of elocution at Knox College from 1899 to 1901. He served as president of the Toronto Single Tax Association, took part in the People's Forum social activist group, and won election to the Toronto City Council's Ward 3, in 1907, 1908, and 1909. On the Council he promoted social reform, public ownership of hydroelectric power, and restriction of liquor licenses, but found little support for his ideas and left the office partway through his third term. When the First World War broke out, he devoted his energies to promoting patriotism and the war effort, and supported conscription, a cause that was popular in English Canada but unpopular in Quebec and which ran counter to the Liberal Party position. Bengough nevertheless contnued to support the party and used his cartoons to promote party leader William Lyon Mackenzie King in the federal election of 1921.
Following a chalk talk performance in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1922 Bengough suffered an attack of angina pectoris, attributed to overwork during a previous tour of Western Canada. He died of it on 2 October 1923 at his drawing board at his home on 58 St Mary Street in Toronto while working on a cartoon in support of an anti-smoking campaign. At his memorial service on 22 November the editor of the Hamilton Herald A. E. S. Smythe declared him the "Canadian Dickens" and one of Walt Whitman's "great companions".
Bengough married twice; neither marriage produced children. He married Helena "Nellie" Siddall in Toronto on 30 June 1880; she died in 1902. He remarried to a friend from his school days, the widow Annie Robertson Matteson, in Chicago on 18 June 1908. Neither appears to have written about Bengough.
Bengough's cartooned for the most part in the realm of political cartoons. In his cartoons and his writing he tended towards the preachy and didactic; he believed that humour should serve the interests of the state rather than merely to amuse. Bengough tended in his writing towards satirical humour and puns, which George Ramsay Cooke "sometimes sophomoric". He read Dickens, Shakespeare, and Carlyle with particular devotion.
His sketchy cartoons, while often drawn well, were crowded in composition and sometimes borrowed from other sources. He could draw in contrasting styles, as evidenced by cartoons he did under the pseudonym of L. Côté. As typical of political cartoons of the time, Bengough's aimed less at laughter than at social satire and depended more on readers' understanding of densely-packed allusions.
Bengough's cartoons are best remembered for fixing his renditions of Macdonald in the public imagination. Bengough's bulbous-nosed politician often appeared baggy-eyed with bottles of alcohol in his hands as a sombre symbol of curruption, in contrast to work of John Henry Walker, another prolific caricaturist of Macdonald who depicted the prime minister's drunkenness to make light of him.
There was a premier named John A.
Who, wishing in office to stay,
To one Allen did barter a great railway charter—
And dated his ruin from that day.—John Wilson Bengough, "Recollections of a Cartoonist", Bengough Papers, Volume VIII
Bengough's reputation was as a supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada and its pro-democratic platform. His family had been supporters since before Confederation, and his father had supported Oliver Mowat, and both his brother Thomas and sister Mary worked in Mowat's provincial government. Members of his family were to play roles in the Liberal Party into the twentieth century; Bengough and his brother Thomas had ties close enough with Wilfrid Laurier to ask with favours, and both were also close to William Lyon Mackenzie King. Bengough had ambitions to run for Parliament, but Liberal leader Laurier convinced him against it; Laurier also turned down a request of Bengough's for a Senate appointment as reward for a lifetime of Liberal support.
Grip 's political stance was one of disinterest, but a large portion of Bengough's income came from Liberal publications, and Macdonald and his Conservatives were favourite targets of Bengoughs cartoon attacks, notably during the Pacific Scandal. His association with the Liberals was so strong that Charles Tupper quipped in Parliament that Grip should change its name to Grit—a popular nickname for Liberal Party members. His best-remembered targets were those aimed at Macdonald and the Conservatives, but his criticisms aimed at Liberals as well—Edward Blake had his subscription cancelled when he was the victim of a particular cartoon. Macdonald's Conservative Daily Mail, launched in 1872, provided a rivalry with the Liberal Globe that provided fuel for Bengough's satire, as did infighting in the Liberal Party over The Globe, which allowed Bengough to distance himself to a degree from criticism of Liberal partisanship.
Bengough was a proponent of such issues as women's suffrage, proportional representation, prohibition of alcohol and of tobacco, the single tax espoused by Henry George, and worldwide free trade. He showed a marked ethnic nationalism in that he promoted English as the nation's sole official language, and the separation of church and state, a view that was directed particularly at the Catholic, French-speaking Québécois, declaring he looked forward to:
when the monstrosity of a double official language and dual schools will be done away with throughout the whole country. Our real national life will date from that day.—John Wilson Bengough, 7 April 1851, 
Bengough had liberal views on race relations, and painted a picture of Canada as being more open to integration than the US during the Reconstruction Era; according to David R. Spencer, his views on race were not likely widely shared in Canada at the time. While Bengough sympathized with the plight of Canada's native peoples, he condemned the 1885 North-West Rebellion and called for the execution of Métis rebel leader Louis Riel, and celebrated Major-General Frederick Dobson Middleton's victory at the Battle of Batoche in Saskatchewan with a poem.
Bengough expressed a deep devotion to religion. He had a Presbyterian upbringing, though as an adult subscribed to no denomination. He promoted Christian ideals as solutions to social issues and thus, for example, opposed streetcars running on Sundays. He proclaimed a Protestant work ethic widely expressed by Canadian artists and intellectuals of the late 19th century. In his writing he frequently made statements about the role of Man in God's world, and insisted that politics should conform to the will of God. The editor of Canadian Methodist Magazine William Henry Withrow declared Bengough "always on the right side of every moral question". Bengough intended his didactic cartoons to impart moral instruction.
Bengough's caricatures left an impression on the public consciousness in Canada for generations to follow, and frequently appeared in Canadian history textbooks. As Nast had in the US, Bengough succeeded in establishing editorial cartooning as a force in journalism in the late 19th century. Outlets for such cartoons remained most limited to illustrated magazines until they found a home in daily newspapers in the 20th century. The reformist English newspaper editor William Thomas Stead considered Bengough "one of the ablest cartoonists in the world".
Bengough's artistic legacy rests chiefly on his caricatures of Macdonald. To Peter Desbarats and Terry Mosher, Bengough's bulbous-nosed caricatures of Macdonald as "ungainly, boozy, and corrupt ... engraved itself on the public mind, particularly in the days before newspapers published photographs of politicians". Macdonald nevertheless deflated much of the power his caricaturists might have had as he often made light of his own alcoholism. Bengough's caricatures continue to illustrate Canadian texts, used for their artistic qualities and often removed from their satirical contexts.
The town of Bengough, Saskatchewan, incorporated 15 March 1912, was named after the cartoonist. On 19 May 1938 the Canadian government listed Bengough as a Person of National Historic Significance and dedicated a plaque to him at 66 Charles Street East in Toronto. Bengough was inducted into the Canadian Cartoonist Hall of Fame in 2005. The McMaster University Library in Hamilton, Ontario, holds the J. W. Bengough papers in its Division of Archives and Research Collection.
- 1875 — The Grip Cartoons. Rogers and Larminie
- 1876 — The Decline and Fall of Keewatin. Grip Publishing Co.
- 1882 — Bengough's Popular Readings: Original and Select. Bengough, Moore and Bengough
- 1882 — The Grip-Sack: A Receptacle of Light Literature, Fun and Fancy. The Grip Printing and Publishing Co.
- 1882 — Grip's Comic Almanac for 1882. Bengough, Moore and Bengough
- 1886 — A Caricature History of Canadian Politics (two volumes). The Grip Publishing and Printing Co.
- 1895 — Motley: Verse Grave and Gay. William Briggs
- 1896 — The Up-to-date Primer. Funk and Wagnalls
- 1897 — The Prohibition Aesop. Royal Templar Book and Publishing House
- 1898 — The Gin Mill Primer. William Briggs
- 1902 — In Many Keys. William Briggs
- 1908 — On True Political Economy (The Whole Hog Book). American Free Trade League
- 1922 — Chalk Talks. The Musson Book Co.
No copies remain of comic opera Hecuba; or Hamlet's Father's Deceased Wife's Sister, a comic opera with score by G. Barton Brown. Publisher F.F. Siddall registered it for copyright in 1885. The opera may have been an earlier version of Puffe and Co., or Hamlet, Prince of Dry Goods, an undated and possibly unpublished script for which exists, for which Clarence Lucas had written a score that Bengough appears to have rejected.
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- Cook, Ramsay (2005). "Bengough, John Wilson". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
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- Winter, Brian (1978-09-20). "Brian Winter's Historical Whitby: Bengough Family". Whitby Free Press. p. 7.
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- Winter, Brian (1978-10-04). "Brian Winter's Historical Whitby: J. W. Bengough (Part Two)". Whitby Free Press. p. 7.
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- Blake, Dennis Edward (1985). J. W. Bengough and Grip the Canadian editorial cartoon comes of age (Master of Arts). Wilfrid Laurier University.
- Kutcher, Stan (1976). "J. W. Bengough and the Millenium in Hogtown : A Study of Motivation in Urban Reform". Urban History Review / Revue d'histoire urbaine 1976 (2): 30–49. doi:10.7202/1019529ar – via Érudit.
- Lamb, Adrienne C. (1998). Fair Game: Canadian Editorial Cartooning (PDF) (Master of Arts). University of Western Ontario.
- Mendelson, Alan (2007). "Grip Magazine and "the Other": The Genteel Antisemitism of J. W. Bengough". Histoire sociale / Social History (University of Ottawa / York University) 40 (79). ISSN 1918-6576.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Wilson Bengough.|
- A Caricature History of Canadian Politics (1886) at HathiTrust
- On True Political Economy (The Whole Hog Book) (1908) at Wealth and Want
- Bengough's Chalk Talks (1922) at Project Gutenberg Canada