Story: Cartooning

Page 2. Cartoonists at home and abroad, 1900 to 1950

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New Zealand cartoonists overseas

David Low, New Zealand’s most famous cartoonist, had his first political cartoon published in the Spectator in 1902, when he was 11 years old. He left school the following year and cartooned for several Christchurch publications, including the Canterbury Times. In 1911 he accepted a temporary job offer from the Sydney Bulletin, the first major step on a career that took him to the pinnacle of world cartooning on London’s Evening Standard in the 1930s.

Low was one among many cartoonists who have left New Zealand. The country’s press has never provided a living for more than a handful of professional cartoonists, who typically have decades-long careers.

Harry Rountree, a litho artist at the New Zealand Herald, left early in the century for a successful career in England as a Punch cartoonist and children’s book illustrator. Fred Hiscocks, after a long New Zealand cartooning career, joined the London Daily News in 1925. A succession of cartoonists headed for Fleet Street, the centre of London’s newspaper publishing, after the Second World War – Keith Waite and Neville Colvin, then Les Gibbard, John Kent, Nicholas Garland and Murray Ball. Ball later returned home and created Footrot Flats.

Political chameleons?

Some cartoonists have adjusted the politics of their cartoons to the editorial stance of their newspapers. Tom Glover drew left-wing cartoons for Truth in the 1910s, criticising Prime Minister William Massey as a puppet of capitalism. As T. Ellis he produced cartoons for the Free Lance, in 1919–22, warning of the red menace (communism). Jack Gilmour, signing himself as J. H. Gee, also drew cartoons for the Free Lance depicting the Labour Party as Bolsheviks. He went on to become the cartoonist for the Labour Party weekly the New Zealand Worker.

Australia attracted a number of fine New Zealand cartoonists in the 1920s, including Cecil ‘Unk’ White, Noel Cook, George Finey (a caricaturist as good as Murray Webb) and Tom Glover. Alan Moir, who arrived in Australia in the 1970s, was still cartooning for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013. Few cartoonists have ventured to the United States, but Will Hope, one of Truth’s excellent cartoonists, was at the New York Globe during and after the First World War.

The daily papers and second golden age

There were more editorial cartoons in the dailies from the mid-1920s. Trevor Lloyd was well established at the New Zealand Herald, while A. S. Paterson became the Dominion’s first staff cartoonist in 1925. J. C. Hill joined the Auckland Star two years later. Gordon Minhinnick served his apprenticeship on Edward C. Huie’s innovative Christchurch Sun for six months before its sister daily, the Auckland Sun, was launched in 1927. When it folded in 1930, ‘Min’ was immediately hired by the Herald and was to be the country’s pre-eminent cartoonist for decades.

Minhinnick was a master draughtsman and an innate conservative. New Zealand’s second golden cartooning period, between the mid-1930s and 1949, showed him at his best as he attacked the radical first Labour government and the policies and politicians he distrusted. There was also, after the Second World War, impressive work by Neville Colvin at the Evening Post and the Otago Daily Times’ Keith Waite.


‘Kennaway’, Andrew Kennaway Henderson, was a socialist and a pacifist. His hard-hitting cartoons attacked New Zealand political, press, church and business interests, along with the drift to fascism in Europe. He edited and managed his own magazine, the weekly Tomorrow. Launched in 1934, Tomorrow became one of New Zealand’s most important political and literary journals. It eventually proved too independent for the wartime government, and was closed under censorship regulations in 1940.


During the First World War the majority of New Zealand’s cartoonists took a patriotic stance, depicting heroic New Zealand soldiers and a bestial German enemy. Cartoonists such as Tom Glover in Truth and ‘MJ’ in the Maoriland Worker produced dissenting cartoons, condemning war profiteering and the government’s conscription policies. The veteran cartoonist Fred Hiscocks fought in the war, as did the young novice George Finey, both contributing to the two editions of New Zealand at the front.

In the Second World War cartoonists often ridiculed the fascist dictators as power-hungry buffoons. The New Zealand soldier was represented by such long-suffering characters as Minhinnick’s Soldier Sam and Neville Colvin’s Fred Clueless. Cartoonists in the armed forces, such as Colvin and Nevile Lodge, contributed work to the service publications Parade and the NZEF Times.

How to cite this page:

Ian F. Grant, 'Cartooning - Cartoonists at home and abroad, 1900 to 1950', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 April 2024)

Story by Ian F. Grant, published 22 Oct 2014