Original Pen and Ink Cartoons on Artist's Board
This is a fabulous example of three cartoons by Frank Kettlewell, the renowned Oakland Tribune humorist. Like many of Kettlewell's works, each of these cartoons are surprisingly accurate in today's world, despite having been made nearly a century ago.
The top cartoon appears to relate to the Disarmament Conference of 1932. The delegates are seen attempting to pass a motion to ban poison gases emitted from Andean volcanoes, spurning their duty to try and disarm their own country. The conference was a resounding failure for many reasons. European nations were loath to disarm because of the arms buildup in certain neighbors and perceived vulnerability. The US proved surprisingly willing to disarm, but Congress never passed Hoover's proposals to limit the size of the army, and the antiwar American public was disappointed in the results. The ascension of Hitler to power and subsequent withdrawal of Germany made all other European nations very wary of disarmament, and the conference concluded in 1934 without any major progress.
The middle cartoon is a boast of the agricultural power of California and its superiority over the rest of the states. The bottom cartoon is one that can strongly resonate with the public today. Produced in the Depression era, it shows stockbrokers, portrayed by a bear, attempting to diffuse blame regarding the stock market crash upon the public. The toning and depiction of the cartoon are strongly reminiscent of the 1920s, but the issue is one that remains contemporary in nature.
The cartoons were likely first designed at some point in the early 1930s and subsequently published in the Oakland Tribune. Some manuscript annotations in the bottom appear to relate to publication date but are not fully legible.
Frank 'Ket' Kettlewell (December 5, 1889 - June 11, 1969) was an American photographer, mapmaker, painter, and cartoonist.
Kettlewell was a protoge of Thomas Aloysius“Tad” Dorgan (1877-1929)in Napa Valley, who signed his cartoons as "Tad."
Dorgan had another local protégé, Frank Kettlewell. Eventually, in 1913, Kettlewell began his 50-year-long career as an Oakland Tribune staff cartoonist.
The following obituary appeared in the Oakland Tribune Go-Getters Blog
Oakland Tribune, June 12, 1969
Frank Kettlewell, chief of The Tribune's art department who was known to generations of readers simply as "Ket", died unexpectedly last night. He was 79.
The genial, silver-haired artist, in nearly perfect health all his life, was stricken Monday with an appendicitis attack. He underwent surgery that night and was reported to be recovering rapidly when he suffered a heart attack.
For many years he was one of the Bay Area's leading editorial cartoonists and later became noted for maps that he drew to illustrate news stories and travel articles. His editorial cartoons, which appeared in the 1930's, always contained a little bird in the corner as a signature.
A series of road maps he drew in the early days of the automobile, to illustrate road tours throughout the state, was later issued in book form by The Tribune. A few years ago "Ket" drew a map showing how San Fransisco Bay is shrinking, and it was quickly adopted as a symbol by the Save the Bay Association and is now flown as a pennant by boats taking part in the annual opening of the Bay yachting season.
"Ket" was born in St. Helena; the son of pioneer parents who named him Benjamin Franklin Kettlewell. He graduated from St. Helena High School and as a youth arrived in San Francisco with a shipment of relief supplies after the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Later he lived in that city with his grandfather while attending the old Hopkins Art School on the site of what is now the Mark Hopkins Hotel. He came to work for The Tribune in 1912 and soon became head of the art room, no one is any longer sure exactly when, but the best estimates place it around 1917.
"Ket" combined one of his many hobbies- photography with his art work, taking pictures to illustrate those early auto tours and later (illegible newspaper) with columnist Jack Burroughs on a popular feature called "Your Town." He often put in long hours in The Tribune's photography darkroom, developing and printing pictures he and others had taken.
An amateur astronomer of note, "Ket" designed and built several of his own telescopes. He was believed to be a founding member of the East Bay Astronomical Society and for more than 25 years was one of its directors.
In 1948 "Ket's" drawing of Sutter's Mill was accepted by the U.S. Post Office Department as the design for a stamp commemorating the discovery of gold in California.
He was a inveterate tinkerer. Often he designed his own tools and one of his last projects was building a gem polisher for a friend. His other hobbies included metalworking, woodworking and stamp collecting.
"Ket" was a man who couldn't say no, an associate recalls, "Any time someone asked him to do something he'd try it."