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Description

Original Pen and Ink Cartoons on Artist's Board

This is a great vintage cartoon lambasting the California Department of Motor Vehicles for its long lines, evidently an issue in 1921 as it is nearly a century later. This is an early career work by the famed early 20th-century Californian cartoonist Frank Kettlewell and signed with his signature "Ket," showing a small quacking bird.

The map humorously depicts San Francisco and the Bay Area, showing a DMV line stretching southwards around the bay, wrapping around to Oakland and encircling Lake Merritt. At various points in the queue, quips about how long people have been in line are made. In the far east of the map, evidently indicating Sacramento, cars honk at the capitol building, voicing their displeasure.

Few records indicate how widespread this issue was, or how widespread discontentment with the DMV was. The official history of the DMV offers some clues. As of 1920, license plates were issued yearly, meaning that all drivers had to get a new metal license once a year. Evidently, the branch offices were not equipped to face such steep demand, and lines may have become excessive. Annual license plates in California would continue until 1942 when metal shortages forced the DMV to issue only small stickers indicating that the car was registered. Whether or not the problem was fixed after 1921 remains unknown.

Given the reputation upheld by the DMV today, this cartoon speaks clearly to the modern observer.

Condition Description
Manuscript notations from creator or editor in pencil along bottom. Staining to right of image. Minor loss to top margin.
Frank Kettlewell Biography

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."