Smith began drawing editorial cartoons for Cleveland’s NEA Service in 1921 then left in the early thirties for Chicago’s Herald Examiner. Smith was replaced by Herblock in 1933 and when Herblock began his service in the Army in April 1943 Smith returned to NEA. Herblock’s politics had been at odds with the viewpoints of the Vice President at NEA, Fred Ferguson, who took a personal vindictive hand in editing his cartoons, while Smith, an anti-Roosevelt Republican was more in tune with Scripps/NEA’s isolationist editorial policies.
Smith was self-taught and sold his first drawing to Life magazine when he was 17 years old. During this early period he worked in Cleveland’s steel mills to augment his cartoon earnings. His cartoons appeared in more than 700 newspapers in the US and Canada. In 1924 he accompanied Hemingway to Pamplona, Spain.
Smith worked in a studio at the Cleveland office of the NEA, reading newspapers, magazines, and following the wire service as research for his political cartoons. His watercolor paintings earned him numerous prizes and he was a member of the Cleveland Society of Artists and San Francisco’s famed Bohemian Club. He won numerous awards for cartooning and in 1950 was awarded the George Polk Memorial award presented by the journalism department of Long Island University for his two 1949 interviews with Stalin.