The Pennsylvania Department

"Father Pitt in Cartoons" -- 6 October 1906

Father Pitt in Cartoons by Raymond Gros, The Index, 6 October 1906.

Next Monday is the birth-day of Father Pitt, for on that day, nine years ago [sic], for the first time he tried to see the light of this world through Pittsburgh's smoke. Contrary to the rule which governs other creatures, he had neither childhood nor youth, he came to us as we know him to-day: a dear old man with white hair. One day he appeared suddenly in our midst, fresh and smiling, almost sententious, like some one we have already seen and whom we expect. He was born neither in a palace nor in a stable, but in the editorial rooms of a newspaper, and undoubtedly to the ambient atmosphere, pregnat with sensational news--all true, of course,--must be attributed his unheard-of precocity, his experience and his apparently ripe old age.

Before his advent the cartoonists of Pittsburgh, who are all gallant young fellows, represented the city by the figure of a maiden "Miss Pittsburgh." But we all know how hard it is to be gallant always and under all circumstances. It went against their grain to show Miss Pittsburgh, now cranky, now furious. The unhappy men could not represent her kicking at "grafts" or dancing a cancan over a success, for Miss Pittsburgh was a self-respecting "sweet-thing," who must ignore scandals, and be above the little vexations of common life.

It was then that Fred Johnston, of the Leader, had an inspiration. Without warning he banished Miss Pittsburgh from his cartoons and introduced in her stead Father Pitt, and there arose in all the editorial rooms a concert of sadness and joy: "Miss Pittsburgh is dead,--long live Father Pitt!"

Every newspaper made him the herald of its views, the bearer of its colors.

Payne, in the "Gazette-Times," shows us a reasoning "Father Pitt" fond of argument and discussion. Jamieson of the "Dispatch" conceives him as a professor, who proclaims, decrees and directs; while Johnston of the Leader has made of him a personage somewhat Machiavellian, listening complacently to the sensation of the hour, and Shiras in the "Chronicle-Telegraph," shows him flying from the spectre of smoke wherever his steps are not arrested by a game of base-ball. Frazier of the "Post" sees a Father Pitt, still young, sanguine and trustful of the future; Rigby of the "Press" paints him as a jolly good fellow, content with his lot, surprised at nothing and taking life as it is; and last, not not least, Canfield, of the "Sun," a comfortable, genial soul with a fat purse.

Whatever the exterior under which the different artists represent Father Pitt, whether as a parvenu in holiday attire or as bourgeois of the last century, he invariably appears to us with a roguish look, somewhat veiled by eye-glasses, a sarcastic smile, an energetic gesture and an imposing presence. The eight cartoons on this page illustrate once more the power of the cartoonists, the only artists who, with a stroke of their pencil, make a reputation, sustain and correct it, or break it at will, if need be.

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