Wally Wallgren and C. LeRoy Baldridge, the two-person art department of the World War I era military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, created cartoons that took the newspaper’s motto to heart: “By and For the Soldiers of the A. E. F.” Their artistic styles and approaches were different, but as enlisted men who had been to the front lines, their cartoons resonated with their fellow soldiers reading the “Official Newspaper of the American Expeditionary Forces,” 1918-1919.
Abian A.”Wally” Wallgren’s rough, broad cartoons ran at the top of page 7 of every issue of The Stars and Stripes, February 8, 1918-June 13, 1919. His were comic strips and single-frame “Helpful Hints” cartoons, mostly poking fun at military rank and regulations, and deplorable conditions (mud, rats, rations, seasickness, and more). Wallgren was already a published cartoonist whose comic strips had appeared in Philadelphia newspapers as early as 1910. From June 1917 to early 1918, he served with the Fifth Marines, training and sign painting in France, where he chafed under military discipline (to put it mildly). The Stars and Stripes provided a beneficial change for all. Former Stars and Stripes staffer Harry L. Katz, in his 1921 Brief History of The Stars and Stripes, stated about Wallgren, “Perhaps no other one man became so generally known to the soldiers of the A. E. F.” (p. 13).
Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge’s editorial cartoons frequently appeared on The Stars and Stripes front page or on the editorial page (p. 4), evoking a more serious and often symbolic tone, but not shrinking from war’s human toll and staying focused on the enlisted man. He began drawing war sketches in occupied Belgium and in France in fall 1914, traveling with journalist credentials. Returning stateside, he was sent in 1916 to the US-Mexico border and served as a cavalry stable sergeant during the Pancho Villa Expedition. He returned to France in 1917 and was a truck driver in the French Army, still sketching. He was transferred to the A.E.F. in 1918 and assigned to The Stars and Stripes. His illustrations sometimes ran in that newspaper after their earlier publication in Leslie’s Weekly or Scribner’s.
The first and only anniversary issue of the A.E.F. Stars and Stripes described Wallgren and Baldridge under the heading “Marine and Doughboy.”
The accompanying cartoon shows the popular cartoonist Rube Goldberg (right), visiting Wallgren (left), and Baldridge (center) with sandwich in hand, in The Stars and Stripes office in Paris, with the article crediting Goldberg as drawing the cartoon.
Wallgren and Baldridge were the illustrator members of an impressive Stars and Stripes editorial team that included journalists Hudson Hawley, John T. Winterich, Harold Ross, and Alexander Woollcott. After World War I, Hawley was managing editor of the Paris Herald for 46 years; Winterich was a prominent bibliophile, writer, and editor of the Saturday Review of Literature and Colophon; Ross co-founded The New Yorker magazine and served as its first and long-time editor-in-chief; and Woollcott was a drama critic, writer, and radio personality.
The final issue of The Stars and Stripes, June 13, 1919, provided an often tongue in cheek history of the newspaper that heavily featured its two lead illustrators. The issue carried a photo of Wallgren, a rarity.
While emphasizing that the six-man editorial board was comprised only of enlisted men who “had done guard and K.P., built (and cleaned) officers’ latrines,” the article also referenced Wallgren’s deep aversion to military regimentation, but not by name: “one of them [the editorial board] had had enough court-martials to make it an even two all around for the bunch.”
Wallgren’s cartoon for that final issue, “Company Dis-Missed,” leads with a caricature of himself, “A Buck (Me),” leaving his drafting desk, at the head of a motley looking assortment of Stars and Stripes staff, described as his “Models,” which they were, since they had appeared in his cartoons throughout the issues. John Winterich identified these cartoon models by name in his book, Squads Write!, p. 328. They included Hudson Hawley, “The Top,” heading in the wrong direction, Alexander Woollcott, “The Medico,” second from right, and Harold Ross, “Nother Top,” far right.
Baldridge, described in the same issue as the “respectable half of the art department,” was discharged earlier and was represented with a spread of nine of his editorial cartoons “constituting, in a sense, a graphic resume of the Yanks from the days of the old trenches to the days of the watch on the Rhine.”
Books collecting Wallgren and Baldridge’s Stars and Stripes cartoons were published by 1919.
The Stars and Stripes published Wally: His Cartoons of the A.E.F. (also in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs collection). Selling for five francs, the profits were to go to “The Stars and Stripes French War Orphans’ Fund.” Harry Katz attested that Wallgren’s “popularity was proven by the great demand for his cartoons when they were published in book form.” (p. 15).
Baldridge’s wartime drawings, including those that had been editorial cartoons, were published in “I Was There” with the Yanks on the Western Front, 1917-1919. The illustrations appeared along with poetry by another Stars and Stripes alumnus, Hilmar R. Baukhage. The volume was introduced by Baldridge, who stated, “It has been a keen regret to me that my artistic skill has been so unequal to these opportunities. The sketches do not sufficiently show war for the stupid horror I know it to be.”
The World War I experiences of Wallgren and Baldridge, including their Stars and Stripes work, infused their post-war lives and careers.
In 1933, Wallgren returned to his wartime cartoons in a more extensive publication, The A. E. F. in Cartoon. This time, Woollcott and Winterich provided introductions to the cartoon volume. A sample from Woollcott: “Getting the strip out of Wally in time for the dead-line exhausted all the disciplinary resources of the entire organization. Such a strip is at its best when it is produced by a vagrant mind, and the better his work was, the harder it was to get it out of him.”
Wallgren spent most of his post-war career as a cartoonist for the American Legion magazine. Upon his death in 1948, he was remembered by Stars and Stripes alumnus Robert I. Snajdr in an extensive obituary in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
In 1920, Baldridge met journalist Caroline Singer, who was working for the Red Cross in Paris, and they remained together until her death in 1963. They traveled the world and published several books, which she wrote and he illustrated, encouraging respect and understanding of multiple cultures. Their books reflected their views advocating for world peace, international cooperation, equality, and freedom.
Baldridge illustrated many books for others and also wrote and illustrated his own, including his autobiography, Time and Chance, published in 1947. Unlike Wallgren, his work with the American Legion met with controversy. In 1936, as a member of the Americanism Committee of the New York County American Legion, Baldridge wrote and illustrated, Americanism — What Is It? The small booklet was designed to be used by New York legionnaires when presenting awards in schools. The American Legion National Headquarters and some newspapers expressed outrage at its contents as noted by Dorothy Thompson in her syndicated column, “The Red Scare Extends to Goddess. Miss Liberty Suspected by Papers with Lien on U.S. Patriotism.” The American Legion tried to suppress the volume, but it was reprinted multiple times by others and read by a much wider audience than had there been no attempted ban.
Baldridge continued to be a highly successful illustrator and artist. In the early 1950s, he and Singer retired to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he continued creating art. In 1977, fourteen years after Singer’s death, Baldridge ended his life, shooting himself with his World War I service pistol.
- Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers’ Newspaper of World War I, 1918 to 1919: all 71 issues digitized and also articles on “A Talented Editorial Staff” and “Illustrations.”
- Robert C. Harvey, “AWOL Wally.” In Insider Histories of Cartooning, ch. 7. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014.
- Jay Mulberry, “Cyrus Was There,” Hyde Park History 38, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 2-6.