Back to the Land. - an original printed appearance of this cartoon featuring Winston S. Churchill from the 21 April 1909 edition of the magazine Punch, or The London Charivari
London: Punch, 1909. This original printed appearance of a Punch cartoon featuring Winston S. Churchill comes from the personal collection of Gary L. Stiles, author of Churchill in Punch (Unicorn Publishing Group, 2022). His book is the first ever effort to definitively catalog, describe, and contextualize all of the many Punch cartoons featuring Churchill.
This cartoon titled "Back to the Land" appeared thus on p.281 of the 21 April 1909 issue of Punch. The artist is Edward Linley Sambourne. The cartoon is captioned
"'Boy. 'Please, Sir, May I be trained for the Merchant Service?' President of the Board of Trade. 'Parents in the Workhouse?' Boy (cheerfully), 'No, Sir.' P. B. T. 'Well, run along and commit a crime or else we can't do anything for you.' [Apart from those training-ships which are either industrial or reformatory school and a single ship for workhouse boys the Government does nothing by way of education Merchant Service. All other training ships, such as the Mercury, of which Mr. C. B. Fry has recently taken over control, are dependent for support on voluntary contributions. Yet more than half a century has passed since a Royal Trade Commission recommended the encouragement of training-ships, and more than a year since a committee appointed by the Board of Trade suggested capitation grants by the State for the instruction of boys wishing to join the Merchant Navy; but nothing seems to have been done. Meanwhile the Service, from which we are to draw our Naval Reserve, is largely manned by aliens.]'"
This is a plea to the new President of the Board of Trade - Winston S. Churchill - to support government-sponsored training for young boys for the Merchant Navy. This had been suggested for many years, but never enacted and the only way to obtain training was to have parents in the workhouse or as part of a criminal sentence.
Punch or The London Charivari began featuring Churchill cartoons in 1900, when his political career was just beginning. That political career would last two thirds of a century, see him occupy Cabinet office during each of the first six decades of the twentieth century, carry him twice to the premiership and, further still, into the annals of history as a preeminent statesman. And throughout that time, Punch satirized Churchill in cartoons – more than 600 of them, the work of more than 50 different artists.
It was a near-perfect relationship between satirists and subject. That Churchill was distinctive in both persona and physical appearance helped make him easy to caricature. To his persona and appearance he added myriad additional satirical temptations, not just props, like his cigars, siren suits, V-sign, and hats, but also a variety of ancillary avocations and vocations, like polo, painting, brick-laying, and writing. All these were skewered as well.
Some Punch cartoons were laudatory, some critical, and many humorous, like the man himself. Nearly always, Churchill was distinctly recognizable, a larger-than-life character whose presence caricature served only to magnify. Item #007081