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The Best of H. T. Webster

📅 2021-Aug-28 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 🏷️ book ⬩ 📚 Archive

I love discovering new words and looking up their meaning and origin. A recent find was the word milquetoast in a tweet about compensation at AWS:

AWS is starting to have a steady drumbeat of departures. I’m sure its relatively milquetoast compensation isn’t a factor though.

COED described the word as:

milquetoast: A person who is timid or submissive. Origin 1930s: from the name of a cartoon character Caspar Milquetoast, created by H. T. Webster in 1924.

Intrigued about H. T. Webster, I decided to check out a collection of his best work The Best of H. T. Webster: A Memorial Collection (1953) and was not disappointed at all. He was a famous American cartoonist, drawing primarily single panel cartoons for newspapers and was popular during 1920-50s. The book has a fun and interesting biographical sketch of the man by Philo Calhoun, which should not be missed.

Webster is most famous for his series The Timid Soul which features our wimpy hero Milquetoast. Other than this, the book covers all his other famous themes: childhood, couples, bridge, poker, radio (there was no TV back then!) and many other topics from that era. He was not really into politics, so only a few political cartoons are featured. He was a prolific cartoonist and there are entire books of his cartoons based on each of the above themes.

I found his cartoons to be endearing, mostly centering around a slice-of-life nature. I especially loved his cartoons that feature kids or teenagers focused around childhood. These cartoons also gave me an insight into the life and times of Americans during the decades before WW2. What stood out to me was though so much has changed in a century, so much more has remained the same. I loved Webster’s work and it has motivated me to pick up more of his collections for a fun time.

Rating: 4/4