Darling, Jay Norwood "Ding" (1876 – 1962) American Environmental Cartoonist

views updated

Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling (1876 1962)
American environmental cartoonist

Most editorial page cartoonists focus on the tough job of meeting daily deadlines, satisfied that their message will influence public opinion through their drawings. Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, however, drew Pulitzer prize-winning cartoons, but was also immersed in conservation action, emerging as one of the great innovators in the conservation movement of the first half of the twentieth century.

Norwood, Michigan, was Darling's namesake birthplace, but he grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, and attended high school in Sioux City, Iowa, at a time when the area was relatively undeveloped. Wandering the prairies of nineteenth century Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota instilled in him a life-long love of the outdoors and wildlife .

After an uneven beginning, Darling graduated from Beloit College in Wisconsin with a degree in biology. (At one college, during one semester, biology was the only course he passed). And he was expelled from Beloit for a year for caricaturing individuals in the college faculty and administration. Building on an early interest in sketching (and the cartooning skills developed in college) Darling went on to a half-century of drawing political cartoons, including some of the most memorable conservation/environmental cartoons of the twentieth century. His first job (1900) was as a reporter (and sometimes caricaturist) in Sioux City, but six years later, he was hired by the Des Moines Register and Leader, where his primary task was to produce a cartoon each day for the editorial page. He retired from that same paper in 1949. Darling did spend two years as an editorial cartoonist for the New York Globe, but returned to Iowa at the first real opportunity.

The only other significant period away from his Des Moines newspaper position illustrates his action mode as a conservationist. Darling was active in political life generally, and this involvement often reflected his love of the outdoors and his dismay at what he felt the United States was doing to destroy its natural resource base. He helped organize the Izaak Walton League in Des Moines, was active in the landscaping of local parks, and worked to establish the first cooperative wildlife research unit at Iowa State College in Ames, a unit that served as a model for the establishment of similar units in other states.

Perhaps his greatest impact as an activist resulted from his appointment, by President Franklin Roosevelt, as head of the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, predecessor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .He was only in the position for two years, not being happy as a bureaucrat and not happy away from Iowa. But he was reportedly very effective in the job, "raiding" (in Roosevelt's words) the U.S. Treasury for scarce depression-era funds for waterfowl habitat restoration, and initiating the duck stamp program which over the years has funded the acquisition of several million acres added to the National Wildlife Refuge system. He also used his drawing skills to design the first duck stamp, as well as the flying goose that has become the signpost and symbol of the national wildlife refuge system.

Darling was also one of the founders, and then first President of the National Wildlife Federation in 1938. He later criticized the organization, and the proliferation of conservation organizations in general, because he first envisioned the Federation as an umbrella for conservation efforts and thought the emergence of too many groups diluted the focus on solving conservation and environmental problems. Until the end of his life, he tried, and failed, to organize a conservation clearing house that would refocus the conservation effort under one heading.

He put into all his efforts lessons of interdependence learned early from biology classes at Beloit College: "Land, water, and vegetation are [interdependent] with one another. Without these primary elements in natural balance, we can have neither fish nor game, wild flowers nor trees, labor nor capital, nor sustaining habitat for humans."

[Gerald L. Young Ph.D. ]



Lendt, David L. Ding: The Life of Jay Norwood Darling. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1979.


Dudley, Joseph P. "Jay Norwood 'Ding' Darling: A Retrospective." Conservation Biology 7, no. 1 (March 1993): 200203.
"Jay N. Darling: More Than a Cartoonist." The World of Comic Art 1, no. 1 (June 1966): 1825.