Vaughn Shoemaker; Cartoonist Created ‘John Q. Public’ Figure

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Vaughn Shoemaker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who brought “John Q. Public” into the American family, has died of cancer here.

Shoemaker, who won journalism’s top award twice, was 89 when he died Sunday, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

He created his “John Q. Public” as a victim of taxes and stupid officials. The name became a catch phrase for the average citizen.

Shoemaker--who won the Pulitzer in 1938 and again in 1947--attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where he said a teacher once told him: “You won’t be a cartoonist in a thousand years. If you quit right now, we’ll be glad to refund your tuition.”


At 20, the cartoonist joined the art department of the Chicago Daily News in 1922. Two years later he became the newspaper’s chief cartoonist, a position he held until 1952.

He later served as chief editorial cartoonist for the New York Herald Tribune and the Chicago American, and was syndicated through the Chicago Tribune-New York Times Syndicate.

A devout Baptist, Shoemaker said he prayed for guidance with each of the 14,000 cartoons he eventually produced.

One of his most widely reproduced cartoons was one he drew at Christmas, 1934, the first known editorial cartoon with a strictly religious theme to be published by a major newspaper.


Called “The First Christmas Gift,” the Chicago Daily News cartoon showed a stable and the words of John 3:16, a New Testament verse saying that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to save those who believed in him.

Shoemaker’s cartoons were collected in seven books, and he taught for 15 years at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.