Sunday, November 11, 2018

Leo Ross Porter (1889-1918)

I wrote some time ago that I knew of only one Hoosier cartoonist who died while on active duty in the U.S. military. He was Asa Henderson King (1880-1919) of Boone and Clinton counties, who died at Camp Galliard in the Panama Canal Zone on June 6, 1919. This summer, though, I discovered another, one who not only died while on active duty but was actually killed in action, one hundred years ago as the Great War was in its final months. On this anniversary of the ending of that war, the war that was to have ended all wars, I would like to remember and honor him as we remember all who fought and died, in the mud and trenches, among the shell craters, on the wire, in the bombed-out cities, above the battlefields, and in the maritime approaches to a continent at war.

Leo Ross Porter was born on February 26, 1889, in Metz, a small town in Steuben County, Indiana, not far from the Ohio state line. When he was five years old, his parents, John Wesley Porter (1855-1933) and Josephine Porter (1856-1933), moved their family to Pleasant Lake, a town a little south of Angola, Indiana. "Leo was always a lover of art and nature," wrote the Steuben Republican. "He always liked birds and animals and they seemed to know him as a friend. He made a special study of birds, and when a boy, used to watch them by the hour, studying their habits, and he could answer almost any question concerning them." (1)

When he was about twenty, Porter went west, working and traveling for about a year and a half. He also studied art for a short time in Kansas City. Upon his return to the Midwest, Porter worked at a wholesale firm in Detroit before leaving to take up his art studies again. He attended the Lockwood Art Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and graduated in 1914. From 1914 to April 1917, he worked as a designer and cartoonist for the Lansing State Journal. Then war came.

Porter enlisted in the U.S. Army at Lansing in April 1917. He trained with his unit, the 119th Field Artillery, at Camp Grayling, Michigan, then, beginning in July 1917, at Camp McArthur, Texas. At Camp McArthur, he was assigned to the reconnaissance section of his headquarters unit as a drawer of maps and sketches. The 119th shipped out for France on February 26, 1918, and went right into the firing line and what for Porter would be five months of continuous action. He was at the Second Battle of the Marne, his unit helping to capture the city of Fismes. On August 12, Porter was wounded at Ch√Ęteau-Thierry. While he was being carried away by his comrades, a shell burst nearly tore off his left leg. Despite the grievous wounds he had received, Porter joked, "Well, I guess I'll have to get a peg leg." (2) Instead he died two days later, on August 14, 1918. Leo Ross Porter was the first Steuben County resident to die in action.

Three years passed before his body was returned stateside for burial. His father received the body in Indiana in July 1921. On July 31, 1921, a funeral for Leo Ross Porter took place at the Methodist Church in Angola. He was buried at Circle Hill Cemetery in that city. Porter was survived by his parents; three brothers, Jay, Otis, who served with the 338th Infantry in France, and Lester; and a sister, Audrey. The local newspaper, the Steuben Republican, remembered the fallen soldier as "of a quiet disposition, never talking much, and his remarks were always to the point." (3)

In the year following Porter's funeral and interment, local veterans formed the Ross Porter Chapter of Disabled Veterans of the World War. On May 31, 1922, the men marched in the Decoration Day parade in Angola. Afterwards they went to Porter's grave for a memorial service. You can still visit his grave today. His headstone is engraved: "Leo R. Porter/Killed in France/1889-1918."

(1) "Leo Ross Porter." Obituary. Steuben Republican, October 2, 1918, page 1.
(2) "Steuben County Hero Will Be Buried Today." Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, July 31, 1921, page 27.
(3) "Leo Ross Porter." Obituary. Steuben Republican, October 2, 1918, page 1.

For years journalist Earle R. Pitt amused readers of the Lansing State Journal with his humorous columns published under the heading "The City Hall Grouch." For part of that time, Pitt's columns were illustrated by a young Hoosier cartoonist, Leo Ross Porter. Here's an example from April 5, 1916, exactly a year and a day before Congress declared war on Germany. 

And here is the cartoonist, Leo Ross Porter, who was killed in the war.

Original text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! . . . To Indianapolis!

If you watch the mainstream media and listen to one of our major political parties, you know that America is crawling with Russians, especially on this day when we choose our elected leaders--completely under their influence of course. Russian influence that is. Well, in the good old days of the Cold War when the aforementioned political party felt more kindly towards them, Russians came to Indianapolis. And they were armed. But not with rifles and bazookas. Instead they used pens, for they were cartoonists.

Yes, sixty years ago, in May 1958, while the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race was going on, the city was invaded by two Russian cartoonists, Vitalii Goriaev (1910-1982) and Ivan Semeonov, who worked in their native country for the humor magazine Krokodil. They came at the invitation of journalists, Jameson G. Campaigne, editorial page director of the Indianapolis Star, and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Charles G. Werner of the same paper. Their visit would coincide not only with the Indianapolis 500 but also with the national convention of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC). Indianapolis was supposed to have been a closed city to visitors from Russia, but the U.S. Department of State consented to Campaigne's request and allowed them in. No one suspected that the Russians would escape from their keepers and make a trip to the big city. Not Indianapolis, though. New York. That big city.

Goriaev and Semeonov arrived in New York towards the end of May 1958. Horrified by traffic but excited by the movement and "holiday mood" of the city, they drew pictures of skyscrapers, art galleries, pigeons, children, American women, and big American cars. As the date of the 500 approached, the two made their way west, to Indianapolis, where, on the evening of Thursday, May 29, they attended a reception and banquet at the Continental Hotel, hosted by Eugene Pulliam, publisher of the Indianapolis Star. On hand were forty-four other cartoonists, including Hoosier cartoonists Karl Kae Knecht of the Evansville Courier, William B. "Robbie" Robinson of the Indianapolis News, Eldon Pletcher of the Sioux City, Iowa, Journal-Tribune, Bill Crawford of the Newark News, Eugene Craig of the Columbus Dispatch, Cy Hungerford of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Charles Werner of the Indianapolis Star.

The big day came on Friday, May 30, when the cartoonists were in the stands for the running of the race. The beginning of the race was marred by a terrible crash in which driver Pat O'Connor was killed. Goriaev made a sketch of his fellow spectators hours later as the moment of victory came for Jimmy Bryan. His sketch appeared in the Indianapolis News the next day (see below). I'm pretty sure Russians didn't influence the outcome of the race, though.

The convention of the AAEC came to a close on Sunday, May 31. Goriaev, Semeonov, and their translator, Lev Petrov, were supposed to have continued westward, to Hannibal, Missouri, then to Disneyland, before making a return trip east to Boston. Instead the Russians went on the lam, escaping back to New York City, where they made a study of art and cartooning before being found again on June 6. There didn't seem to be any harm done,  though, and the men stayed in the city until June 13.

Life noticed that Vitalii Goriaev and Ivan Semeonov had come to America. In its issue of June 16, 1958, the magazine featured a two-page spread of the artists' drawings. Back home again, Goriaev had his work, done in fiber-tipped pen and watercolor, exhibited at Tret'iakov Gallery in Moscow in 1958. He called it "Americans at Home." For twenty days in the late spring of 1958, he had had a chance to observe us in our natural environment and to taste in the Circle City what the Indianapolis News called "Hoosier freedom." I wonder if he also questioned, as the News suggested he might, his role as a cartoonist in the Soviet Union.

Happy Election Day, America!

From the Indianapolis News, May 31, 1958.

From Life, June 16, 1958.

Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley