Throughout his long, storied career, Milton Rawson Halladay proved the adage, time and again: a picture is worth one-thousand words. One of the nation’s most popular cartoonists during the first half of the 20th century, Halladay’s drawings reflected the sentiments and the conscience of the nation on the crucial issues pertaining to the economic, moral, and social issues of the day.
A nationally syndicated cartoonist, his renderings became some of the most anticipated for readers of not only the Providence Journal (his employer) but of newspapers across the country. His commemoration of Thomas Edison’s death, published on October 18th, 1931, was the runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning.
His work has been exhibited at diverse organizations ranging from the West Virginia University Department of Journalism, The Columbus, Ohio, Gallery of Fine Art, and the National Press Club of Washington DC.
Halladay was born in East Dover Vermont, in 1874 to a family of humble means. But talent does not discriminate based on income. That fact became readily apparent by the time he reached high school age. His father realized that his talents wouldn’t be done justice unless he received a formal art education.
His father sent Halladay to live with his aunt, in neighboring Massachusetts. Halladay then attended the Norman School of Art in Boston. There, he learned the art of chalk plate engraving. At that time, chalk plate engraving was the primary method for newspaper illustration. In 1900, equipped with that crucial skill, Halladay for his foot in the door and began his long career in the newspaper industry. It spanned almost 50 years.
Even before he first joined the Providence Journal, while working at smaller publications, the technology began to change. Chalk plate illustrations began to give way to cameras. To that end: Halladay began working as the paper’s primary photographer. But the events of World War I led the paper’s leadership to the decision that Halladay’s drawings were much more effective in portraying his, as well as the paper’s anti-German sentiments, than any photograph he could take. Halladay then became the paper’s first full-time cartoonist.
The 20th century provided him with plenty of material. Halladay made illustrations about both World Wars, The Korean War, The Great Depression, and almost every other major issue during the first half of the 20th century. His voluminous output of work earned him the label of “one of the deans of American cartooning”.
To see Halladay’s cartoons that critiqued the Rhode Island state legislature is to realize that as much as things change, they also stay the same. His cartoons railed against corruption and unfair corporate influence over the state’s legislative process.
Halladay retired from the Providence Journal in 1947, at the age of 73. He continued to work as a freelancer up until his death.
Halladay’s son Allan, a gifted artist in his own right, worked alongside him at the Journal’s editorial department for roughly 14 years, from 1932 until 1945.
Halladay died on June 2nd, in 1961. He was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1966.