About This Project

Norman Cousins once wrote, “The beginning of the Atomic Age has brought less hope than fear. It is a primitive fear, the fear of the unknown—the fear of forces man can neither channel nor comprehend.” In the United States, this fear and anxiety has manifested itself around various events and issues since the bomb was first dropped on Japan in August 1945: fears of fallout and radiation, concern over the dangers posed by nuclear power, anxiety caused by the possibility of more countries gaining access to the technology needed to create these weapons, consternation over the thought of those weapons being used against Americans, and disquiet about their ability to protect themselves from such an assault.

In, "Editorializing the Cold War: Cartoons and Commentary on Nuclear Fear and Anxiety, 1946-1989," I will analyze the work of three nationally syndicated cartoonists: Herbert Block aka Herblock, Paul Conrad, and Frank Miller, and the newspapers in which their work appeared (the Washington Post, the Denver Post and Los Angeles Times, and the Des Moines Register, respectively). Using a combination of traditional close reading and new digital methodologies, my aim is provide a comprehensive analysis of Cold War nuclear anxieties by examining the correlations between the discourses imbedded in the editorial cartoons, the letters to the editor and opinion pieces in the editorial page, and the articles published in the newspaper itself.

This site is the home of the digital component to my dissertation. It is a constant work in progress. My goal is to have three major components to this site of which two are in their early development stages. These are: the Cartoons, the Newspapers, and Visualizations.

The Cartoons

All the nuclear themed cartoons of each artist will be housed in a database of my own design. Further description of its methodology can be found on the main page of the Database section. It currently houses the work of Herblock from 1949-1979 with the 1980s to be added shortly. The Search Database function is currently at a basic level allowing the user to search by character, keyword or both. At this time it does not allow for complex search functions such as multiple characters and/or keywords, or an "and not" search term. This section is in the progress of being made more robust with the future addition of an advanced search capability.


This section will contain the representations of my data with an accompanying description of the methodological process and as much of the raw data as I can supply. The digital methods will differ for each of my primary sources. Currently I have begun to examine the keywords present in Herblock’s cartoons for the years 1946-1949. An elaboration of my progress and findings to date can be found in the Visualizations section.

The Newspapers

I am still currently in the process of gathering my sources for this component. These sources comprise of the articles, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces of the newspapers where my artists were employed. Digital methods like ngram analysis and topic modeling will be applied to this corpus once complete. When compared to the results from the cartoon analysis this will assist in my efforts to gage the potential influence the cartoonists had over the public's discourse on nuclear issues.

It should be said that the tools and representations on this site will be utilized to gain a broad view of the trends over time that can facilitate a more targeted close reading. My work here is not intended to be the end of my research, rather, just the beginning.