The Cartoons of the Clarion, 1964-1975

In the spirit of the Saturday morning cartoon, today I’d like to look at the cartoons of the Clarion student newspaper. Earlier this week, I undertook a marathon research session to canvass the Clarion. Using a time line identical to that which I’m employed to study the BGC, I reviewed all Clarions from the calendar years 1964-1975, and sporadically beyond that to the middle of 1977.

As I’ve written before, the Clarion is probably the best source for understanding how the college responded to the Vietnam War, and while documenting this response was the primary reason for looking through the Clarion, I also had in mind a point of comparison to Calvin College – specifically the schools’ visual culture as seen through cartoons.

In his 1975 institutional history of that college, John Timmerman, an English professor, described the new mood that had settled onto the campus by 1962: “Students gradually grew more critically outspoken, less subservient to authority, and more self-oriented than formerly” (145).

Of course, that much is hardly surprising. Similar sentiments were washing over nearly all American colleges and universities – and with much greater intensity than would be seen at Calvin. As part of that new mood, Timmerman described how

Even the humor changed. A Chimes editor [the official student newspaper] called for a “fierce idea of humor,” and the surreptitiously published Bong with its plethora of puns and grotesque cartoons responded.

A highly suggestive - if fleeting - note from the October 17, 1969 Faculty Senate meeting - The History Center: Archives of the Baptist General Conference and Bethel University

A highly suggestive – if fleeting – note from the October 17, 1969 Faculty Senate meeting – The History Center: Archives of the Baptist General Conference and Bethel University

While Bethel certainly had its share of student upheaval (and, like Calvin, hosted an underground student newspaper; unfortunately, I’ve not been able to locate a copy), I wouldn’t go quite as far as Timmerman did in describing the shift in Bethel’s visual culture. The cartoons in the Clarion certainly move towards a counter-culture style in both form and content, but I wouldn’t call them “grotesque.” But Timmerman, in that respect, was hardly an unbiased observer. Writing just months after some of the events he chronicles, the good professor elsewhere describes aspects of the student movement as “gaseous piffle,” “provincial,” and “bombastic” (146).

A few notes on the cartoons themselves. The cartoon “Little Man on Campus” (LMOC) ran in the Clarion through March of 1969. LMOC was the creation of Richard “Dick” Bibler and was initially published in the University Daily Kansan. The cartoon’s popularity led to its syndication, through which the cartoon appeared at Bethel. (For more on Dick Bibler and LMOC, see the Kansas University history website)

From the fall of 1969 through the spring of 1970, the Clarion made use of cartoons from the College Press Service, a wire news service for – predictably – college and university newspapers. Beginning in the fall of 1970, the Clarion featured student cartoons – a choice likely prefaced by Clarion budget cuts.

So although few of these cartoons were drawn by Bethel students, they do reflect the editorial decisions of the Clarion staff. And I think that suggests something about the changing mood at Bethel. While browsing, pay particular note to the changing dress and hairstyles, the tone expressed towards the school and the professorate, and the broadening of the student’s concern for the outside world.

Here, courtesy of the Bethel University Digital Library, are the complete set of one hundred and sixty-four cartoons of the Clarion, 1964-1975, in chronological order:

Click a cartoon to expand to full-screen mode and see publishing dates. I’d have preferred a slide-show gallery, but the WordPress slide-show tool does not allow publication dates to be seen.


  1. […] and 1976. While most of those cartoons weren’t produced by Bethel students, they are still revelatory of the attitude of the Clarion’s editorial board and document changes in student outlook and […]

  2. Ken Brown · · Reply

    I am a 1968 Bethel Grad and was on of the anti-war leaders from ’64-’68. We published an underground paper for a while 65-67 I think. I was also on the Student Senate and managed to get the Senate to ask the administration to alert us to when military recruiters were coming on campus. They did and we set up a counter-recruiting table next to the recruiters each time. The interesting part was we end up having a nice relationship with the recruiters.

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