JAY N. DARLING
He called himself Jay, but to
the millions of people who knew and admired his work as a
cartoonist and conservationist, he was known as "Ding"
Darling. His middle name was Norwood, after Norwood, Michigan,
where he was born on October 21, 1876; "Ding" was
a family nickname.
His father was Marc Warner Darling,
a Congregational minister in a succession of Midwestern cities.
He not only taught his son to hunt and fish in lessons that
were somewhat hampered by the fact that the boy was continually
sketching but also gave him a deep appreciation of the outdoors.
This was a gift that was to benefit the entire nation, for
the son eventually became one of our greatest conservationists,
as well as a nationally famous cartoonist.
Jay Darling went to grade school
in Elkhart, Indiana; high school in Sioux City, Iowa and attended
Yankton College in Yankton, South Dakota, in 1894-95. Later
he transferred to Beloit (Wisconsin) College and graduated
from there with a Ph.D. degree in 1900.
Mr. Darling's first job after
college was as a reporter with the Sioux City Tribune, but
a year later he went to the Sioux City Journal, where he began
cartooning. On October 31, 1906, he married Genevieve Pendleton,
daughter of a Sioux City judge, and the couple went to the
West Indies for their honeymoon. While they were there, Mr.
Darling received a wire from Gardner Cowles, Sr., offering
him a job with the Des Moines Register and Tribune. The offer
was accepted, and Mr. Darling stayed with this paper as a
cartoonist almost constantly from then until his retirement
His mind (and pen) were incisive
and bold, but never unkind or intolerant. No topic of the
day escaped his notice. His cartoons marked the birth of aviation,
the trials of early motorists, the peccadilloes of college
students, the problems of air pollution, politics, and conservation.
He often depicted prominent men in his drawings, and originals
of Darling cartoons were obtained and highly prized by presidents
from Hoover to Truman.
His drawings were compiled and
published in book form every two years from 1908 to 1920,
and he wrote and illustrated two other books, as well. Beginning
in 1917, his cartoons were syndicated by the old New York
Tribune to 130 other daily newspapers.
Nothing could curb his ebullient
spirits. At one time he lost the use of his right hand and
arm - a disaster for any artist. He managed to continue his
work, however, and after two years of improvised drawing methods,
the trouble was corrected by Surgery. Later, when he was nearly
fifty years old, he had a prolonged bout with peritonitis.
He was such a well known and beloved person that when the
word spread that he was not expected to live, national figures
sent eulogies to be used in newspapers, obituaries were written,
and the Iowa Senate voted a resolution of regret for his illness.
That very day he began to recover, and soon was able to read
what would have been printed about him, had he died. Thus
he became one of the few men with both the opportunity and
the inclination to laugh at his own obituaries.
During and after his 48 active
years as both a cartoonist and conservationist, Mr. Darling
was showered with honors in both fields and could have received
many more that he did accept. He was the recipient of two
honorary doctorates, two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, and
innumerable medals and awards; he was a member, chairman,
secretary, or trustee of literally dozens of organizations.
Two lakes were named for him: Lake Darling in an Iowa state
park; and Lake Jay Darling, a waterfowl nesting area in Saskatchewan,
Canada, a project supported by Ducks Unlimited, Inc. From
1936 to 1938 he served as president of the National Wildlife
Federation and was thereafter an honorary life president of
it. At the time of his death he and Walt Disney were cochairmen
of National Wildlife Week.
In 1934 and 1935 he let slide
his substantial income as a cartoonist to go to Washington
as Chief of the Biological Survey. His deep concern at the
plight of our migratory birds and his vigorous efforts on
their behalf made him known as "the best friend ducks
The Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp
Act was passed in July 1934. Mr. Darling designed the first
stamp himself, and nearly all the money derived from the sale
of that and all subsequent duck stamps has been used for the
purchase, development, administration and maintenance of waterfowl
Mr. Darling died at 85 of a
heart ailment in Iowa Methodist Hospital early in February
1962. He was survived by his wife, a son, and one daughter.