Iconic Cartoon of Los Angeles crying for rescue

This cartoon, sketched when we were wee lads (or not born at all), beautifully typified the region’s desperation for state and federal assistance combatting air pollution. It took an excruciatingly long time to arrive. Look closely at this cartoon, and you can feel the anguish of the actual cartoonist. Notice the apocalyptic gas mask face below City Hall’s hollering face. Sacramento and Washington D.C.’s glacial response to L.A.’s murk makes Southern California’s campaign against smog all that more extraordinary. It’s a topic we explore it in depth in our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. It rolls out next month by The Ovelook Press/Penguin U.S.A.

The federal government’s now-defunct Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the early 1970s compiled and disseminated a brochure of smog cartoons like this from the nation’s periodicals. It was called No Laughing Matter, and it was aimed at the average citizen. Officials probably believed that people, after a few chuckles, would realize that surrender and dark humor was no way to solve a crisis. If you’d like see more of these cartoons, check out the CLASSIC DOCS page.

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