Sidney Conrad Strube
Sidney Strube (pronounced "Stroobee") was born in Bishopsgate, London, on 30 December 1892, the son of Conrad Frederick Strube, a German-born wine merchant who kept the Coach and Horses pub in Charing Cross Road. Strube studied at St Martin's School of Art, and then began work as a junior draughtsman with a furnishing company. In 1910, after working in an advertising agency drawing electrical equipment, he attended the John Hassall School of Art. A General Election cartoon in the Daily Express inspired him to draw cartoons, and Hassall encouraged him to submit caricatures to the Conservative & Unionist magazine. After four were accepted he had further work published in Bystander, Evening Times and The Throne and Country.
The 1911 Census shows Strube still living at the Coach and Horses, as an art student working in advertising. As Strube recalled, he sent material to several London papers, but "very little of it ever got past the office boys", until he left a cartoon at the Daily Express. This anti-socialist cartoon had been refused by The Throne and Country, but the Daily Express printed it the next day - 14 September 1912. Strube quickly signed an exclusive freelance contract with the paper, and his cartoons were so successful that in December 1913 the Daily Express issued the first album of his cartoons.
Strube's career at the paper was interrupted by the outbreak of First World War in 1914. He joined the army in 1915, becoming a corporal in the Artists' Rifles. For part of his service he was a physical training and bayonet instructor, on one occasion filling a bayonet practice dummy with red paint, causing a new recruit to faint. He served in France, sending back cartoons from the front - one entitled "Back to Rest" being especially treasured by the Daily Express editorial department, as it was "done with liquid mud from the trenches". On demobilisation in December 1918 Strube, still only twenty-six years old, returned to the Daily Express as staff political cartoonist, and the paper ran the headline "STRUBE COMES BACK."
Strube was described as "a short, sturdy, blue-eyed, clean-shaven young man with a pipe between his teeth and a trick of astringent repartee". His work was increasingly popular with Daily Express readers. The key, he told an interviewer in 1920, was sincerity: "Treat things lightly if you can, but if a crisis is really serious you must handle it with dignity. The public always know if a chap is sincere in his ideas and work." He worked in indian ink on board, but first produced roughs to show the editor. "For every cartoon that appears", it was noted in 1923, "there are generally five or six 'also rans' lying around faintly traced in pencil on drawing boards."
Particularly suited to the Daily Express was the "Little Man" character that Strube developed. With his umbrella, bow-tie and bowler hat, he became a national symbol of the long-suffering man-in-the-street, struggling, in Strube's words, "with his everyday grumbles and problems, trying to keep his ear to the ground, his nose to the grindstone, his eye to the future and his chin up - all at the same time." The "Little Man" was a cautious optimist, who, according to Strube, "always carried an umbrella on a fine day because he thought it would rain - but always believed it would clear up."
In 1927 Strube married the Daily Express fashion artist Marie Allwright. An immensely popular artist, Strube was now also one of the highest paid. By 1931 the Daily Express was paying him £10,000 a year, after it had been obliged to match an offer made by its circulation rival, the Daily Herald, in an attempt to lure him away (the Daily Herald settled for Dyson instead). Strube disliked publicity, and the Daily Express respected his desire for anonymity, which it noted was "born of shyness and a belief that the characters he drew were more important than he." However, a figure of Strube appeared in Madame Tussauds in 1934 (alongside David Low and Percy Fearon), and in 1937 the Daily Express published a photograph of him, to celebrate twenty-five years with the paper.
During the Second World War Strube produced a number of memorable poster designs including "Yield Not an Inch! Waste Not a Minute" and "The Three Salvageers". In addition he drew advertisements for Guinness and others. His work remained popular after the war, but in 1948 Strube was suddenly sacked after a disagreement with the editor of the Daily Express, Arthur Christiansen. He was succeeded as Political Cartoonist by Cummings, who alternated with Giles. Strube went on to freelance for the Sunday Times, Time & Tide, Everybody's and Tatler.
An admirer of Partridge, Frank Reynolds and Low, Strube worked on Whatman board with indian ink, after sketching preliminary outlines in pencil. In 1927 one journalist described Strube's working on the roughs, his face "set and solemn": "When he is sorting out his ideas he takes a piece of drawing board and his pencil begins to dance over it, making little rough scrawls which resolve themselves into Mr Baldwin's pipe, Mr Ramsay MacDonald's moustache, a tall stove-pipe hat to which becomes added the face of Sir William Joynson Hicks." He only smiled when the rough was complete, and he began transferring it to Bristol board.
Strube was fond of allegorical characters, and in 1942 a writer described calling at his office in the Daily Express building to find him standing in front of the large mirror: "He balanced a drawing-board on his left arm, a pencil was in his right hand, his trousers were rolled up over his knees. 'I'm Mars,' he explained, 'working against time. Got to be wired to Glasgow and Manchester in half an hour.' " A fastidious worker, his motto was "Never let it go until you are satisfied - and never be satisfied!"
Strube never allowed malice to enter his cartoons, and was known familiarly as "George", from his habit of addressing others by this name - although his son really was called George. He was made a Freeman of the City of London, and was a member of the London Sketch Club and the Savage. In April 1955 Strube was still doing advertising work for Guinness, but he died at his home in Golders Green on 4 March 1956, after suffering from heart trouble for many years.
- Daily Express, 17 December 1913, p.5 col.7, "Cartoons in Book Form."
- Daily Express, 11 December 1918, p.5 col.4, "Strube Comes Back."
- "Bax" [Beverley Baxter] "Humour in Black and White", Daily Express, 4 October 1920, p.4 col.4.
- H.V. M[orton] "The Gentle Art of Strubeism", Daily Express, 11 May 1923, p.6 col.4.
- Daily Express, 11 December 1937, p.10, "Cartoonist at Home."
- Percy V. Bradshaw They Make Us Smile (London, 1942), p.82.
- Daily Express, 6 January 1950, p.3 col.6, "Strube."
- The Times, 5 March 1956, p.13 col.1, "Strube: A Kind Caricaturist."
- Hampstead and Highgate Express, 9 March 1956, p.5, "Obituary: Strube to readers, George to friends."
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.216-7.
177 originals and copies (GS0837 - 1014)
5 photographs of artwork GS0001 - 0005
4 boxes Strube Archive letters, press cuttings and related ephemera
1 cutting from Daily Express (18/6/45)
1 lead alloy printing block (GS0791) - donated by Frank Calaghan (Bay 5)