Jay N. “D’ing” Darling (1876 – 1962) had a way with words. His editorial cartoons spoke volumes to millions of eyes across the country. D”ing grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, where he fell in love with the prairies and wild spaces along the Missouri River. Fortunately for us, his love for the outdoors grew stronger throughout his life. Many of his cartoons, which were backed by his passion and leadership, helped shape America’s conservation principles and ideas.
Darling enrolled in Yankton College, South Dakota, in 1894. He was soon expelled for taking a joy ride in the President’s carriage (horseless, I presume). He shifted to Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin, in 1895 where he was made art director for the yearbook, the Codex. [Codex is a collection of old manuscript texts in book form, mostly Biblical Scriptures. I had to look it up … now you don’t.] D’ing had been drawing cartoons almost every day since his early teens. His family had dissuaded him from pursuing art as a career but here at Beloit he struck a rich vein of professional gold. As yearbook art director he produced several caricatures of professors in tutus and tartans which pictured them as part of a chorus line. This is also where he first used the contraction of his last name “D’ing” to sign his art. Here, once again, he was suspended for either poor grades or the drawings; D’ing claimed it was the former. He returned to Beloit and graduated in 1900.
As a cub reporter for the Sioux City Journal he was attempting to photograph a lawyer for an article he had written when the lawyer chased him out of the courtroom. D’ing used his artistic talents for a cartoon caricature of the lawyer instead of a photo. This event began his lifelong career as an editorial cartoonist. His nationally known editorial cartoons prompted the Des Moines Register to offer him a position which he accepted in 1906. D’ing flourished under the complete editorial freedom his new editor provided. The editor rarely refused to print his cartoons no matter who they offended.
Darling never lost his love for the outdoors. His work promoted and championed the passage of many natural resource conservation policies across the country. D’ing’s editorial cartoons struck right to the heart of many issues. In 1934 F.D.R. appointed D’ing as Chief of the Biological Service, today’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Although D’ing was a strong supporter of all things fish & wildlife, he was also a staunch Republican, and as a Republican he disliked most of F.D.R.s “new deal” policies. Given the political divide, this position might not have been a good “fit” for D’ing’s ideals.
Regardless of the political differences, D’ing led the Service vigorously for 20 months while making a slew of enemies with his direct talk and dogged persistence. As Chief he initiated the enormously successful Duck Stamp Act and designed the first duck stamp. Wouldn’t that would be a nice artifact to find tucked away in your grandfathers’ old hunting gear. Ira Gabrielson replaced him in 36’ and D’ing returned to the Des Moines Register. Just one job wasn’t enough for D’ing and he began organizing the National Wildlife Federation. He was elected as the first president of the organization in 1936.
This great cartoon by D’ing from the March, 1944, issue of Field & Stream predicted the future of unregulated and overfished fisheries, freshwater or ocean.