Robert Minor

Robert Berkeley "Bob" Minor (1884 – 1952) was a political cartoonist, a radical journalist, and, beginning in 1920, a leading member of the American Communist Party.

Robert Minor in 1919.


Early life

Robert Minor, best known to those who knew him by the nickname "Bob," was born July 15, 1884, in San Antonio, Texas. Minor came from old and respected family lines. On his father's side, General John Minor had served as Thomas Jefferson's Presidential campaign manager; his mother was related to General Sam Houston, first President of the Republic of Texas.[1] His father was a school teacher and lawyer, later elected as a judge,[2] while his maternal grandfather was a doctor.[3]

Despite the notable family forefathers, Bob Minor was not brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth — rather he was the product of what one historian has called "the hard-up, run-down middle class," living in an "unpainted frontier cottage in San Antonio."[3] Minor was unable to begin school until age 10 due to his family's dire financial straits before leaving school at age 14 to take a job as a Western Union messenger boy to help support his family.[4] Minor left home two years later, going to work at a variety of different jobs, including time spent as a sign painter, a carpenter, a farm worker, and a railroad laborer.[5]

In 1904, at the age of twenty, Robert Minor was hired as an assistant stereotypist and handyman at the San Antonio Gazette, where he developed his artistic talent in his spare time. Minor emerged as an accomplished political cartoonist.

An example of Minor's early pen-and-ink work in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (1911).

Minor moved to St. Louis to take a position as a cartoonist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Minor's work, initially very conventional in form using pen-and-ink, was transformed by his move to the use of grease crayon on paper. Minor gained recognition as the chief cartoonist at the Post-Dispatch and was considered by many to be among the best in the country.

In 1911, Robert Minor was hired by the New York World, where he became the highest paid cartoonist in the United States.[6] His father was on a parallel path of advancement, transformed by a 1910 election "from an unsuccessful lawyer to an influential district judge."[7]

Journalistic career

At Last a Perfect Soldier
A controversial Minor cartoon from the July 1916 issue of The Masses. The caption reads: "Army Medical Examiner: 'At last — a perfect soldier!'"

In 1907 Minor joined the Socialist Party of America but by the beginning of 1912 he had moved towards an anarchist orientation and support of revolutionary industrial unionism.[8]

Minor had saved several hundred dollars earned in St. Louis and decided that he wanted to go to Paris to attend art school to perfect his craft. In France he enrolled in a class at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the French national art school, but he found the experience unsatisfying.[9] Minor spent the rest of his time in Paris studying art on his own and taking part in the left wing labor movement through the Socialist Party of France.[9] Minor returned to the United States in 1914, just prior to the outbreak of World War I.

The year 1914 saw Minor in the unusual position of being paid but unable to work, with an old contract he had signed with the New York World continuing to pay him a salary merely to keep him from drawing for other papers.[10] However, with the outbreak of hostilities in August Minor began to make a series of aggressive and provocative cartoons attacking both sides of the European conflict for their imperialism. While The World initially began to use these cartoons, it was not long before Minor came to the banks of the Rubicon, when his employer demanded that the artist begin to draw pro-war panels. Minor was unalterably opposed to the World War and was faced with a choice between his paycheck and his beliefs. His convictions won and Minor was successful in having his contract with The World annulled.[10]

On June 1, 1915, Minor moved to the New York Call, a Socialist Party-affiliated daily broadsheet.[11] Minor also began contributing aggressively anti-war cartoons to Max Eastman's radical New York monthly, The Masses. Minor's radical cartoons would later provide fodder for the United States government's prosecution of The Masses for alleged violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, a legal assault which would eventually lead to the demise of the magazine. Minor was sent as a war correspondent of The Call to Europe, where he wrote from France and Italy. Part of Minor's European expenses were being borne by a liberal newspaper syndicate in exchange for use of his drawings from the front. The syndicate found themselves unable to use the radical material which Minor was by this time producing and The Call was forced to recall him from Europe.[10]

In 1916, Minor was dispatched by The Call to Mexico to cover the American intervention there.[10] When the "Mexican War" came to a sudden conclusion, Minor went to California for a rest. There he became deeply involved in the defense campaign of radical trade unionists Tom Mooney and Warren Billings in their highly publicized legal case accusing them of bombing of the 1916 San Francisco "Preparedness Day" parade. Minor worked full-time for a year and a half as the publicity director for the International Workers Defense League, an organization established to provide legal support and build public sympathy for Mooney and Billings and their co-defendants. Minor authored several pamphlets in 1917 and 1918 and spoke to a wide range of audiences about the alleged "frame-up" being perpetrated on the radical trade unionists.[12]

The Call, dispatched Minor to Europe as a war correspondent in 1918, with Minor continuing to contribute material on the European revolutionary movement to the successor to The Masses, The Liberator. In May 1918 Minor arrived in Soviet Russia, where he remained until November. While there, he met Lenin and wrote anti-war propaganda for distribution to English-speaking troops involved in the invasion of Soviet Russia.[13] The experience proved to be a watershed for Minor, winning him over to the cause of communism. Minor later traveled to Germany, where he saw the German Revolution firsthand, and thereafter to France.

While in Paris in 1919, Minor was arrested and charged with treason for advising French railway workers to strike against the shipment of munitions to interventionist forces in Soviet Russia.[12] Minor was shipped out to Germany, where he was confined in the American military prison at Coblenz, Germany for several weeks,[12] eventually gaining his release due in large measure to political pressure exerted by his well-connected family in America.[14]

Political career

American Communist Party leaders William Z. Foster, Robert Minor, and Israel Amter arrested in conjunction with International Unemployment Day, 6 March 1930.

Upon his return to the America in 1920, Minor immediately joined the underground American Communist Party.[13] Minor was a supporter of the United Communist Party in the convoluted factional struggle of the day, joining the newly unified Communist Party of America (CPA) along with the rest of his organization when the UCP merged with the old CPA in the spring of 1921.[15]

After the merger of the UCP with the old CPA in May 1921, Minor, using his underground pseudonym of "Ballister," was sent to Soviet Russia as the representative of the newly unified party to the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI). Minor was also a delegate of the CPA to the 3rd World Congress of the Comintern, held in Moscow in June 1921. While there, he met Lenin for a second time.[13] Minor was recalled to America by the CPA in November 1921, replaced as American "Rep" to the Comintern by L.E. Katterfeld.

Minor was cooptated to the governing Central Executive Committee of the CPA on April 24, 1922, by decision of the CEC itself.[16] He was re-elected in his own right at the ill-fated August 1922 convention held on the shores of Lake Michigan just outside the tiny Michigan town of Bridgman. This convention was raided by local and Michigan state authorities, acting in concert with the Bureau of Investigation of the U.S. Department of Justice, who had an undercover agent sitting as a delegate. Wanted by the police, Minor surrendered with 9 others on March 10, 1923, and was released shortly thereafter on $1,000 bond. He was never tried for this alleged violation of the Michigan criminal syndicalism law.

From 1923 to 1924, Minor sat on the Executive Committee of the Friends of Soviet Russia, the American affiliate of the Comintern's Workers International Relief organization.[12] He was also elected to the governing Central Executive Committee of the CPA's "legal" political offshoot, the Workers Party of America, elected by the conventions of that organization in 1922 and 1923.[13] He was returned to ECCI in 1926 at the time of the 7th Enlarged Plenum of ECCI and was elected to the ECCI's inner circle, the Presidium, using the party-name "Duncan."[13] Minor was also elected as an alternate to the Comintern's Budget Commission.

Minor became responsible for the Party's Central Committee for Negro Work, and oversaw the Communists attempts to build unity with Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. During the tumultuous factional politics of the middle 1920s, Minor was a loyalist to the faction headed by C.E. Ruthenberg, John Pepper, and Jay Lovestone. Minor had been disappointed by the watering down of the "Negro Equality" proposal the Communists submitted to the founding convention of the Farmer–Labor Party in 1924. He believed the party leadership under William Z. Foster "went along with ... concessions in the hope of mollifying antiblack southern farmers and AFL leaders with an eye toward future cooperation."[17]

On March 6, 1930, Minor was part of a great series of demonstrations of the unemployed conducted around the United States under the guidance of the Communist Party. Minor was arrested at the demonstration held in Union Square in New York City, a rally which ended in a riot pitting marchers and police. Minor was arrested in conjunction with these events, together with his Communist Party comrades William Z. Foster, Israel Amter, and Harry Felton. The four were sentenced to 3 year terms in the New York state penitentiary.[10] After serving 6 months in jail, Minor fell ill with appendicitis, which caused him to be taken out in an ambulance to a private hospital for surgery. Minor spent the better part of the next two years attempting to recover his health.[10]

Bob Minor ran for elective political office a number of times. In 1924 he ran for U.S. Congress in Illinois as a candidate of the Workers Party for an at-large seat. In 1928, he ran on the Workers (Communist) Party ticket for U.S. Senator from New York.[18] He ran for Congress from New York in 1930 and again ten years later. He also ran for Mayor of New York City in 1933, and in 1936 he headed the state Communist ticket as the party's candidate for Governor of New York.[19]

At the 7th World Congress of the Comintern in 1935, Minor was elected to the Comintern's International Control Commission, which dealt with personnel assignments and questions of discipline. He was an unflinching supporter of every twist and turn of Soviet foreign policy throughout the decade of the 1930s.[13]

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Robert Minor went to Spain and helped to organize the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, a unit of international volunteered that helped the Spanish Popular Front government in the battle against General Francisco Franco and his Nazi-supported fascists.

In 1941, with Communist Party General Secretary Earl Browder jailed for passport charges, Minor served as the acting General Secretary of the party.[13]

In 1945, as a member of the CPUSA's governing National Committee, Minor dissociated himself from the discredited Browder, but he was nonetheless relegated to the role of Washington correspondent of The Daily Worker.[13]

Death and legacy

Bob Minor suffered a heart attack in 1948 and was bedridden during the time of McCarthyism when his fellow leaders of the American Communist Party were arrested and imprisoned. Owing to his frail health, the United States government chose not to proceed against him. He died in 1952, survived by his wife, the artist Lydia Gibson. The couple had no children.

Minor is remembered by some as the inspiration for the fictional character "Don Stevens" in John Dos Passos' trilogy USA.[20]

The historian Theodore Draper opined:

"Minor is a study in extremes. A truly gifted and powerful cartoonist, he renounced art for politics. He made this gesture of total subservience to politics after years as an anarchist despising and denouncing politics. But he could not transfer his genius from art to politics. The stirring drawings were replaced by boring and banal speeches. He had none of the gifts of the natural politician, his stock in trade was limited to platitudes and slogans. The wild man, tamed, became a political hack. If as an anarchist he had believed that politics was a filthy business, as a Communist he still seemed to believe it was — only now it was his business."[21]

Robert Minor's papers are housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript section on the 6th floor of Butler Library at Columbia University. Approximately 15,000 items are included in the collection, which is housed in some 65 archival boxes.[22]


  1. ^ Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism. New York: Viking Press, 1957; pg. 121.
  2. ^ Solon DeLeon (ed.), The American Labor Who's Who. New York: Hanford Press, 1925; pg. 162.
  3. ^ a b Draper, The Roots of American Communism, pg. 121.
  4. ^ "Philip Sterling, "Robert Minor: The Life Story of New York's Communist Candidate for Mayor," The Daily Worker, vol. 10, no. 218 (September 11, 1933), pg. 5.
  5. ^ DeLeon, The American Labor Who's Who, pg. 162.
  6. ^ Draper, The Roots of American Communism, pg. 122, citing Minor's "official biographer."
  7. ^ Draper, The Roots of American Communism, pg. 122.
  8. ^ Branko Lazitch and Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; pg. 318.
  9. ^ a b Philip Sterling, "Robert Minor: The Life Story of New York's Communist Candidate for Mayor, Part 3," The Daily Worker, vol. 10, no. 221 (September 14, 1933), pg. 5.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Philip Sterling, "Robert Minor: The Life Story of New York's Communist Candidate for Mayor, Part 4," The Daily Worker, vol. 10, no. 222 (September 15, 1933), pg. 5.
  11. ^ "'Bob' Minor," New York Call, vol. 8, no. 152 (June 1, 1915), pg. 1.
  12. ^ a b c d DeLeon (ed.), The American Labor Who's Who, pg. 162.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 318.
  14. ^ Minor's father, Robert B. Minor, was by then a judge of the 57th Texas State Judicial Circuit Court.
  15. ^ For information on the factional divisions of the American Communist movement, see Early American Marxism website, "The Communist Party of America (1919-1946): Party History" at
  16. ^ Early American Marxism website, "Communist Party (1919-1946): Party Officials," at
  17. ^ Mark Solomon. The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1936. University Press of Mississippi. Jackson, 1998. p. 37
  18. ^ "Red Ticket Goes on Ballot in NY State," Daily Worker, vol. 5, no. 241 (October 11, 1928), pg. 3.
  19. ^ "Robert Minor," The Political Retrieved February 19, 2010.
  20. ^ Dee Garrison, Mary Heaton Vorse: The Life of an American Insurgent. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989. Page 186.
  21. ^ Draper, The Roots of American Communism, pg. 126.
  22. ^ "Rober Minor papers, 1907-1952," Butler Library, Columbia University, collection no. Ms Coll\Minor.


Books and pamphlets


  • "Have You A Country?", Revolt, Vol. I, no. 2 (January 15, 1916), pp. 6–7.
  • "Our 'C.E.': In Memory of C.E. Ruthenberg, July 9, 1882 - March 2, 1927," The Communist, vol. 14, no. 3 (March 1935), pp. 217–226.

External links

1928 New York state election

The 1928 New York state elections were held on November 6, 1928, to elect the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the State Comptroller, the Attorney General, a U.S. Senator and a judge of the New York Court of Appeals, as well as all members of the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate.

1936 New York state election

The 1936 New York state election was held on November 3, 1936, to elect the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the State Comptroller, the Attorney General, a judge of the New York Court of Appeals and two U.S. Representatives-at-large, as well as all members of the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate.

1936 United States gubernatorial elections

United States gubernatorial elections were held in 1936, in 34 states, concurrent with the House, Senate elections and presidential election, on November 3, 1936 (September 14 in Maine).

This was the last time Georgia elected its governors to two year terms, switching to four years from the 1938 election.

1942 New York state election

The 1942 New York state election was held on November 3, 1942, to elect the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the State Comptroller, the Attorney General and two U.S. Representatives At-large, as well as all members of the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate.

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita (; Sanskrit: भगवद्गीता, IAST: bhagavad-gītā, lit. "The Song of God"), often referred to as the Gita, is a 700-verse Sanskrit scripture that is part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata (chapters 23–40 of Bhishma Parva).

The Gita is set in a narrative framework of a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna. At the start of the Dharma Yudhha (righteous war) between Pandavas and Kauravas, Arjuna is filled with moral dilemma and despair about the violence and death the war will cause. He wonders if he should renounce and seeks Krishna's counsel, whose answers and discourse constitute the Bhagadvad Gita. Krishna counsels Arjuna to "fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty to uphold the Dharma" through "selfless action". The Krishna–Arjuna dialogue cover a broad range of spiritual topics, touching upon ethical dilemmas and philosophical issues that go far beyond the war Arjuna faces.The Bhagavad Gita presents a synthesis of Hindu ideas about dharma, theistic bhakti, and the yogic ideals of moksha. The text covers jnana, bhakti, karma, and Raja Yoga (spoken of in the 6th chapter) incorporating ideas from the Samkhya-Yoga philosophy.Numerous commentaries have been written on the Bhagavad Gita with widely differing views on the essentials. Vedanta commentators read varying relations between Self and Brahman in the text: Advaita Vedanta sees the non-dualism of Atman (soul) and Brahman as its essence, whereas Bhedabheda and Vishishtadvaita see Atman and Brahman as both different and non-different, and Dvaita sees them as different. The setting of the Gita in a battlefield has been interpreted as an allegory for the ethical and moral struggles of the human life.The Bhagavad Gita is the best known and most famous of Hindu texts, with a unique pan-Hindu influence. The Gita's call for selfless action inspired many leaders of the Indian independence movement including Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi; the latter referred to it as his "spiritual dictionary".

Cornelia Barns

Cornelia Baxter Barns (1888–1941) was an American feminist, socialist, and political cartoonist.

Daily Worker

The Daily Worker was a newspaper published in New York City by the Communist Party USA, a formerly Comintern-affiliated organization. Publication began in 1924. While it generally reflected the prevailing views of the party, attempts were made to reflect a broader spectrum of left-wing opinion. At its peak, the newspaper achieved a circulation of 35,000. Contributors to its pages included Robert Minor and Fred Ellis (cartoonists), Lester Rodney (sports editor), David Karr, Richard Wright, John L. Spivak, Peter Fryer, Woody Guthrie and Louis F. Budenz.

Farmer–Labor Party

The first modern Farmer–Labor Party in the United States emerged in Minnesota in 1918. Economic dislocation caused by American entry into World War I put agricultural prices and workers' wages into imbalance with rapidly escalating retail prices during the war years, and farmers and workers sought to make common cause in the political sphere to redress their grievances.

Labor Defender

Labor Defender (1926–1937) was a magazine published by the International Labor Defense (ILD), itself a legal advocacy organization established in 1925 as the American section of the Comintern's International Red Aid network and thus as support to the Communist Party (which in 1926 was legally the Workers Party of America).

Lydia Gibson

Lydia Gibson (1891-1964) was an American socialist illustrator who contributed work to The Masses, The Liberator, The Workers' Monthly, The New Masses, and other radical publications.

Mollie Steimer

Mollie (or Molly) Stimer (Russian: Молли Штеймер; November 21, 1897 – July 23, 1980) was born as Marthe Alperine in Tsarist Russia. She immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 15. She became an anarchist and activist who fought as a trade unionist, an anti-war activist and a free-speech campaigner.

Arrested in 1918 for printing and distributing leaflets denouncing the U.S. military action in Russia opposing the Bolshevik revolution, she was convicted under the Sedition Act and sentenced to 15 years in prison. She was deported to her native Russia in 1921, where she met anarchist Senya Fleshin who would become her lifelong partner. After protesting Bolshevik persecutions of anarchists in Russia, the two were deported to Germany in 1923. When Hitler came to power in Germany they fled to France and eventually made their way to Mexico where they spent the rest of their lives together.

Mother Earth (magazine)

Mother Earth was an American anarchist journal that described itself as "A Monthly Magazine Devoted to Social Science and Literature". Founded in early 1906 and initially edited by Emma Goldman, an activist in the United States, it published articles by contemporary activists and writers in Europe as well as the US, in addition to essays by historic figures.


Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.

Robert M. Wallace

Robert Minor Wallace (August 6, 1856 – November 9, 1942) was a U.S. Representative from Arkansas.

Born in New London, Arkansas, Wallace attended the common schools, and was graduated from Arizona Seminary, Arizona, Louisiana, in 1876.

He studied law.

He was admitted to the bar at Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1879 and commenced the practice of law in El Dorado, Arkansas.

He served as member of the State house of representatives in 1881 and 1882.

United States post office inspector 1887-1891.

He served as prosecuting attorney for the thirteenth judicial circuit of Arkansas in 1891 and 1892.

He served as assistant United States attorney in 1894.

Wallace was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-eighth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1903-March 3, 1911).

He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1910 to the Sixty-second Congress.

He resumed the practice of his profession at Hot Springs and Little Rock and also engaged in lecturing for the Chautauqua and for the Anti-Saloon League.

He moved to Magnolia, Arkansas, where he died on November 9, 1942.

He was interred in Magnolia Cemetery.

Robert Minor (disambiguation)

Robert Minor is the name of:

Robert Minor, American political cartoonist and Communist leader

Robert Crannell Minor, American artist

Robert Lee Minor, American stunt performer and actor

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the major regional newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, serving St. Louis City and County, St. Charles County, the Metro East and surrounding counties (roughly, the Greater St. Louis area). It is the only daily newspaper in the city. The publication has received 19 Pulitzer Prizes.The paper is owned by Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, which purchased Pulitzer, Inc. in 2005 in a cash deal valued at $1.46 billion.

The Blast (magazine)

The Blast was a semi-monthly anarchist periodical published by Alexander Berkman in San Francisco, California, USA from 1916 through 1917. The publication had roots in Emma Goldman's magazine Mother Earth, having been launched when her former consort Berkman left his editorial position at that publication.

The Liberator (magazine)

The Liberator was a monthly socialist magazine established by Max Eastman and his sister Crystal Eastman in 1918 to continue the work of The Masses, which was shut down by the wartime mailing regulations of the U.S. government. Intensely political, the magazine included copious quantities of art, poetry, and fiction along with political reporting and commentary. The publication was an organ of the Communist Party of America (CPA) from late 1922 and was merged with two other publications to form The Workers Monthly in 1924.

The Masses

The Masses was a graphically innovative magazine of socialist politics published monthly in the United States from 1911 until 1917, when federal prosecutors brought charges against its editors for conspiring to obstruct conscription. It was succeeded by The Liberator and then later The New Masses. It published reportage, fiction, poetry and art by the leading radicals of the time such as Max Eastman, John Reed, Dorothy Day, and Floyd Dell.

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