Thursday, August 18, 2022

The First UFO Pictures... & Cartoons

UFO Scrapbook: Artistic Depictions from the First Month of Flying Saucers

The first flying saucer picture? It may have been the one shown below, a drawing in the Idaho Statesman, June 28, 1947, based on the testimony of Kenneth Arnold.


Idaho Statesman, June 28, 1947

Arnold later wrote up an account of his sighting sent it to the Air Force, who acknowledged receipt of it on July 10, 1947. The report included Arnold’s own illustration of the objects he saw.

Newspaper UFO Illustrations 

In the early rush to cover the saucer mystery, you’d expect that newspaper articles would have featured witness sketches or artists’ renderings, but those were rare. Most of the artwork was by cartoonists and published on the editorial pages, frequently using the topic to satirize economic or political issues. Very few of the cartoons or illustrations dealt with theories of the origin of the UFOs, but there were a few interesting exceptions. Here’s our sampling of about twenty UFO drawings from the first month of saucers.

The Miami News, July 6, 1947, a gag about the economy.


Denver PostJuly 6, 1947, featured an imaginative illustration of the interior of a flying saucer by Charles Schneeman, who had a long career before and after UFOs as a science fiction artist.


“If you're one of the unimaginative people who haven’t yet seen a flying disc, this artist’s drawing might help you see one the next time you're outdoors. The drawing, by Post staff artist Charles Schneeman, shows his conception of the interior of a flying disc, always providing that there are such things, and that they are man-made. Part of the problematic crew is shown peering through a porthole at another of the sailing saucers. The disc jockeys at the controls, from left to right, are NOT Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Superman.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 7, 1947, a gag suggesting the sightings were the product of imagination, "intoxication" due to the fear of atomic war. 

Daily News, July 7, 1947: One legend eyes a new one invading its territory.

July 7, 1947: the International News Service sent out an illustration in connection with sightings in Idaho. It was signed by “CP” and the text stated, “Above is an artist's conception of what the now-you-see-them-now-you-don't discs might look like if they turn out to be man-made devices.”

Shortly afterwards, it was circulated as a general illustration in many papers: 

“HERE'S FLYING SAUCER as envisioned by artist after hearing latest ‘eyewitness’ reports. This saucer has everything but the cup and a man from Mars in the cockpit.”

These three address the economy, business, and politics.

Des Moines Tribune, July 8, 1947

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 8, 1947

Hartford Courant, July 8, 1947

At the time, few people were mentioning aliens in connections with saucers, and most of them were kooks or jokers. Denver Post, July 8, 1947, was one of the many newspapers featuring the satirical column by Hal Boyle, who claimed to have gone on a saucer voyage into space with a Martian cyclops. The Post’s version of the column included the illustration below, artist unknown.

The economy again and again:

Asbury Park Press, July 9, 1947

The Burlington Free Press, July 9, 1947

Crockery - literal flying saucers was a frequent theme.

Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY) July 10, 1947

The Morning News (Wilmington, DE) July 10, 1947

The Times Record (Troy, NY) July 10, 1947

The cost of living...

The Gazette (Montreal, CA) July 12, 1947

The Marysville Advocate (KS) July 17, 1947

Arizona Republic, July 26, 1947

Now for something different, a collection showcasing the overuse of saucers in cartoons.

Florence Morning News (SC) July 20, 1947

In Life magazine July 21, 1947, “Speaking of Pictures” was a light-hearted illustrated article that compared the saucers to ancient apparitions and follies. The caption stated:   

“The explanation of the flying disks drawn by Boris Artzybasheff shows residents of the planet Neptune gleefully bombarding the universe with stacks of crockery fired by atomic saucer-launchers. Neptunians thus far have aimed only saucers at the earth (top) but more favored planets have been shelled with teapots and dinner plates.”

Muggs and Skeeter by Wally Bishop may have been the first daily comic strip to use a flying saucer gag.

The Press Democrat, July 27, 1947.

There's no date on this 1947 cartoon, but it’s worth including due to the ET Expedition gag. From the aviation cartoon series, “Plane Nonsense” by Floyd E. Hill.

We’ve saved this picture for last, a flying saucer that appeared in an advertisement one month before people were supposed to be seeing UFOs. It was a plug for the paper's comic strip section featuring a space ship "of tomorrow." The art was from
 Buck Rogers, where such things had been featured since 1929.

The Long Beach Independent, May 9, 1947.

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