Don Herold: The greatest Hoosier humorist you’ve never heard of

Article adapted from Forgotten Hoosiers by Fred D. Cavinder

Herold was born in 1889, and he wrote about his rural upbringing and its cisterns, livery stable, courthouse, and country stores. As a boy he spent a lot of time around Asbury Haines’s barbershop, drawing pictures of those passing by. By 1907, he was a student at the nearby Indiana University, but Herold dropped out to attend the Chicago Art Institute. “I don’t believe college did me any permanent harm,” he joked later. 

Herold’s Contribution to Long live the Kaiser”-! Verses and drawings by the American press humorists (1917)

He may have been the most widely read and least-remembered Hoosier humorist of his era. Don Herold was born in Bloomfield and ended up operating an advertising agency in New York City. He worked for Life and Reader’s Digest and wrote a dozen books, all humorous. In one of his Reader’s Digest pieces, titled “If I had my life to live over,” he wrote: “I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I know of very few things that I would take seriously.”

Herold eventually returned to IU and graduated. He worked for a time at the Indianapolis Star, where he produced full-page comics for the Sunday paper. Herold married Katherine Porter Brown, an Indianapolis art teacher, in August 1916, the same year he moved to New York. Herold wrote a syndicated newspaper column. He served as dramatic and movie critic for Life magazine for twelve years and was associated with Reader’s Digest; on the side he wrote books like Our Compassionate Goldfish (1927) and Drunks Are Driving Me to Drink (1953). 

Humorist Don Herald often returned to his hometown of Bloom eld, where the library had a section designated Don Herald Corner. Courtesy of the Bloom eld Public Library.

Images in Herold’s artwork often closely resembled himself. The Herold “character” had a round, bald head with only a vague suggestion of hair, precariously perched glasses and a nose as pointed as his discourse. 

“The most comfortable persons on a hayride are the horses.” – Don Herold

In June 1954, Herold returned to Indiana to receive IU’s Distinguished Service Alumni Medal, as one of eighteen living past presidents of the Indiana University Alumni Association. Learning that Herold was coming to the state, the City of Bloomfield set up Don Herold Day on June 15. Twelve of the twenty-three members of his high school class of 1907 greeted him outside town with a horse, instead of the usual celebrity Cadillac, and placed a sign in the high school saying “Don Herold Slept Here.” 

In introducing Herold, IU president Herman B. Wells gave his favorite Herold quote: “The most comfortable persons on a hayride are the horses.” He could have cited many, still often appearing today in books of quotations: “Funerals are a lost art in the big cities”; “I had, out of my 60 teachers, a scant half dozen who couldn’t have been supplanted by phonographs”; “Intellectuals should never marry; they won’t enjoy it, and besides, they should not reproduce themselves”; “What this country needs is a clearinghouse for coat hangers.”

Herold died on June 1, 1966, in his house at Vero Beach, Florida, where he spent winters, keeping busy at the drawing board even there. The Indiana Alumni magazine noted his passing with an article one and a half pages long, including the note that he hated obituaries and didn’t want his run. The magazine reported that one publication had quoted Herold as wishing this epithet on his tombstone: “I kept telling you I haven’t been feeling well.”