John D. Does a Mural for Radio City

John D. Rockefeller Jr. painting a mural representing prohibition
John D. Rockefeller Jr. painting a mural representing prohibition

John D. Does a Mural for Radio City

John Francis Knott, October 26, 1933

As the Roaring Twenties swung by with economic prosperity, cultural dynamisms, and progressivism, the law of the land prohibited the use or sale of alcohol. As Public Policy, However, Prohibition was a complete failure. Illustrating this on October 26, 1933, John Knott published John D. Does a Mural for Radio City, a complex, controversial political cartoon exemplifying the government’s condemnation of prohibition and the liquor problem.

The complexity of the drawing mirrors that of the Prohibition conundrum; Knott presents the problem – the 18th amendment – with a dry barrel and a vacant saloon (Findlaw). The said amendment was placed in effect to eliminate alcoholism and lower crime; however, it was “not free from bootlegging and liquor control evasions” (The Liquor Problem). Noticeably, Uncle Sam, whose face is stern and displeased, suggests the nation’s dissatisfaction with the 18th amendment – Prohibition generated major political controversies and conflicts of interest in the country. Additionally, complete abstinence of alcohol caused a decline in tax revenues, a greater consumption of alcohol in Speakeasies, and corruption (History.com). According to Uncle Sam, the country required a solution.

Dissecting the cartoon further, Uncle Sam stares displeased at Lady Temperance, who forces an olive branch of peace and abstinence to the government. Many political groups believed alcohol was to blame for many of society’s problems including health problems, destitution, crime, and the overall destruction of families (PBS). Uncle Sam’s expression, however is dissatisfied, exhibits aloof towards Lady Temperance’s teetotalism. He believes that Temperance has caused destruction upon the country.

In the forefront of this cartoon, Knott places John D. Rockefeller Jr. as the artist of the problematic mural. Although the Rockefeller family supported the anti-saloon league and the temperance movement, Rockefeller personally “rejects the old license system and bone dry State prohibition [and] leans toward a State dispensary”(The Liquor Problem, Rockefeller). Therefore, Rockefeller commissioned the Fosdick-Scott survey to notify those in favor of the alcohol regulation. It stated, “Integrity and intelligence are of far greater importance than the administrative device” and reminded readers, “No dispensary system can exist when politics and graft handle it” (The Liquor Problem). The survey was a devise used to inform the public—providing a template for alcohol control (Serendipity). This controversial stance and survey of Rockefeller follows his controversial actions he displayed while constructing Radio City Music Hall (NPR). Humorously, Knott cleverly interjects the inappropriate mural removed by Rockefeller due to dissimilar visions between Rockefeller and renowned artist, Diego Rivera (New York Herald).

In summary, Knott exemplifies the country’s controversial liquor problem by illustrating Rockefeller’s position: America declines in social and economic status for each day held in prohibition. Exploiting Rockefeller’s views enlightens the public of Prohibition’s effects on the country. Although as controversial was his decision to remove Rivera’s mural, Rockefeller still painted the scenery to permanently end prohibition.

Citations

“Destroyed By Rockefellers, Mural Trespassed On Political Vision.” NPR. NPR, 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2014/03/09/287745199/destroyed-by-rockefellers-mural-trespassed-on-political-vision>.

“Eighteenth Amendment – U.S. Constitution – FindLaw.” Findlaw. Thomson Reuters, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment18.html>.

“The New York Herald.” New York Herald Tribune May 10, 1933. THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 10 May 1933. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma04/hess/rockrivera/newspapers/NYHerald_05_10_1933.html>.

“Prohibition.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/prohibition>.

“Prohibition.” PBS. PBS, 2011. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/roots-of-prohibition/>.

Rockefeller, John D., Jr. “Note.” Letter to Nicolas Murray Butler. 6 June 1932. Http://www.drugpolicy.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. <http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/RockefellerLetter1937.pdf>.

“Serendipity.” Serendipity. Merge Divide, 26 June 2007. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://dgrim.blogspot.com/2007/06/great-scheme-alcohol-based-fuels-ford.html>.

“The Liquor Problem.” America’s Historical Newspapers. Dallas Morning News, 26 Oct. 1933. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?