Category Archives: Fall 2015 – Knott Cartoons

Fall 2015 post interpreting the Briscoe Center’s Knott cartoons

If They Would Exchange Presents

Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.
Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott mocking the predicament of U.S. and European relations post-World War I. It depicts “Europe” giving the gift of disarmament to the U.S., represented by Uncle Sam, in exchange for war debt revisions. The cartoon implies that Europe would disarm if the U.S. would revise, or essentially decrease, European war debt; likewise, the cartoon suggests that the U.S. would gladly decrease European war debt if Europe were to disarm first (Knott 2). The accompanying editorial titled “The Reparations Problem” summarizes the context of the cartoon. It explains that by the end of 1931, the U.S. Congress finally gave approval for a one-year postponement of German reparations, acknowledging a proposal made in the previous year by then President Herbert Hoover. The U.S. Congress did not want to cancel war repayments, as it strongly indicated to the International Committee on Reparations, but instead wanted to suspend payments. The reason for Germany’s inability to pay was that it could only pay from borrowed money that it was no longer able to obtain or from money made off of exports that were heavily tariffed (“The Reparations Problem” 2).

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serbian nationalists in 1914 catapulted Europe into the First World War. The assassination set off a domino effect, causing country after country to get involved in the escalating conflict that eventually developed into World War I. What ensued after the war was the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, a meeting that established the terms of peace after the war, and during this conference the Treaty of Versailles was established (Cochran). The reparation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany was to take responsibility for the damages caused by World War I and that it must adhere to a payment schedule to pay back the cost of those damages. The mindset of the United States and its allies was that they were essentially dragged into the war out of obligation, and therefore should be repaid for everything lost in the war. However, it was known that Germany could not pay the entire costs of the war and that it was nearly impossible to create a realistic repayment schedule in 1919, the year that the treaty was signed. The Treaty of Versailles did not have a definitive reparation settlement (Merriman and Winter 2207). Therefore, naturally, Germany wanted debt revisions. Germany, however, wasn’t the only European country in debt. For example, in 1934, Britain still owed the US $4.4 billion of World War I debt (Rohrer). For this reason, Knott’s cartoon depicts “Europe” in need of war debt revision and not just Germany.

The disarmament portion of the cartoon pertains to the U.S.’s insistence on worldwide disarmament, highlighted in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal that said, “All countries should reduce their armed forces to the lowest possible levels (Multilateral disarmament.)” (Fuller). The Treaty of Versailles initiated the notion of disarmament by targeting Germany in particular, forcing them to take full blame for World War I and to disarm. “The German army was to be limited to 100,000 men and conscription proscribed; the treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet. Moreover, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force” (“Treaty of Versailles, 1919″).  The Treaty’s main concern was the disarmament of Germany. Politicians, journalists, and academics argued at the time that the naval race for arms was one of the major causes of the war. Based on this idea, the victors of the war decided to force Germany to disarm due to its previous invasion attempts toward France. It was thought that by forcing its disarmament, Germany was being stripped of its power to wage war (Merriman and Winter 856). Soon, this philosophy was expanded to include all European nations. “Following the atrocities of World War I, both nations [the U.S. and Great Britain] hoped to avoid any future conflicts, and both faced difficult economic times that restricted military spending. As a consequence, the two governments were willing to consider serious limits on offensive weapons” (World History Encyclopedia 593).

Reduction of conflict, however, wasn’t the only motivation behind disarmament. The Great Depression diverted attention from the issue of disarmament to debt and unemployment. In 1932, everyone owed America money, but because of the depression, few countries could repay their loans. The U.S. decided that if nations didn’t spend money on arms, they would be able to repay the United States; therefore, the U.S. called for worldwide disarmament (Bradley 38).

Knott’s cartoon represents a very circular predicament. The two entities were at a stalemate. The U.S. was the world’s major creditor nation, and in order to get paid back, it insisted on worldwide disarmament so that funds could be redirected to debt repayment. Europe, however, would only disarm if war debts were lowered and revised first. It was as though this political stalemate could only be resolved by some miracle.

That is exactly the point Knott wants to impress upon his audience. The illustration of the Christmas tree, along with the fact that the cartoon was being published on Christmas Eve, gives the cartoon an air of Christmas spirit. The term “Christmas Miracle” is typically used to emphasize how unlikely an event is to occur, and that seems to be what Knott is implying as the only solution to this conflict – a Christmas Miracle – given how unlikely a compromise seemed in 1931.  What is also humorous is how nonchalant the gift exchange is, almost trivializing the damages and lives lost in the war. It is as if there is no rivalry or conflict of interest between the two parties; it’s not as aggressive, or desperate, or even as somber as one would expect. It is definitely not a gift exchange of good will either; Christmas is regarded as a time of selfless generosity and community, a time of giving rather than receiving without the expectation of anything in return. However this is a very self-interested exchange, defying the traditional, selfless ideals of Christmas. These contradictions serve as indirect attacks on the U.S. and Europe’s inability to reach an agreement.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Knott that focused attention on and mocked the diplomatic gridlock between the U.S. and Europe. It uses the setting and themes of Christmas to criticize the two sides’ uncompromising stances toward disarmament and war debt revisions, comparing the successful exchange of “presents” to a Christmas Miracle. The cartoon serves as political commentary on post-World War I negotiations and ranks as one of Knott’s many politically motivated cartoons.

Works Cited

Bradley, F. J. He Gave the Order: The Life and Times of Admiral Osami Nagano. Bennington: Merriam Press, 2014. Google Books. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Cochran, Philip. Austin Community College. Austin, Texas. 27 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Fuller, Richard. “The Treaty of Versailles – 28th June 1919.” rpfuller. rpfuller, 3 June 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Disarmament.” Child Care to Futurism. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 855. Print. Vol. 2 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Reparations.” Nagy to Switzerland. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2206. Print. Vol. 4 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

“The Reparations Problem.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, 85th ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Rohrer, Finlo. “What’s a Little Debt between Friends?” BBC News. BBC News Magazine, 10 May 2006. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

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?

 

 

It Was a Fool’s Paradise

A snake is wrapped around an apple tree labeled "tree of unlimited credit" the are many apple cores littering the ground and a couple in plain clothes are walking away from the tree holding their stomachs and looking sick
A snake is wrapped around an apple tree labeled “tree of unlimited credit” the are many apple cores littering the ground and a couple in plain clothes are walking away from the tree holding their stomachs and looking sick

In John Francis Knott’s 1933 cartoon “It Was a Fool’s Paradise,” we see a man and woman walking away from an apple tree labeled “tree of unlimited credit” (Knott). The snake wrapped around this tree makes the biblical allusion to Adam and Eve quite obvious. The couple is holding their stomachs with sick expressions on their faces. The obscene amount of apple cores found on ground tell the reader that this expression is likely caused by overindulgence. In the biblical tale of Adam and Eve the latter eats a piece of forbidden fruit and damns the rest of humanity to be compelled to sin. However when read with the accompanying article “We Just Thought We Had” it becomes obvious that Knott’s cartoon is not commentary on original sin, but rather on the frivolous spending of unsound credit in the United States a few years prior, and how it ultimately caused the Great Depression.

The humor of this cartoon is found in its incongruity with the original story. In the Bible Eve only took a single bite of an apple whereas this couple has eaten far too many to count. The innumerable apple cores littering the ground represent the greed and gluttony of 1920’s America, and Knott even goes so far as to imply that this is worse than original sin. This discrepancy also points blame at the American public and their careless spending,  as well as the tempting “unsound credit” mentioned in the accompanying article (“We Just Thought We Had”). Knott parallels the immense spending of credit to this couples binging. The couple in the cartoon are clearly not dressed in the fig leaves like the biblical Adam and Eve, but rather in the plain clothes of  1930’s middle class Americans. Not only does this set them apart from Adam and Eve, but it sets them apart from the upper class, who are not affected by the economic crash as greatly as the lower and middle class (“Everyday Life 1929-1941″).

In the accompanying article, “We Only Thought We Had,” the Dallas Morning News comments on the use of unstable credit in 1929. They claim that the use of credit in the 1920’s was taking business away from the early 1930’s . The article is highly critical of this credit and employs multiple rhetorical questions throughout the article in order to force the reader to think about what was really going on. By asking the reader “where is all the money we used to have?” or “where is all the business we used to do?” the author is implying that there is no money and business anymore (“We Just Thought We Had). These rhetorical questions lead the reader into thinking a in a similar way to the author.

The forbidden fruit depicted in Knott’s cartoon is the seemingly unlimited credit of the previous decade. During the 1920’s the American economy was booming, and playing the stock market was all the rage. This ‘game’ of stocks became so popular that investors began to buy them “with little or no money down”, and soon the American use of credit would cause the market to collapse (Woodard). The stock market had seemingly become an embodiment of the American dream, and it soon became flooded with “small scale investors” looking to go from rags to riches overnight (“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash”). The brokers who were handing out credit were playing a risky game, but as long as the market was growing they couldn’t lose (“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash”). However, as they always do, the stocks inevitably went down and “the great sell-off of 1929” brought the market, the brokers, the investors, and the entire American economy down with it (“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash”).

Knott’s cartoon compares the credit crisis of the early 1930’s to the story of Adam and Eve. The allure of the credit had been so strong to the American public, as well as the brokers, that in Knott’s cartoon unlimited credit is analogized with the proverbial apple that Eve ate. The most important aspect of this comparison is that of original sin. As the Dallas Morning News writes the economy of 1929 was conducting business that “legitimately belonged to 1933-35” just as Eve’s sin caused the downfall of human kind in the future, the gluttony of 1929 affected the future indefinitely (“We Just Thought We Had”).

Works Cited

“Everyday Life 1929-1941.” Historic Events for Students: The Great Depression. Ed. Richard C. Hanes and Sharon M. Hanes. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2002. 305-329. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John Francis. “It Was a Fool’s Paradis.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 29 Jan. 1933, sec. 3: 8. Print.

“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 3: The 1920s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 372-375. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“We Just Thought We Had.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 29 Jan. 1933, sec. 3: 8. Print.

Woodard, David E. “Stock Market Crashes.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed.      Thomas Woodard. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: St. James Press, 2013. 722-724. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“Somebody at the Door”

John Knott illustrated the lack of effective governmental policies and public intervention regarding the problem of hunger and homelessness in Dallas during the Great Depression.
John Knott illustrated the lack of effective governmental policies and public intervention regarding the problem of hunger and homelessness in Dallas during the Great Depression.

The Great Depression will forever be remembered as a time in America of great trials and tribulations, especially hunger and homelessness. John Knott effectively localized these concepts to the Dallas metropolitan area through his cartoon titled “Somebody at the Door,” which ran on December 16, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News. In the cartoon, Knott depicted a family standing outside a door that has a wreath with “Merry Christmas” written on it. There is a note in the bottom right-hand corner that says “Citizens Emergency Relief Fund,” and claims that every dollar donated to the said cause it attributed to feeding the “hungry of Dallas.” Significantly, a mother and her three children are standing outside, and there is an absence of a father figure. The youngest child is knocking on the door, and the middle child is expressing hunger to his mother, the figure that for so long was the provider of food in the family. In this way, the viewer understands the absolute desperation the homeless population of the Great Depression faced; all previous typicalities of life turned into unattainable luxuries, and the guaranteed home-cooked meal that was so long provided daily turned into a search for a charitable soul that would spare scraps of food.

By the end of 1930, the population of jobless people in Dallas was around seven percent. This statistic was uncharacteristic of Dallas, a city that had recently experienced an economic boom due to industries such as banking and railroads and was on the road to a population that exhibited extreme wealth(Hill 204). The city had a sixty-four percent growth rate between 1920 and 1930, and the elites of Dallas viewed their city as a progressive city with conservative politics (WPA 96). However, the atmosphere quickly changed in the 30s. Initially, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 was slow to affect Dallas due to its recent status as a business mecca (WPA 96). However, the turn of the decade brought intense unemployment, homelessness, and even labor strikes. In 1931, the emergency relief committee requested the city government allocate $100,000 to help abate the atrocities of poverty and hunger that encompassed the city, and were bound to intensify as time continued(WPA 96). It is unfortunate to note that the majority of the little charity that was given by the people and government of Dallas was racially driven; the rise of the KKK in Dallas in the 1920s fueled racial tensions in the city that resulted in refusal of charity to blacks by many privately funded organizations—even religious charities such as the Salvation Army (Kusmer 196). This was one of the many examples of the absolute corruption present in Dallas at the time, which was further explained in both a news and editorial article that ran on December 16, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News.

The news story, titled “$1,000 sent to stave off starving,” discussed the first $1,000 donated to the emergency relief fund. Nathan Adams, president of the First National Bank in Dallas, was grateful for the generosity of the large anonymous donation, but did not fail to point out that there were many other able donors in the Dallas area. “Dallas is an affluent city, the resources of which have not been impaired by economic activity,” Adams said in an interview with the Morning News. He further pointed out that, while one individual paid his part, it was only one percent of the total amount of money needed to ensure the hungry ate that winter (“$1,000 Sent to Stave off Starving [Page 1]).

The editorial, “Hungry Christmas?” capitalized on that same sentiment, and appealed to the ethos of the reader by explaining that that children will be “crying, not because Santa didn’t come, but because breakfast didn’t.” By employing this emotionally-driven rhetoric, the author reached out to the entire public of Dallas with the hopes the image of a child starving would encourage donations. By associating the lack of Santa and the lack of hunger, there is an underlying hope that people will think about the hypocritical greed they so often exhibit during the season of giving, and how there are essentially more pressing issues that need monetary attention than  lavish gifts (“Hungry Christmas?” [Page 2]).

The city of Dallas’ government was slow to implement policies regarding the homeless and poor on the level of the local government, yet the city still received federal funding (Rose 43). This came at a time when private charities were on the decline, as the wealthy who funded them started to decrease contributions due to the impending economic state of the country (Rose 43). As monetary backing decreased for these privatized charities, the demand for their resources increased(WPA 284). This is one of the main issues Knott illustrated in his cartoon; the lack of funding for the charities, coupled with Dallas’ slow movement of policies designed to benefit the poor and hungry, lead to a population of dismissed homeless people.

The mother in the cartoon is most likely a single mother who lost her husband to either death or divorce. Unfortunately, the first workers to loose their jobs in the 1920s were women, and government efforts to create jobs were often directed towards men, proving problematic to single women throughout the state (WPA 96-97). It is estimated that 70 percent of women who were the head of “transient” families, or families who spent much of their time illegally riding trains across the country in search of work and aid, were either widowed or separated (Kusmer 208). While Knott does not specify if the particular family depicted is transient, it is quite possible this was their fate, as Dallas was on the verge of becoming a major railroad hub before the Great Depression hit (Weinstein 115). Knott appeals to the pathos of the viewer by including young children, one of which is complaining to his mother—the figure he has relied on his whole life to cook and provide him with meals—about being hungry. These children were taught the evils of chance and possibility at a young age. Many children are naive to the concept of prolonged hunger or discomfort; for these children, hunger surpassed discomfort, and was taken to the level of a fight for survival in a world they only so recently entered.

The Great Depression favored the rich; it did not spare the lives of the poor, and completely disregarded the complexities of all human life, regardless of socioeconomic status. Many people learned to function on little to no food, as well as live off the land and accept death for what it is. This great tragedy is horrifying, yet its memorialization is essential to the American people. There is no better way to tell history than through the creative outlets of the people of the time, which is why Knott’s cartoon has proved important and survived the transience of time.

Works Cited

“$1000 sent to stave off starving.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 16 Dec. 1931, sec. II: 1. Print.

Hill, Patricia Evridge. “Dallas, Texas.” Encyclopedia of American Urban History. Ed. David Goldfield. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2007. 204-206. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

“Hungry Christmas?” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 16 Dec. 1931, sec. II: 2. Print.

Knott, John Francis. “Somebody at the Door.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News  [Dallas] 16 Dec. 1931, sec. II: 2. Print.

Kusmer, Kenneth L. Down & Out, On The Road : The Homeless In American History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Rose, Harriett DeAnn. “Dallas, Poverty, and Race: Community Action Programs in the War on Poverty.” University of North Texas, 2008. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Weinstein, Bernard L., and Terry L. Clower. “Dallas.” Encyclopedia of Homelessness. Ed. David Levinson. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2004. 103-105. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the City of Dallas, et al.. The WPA Dallas Guide And History. [Dallas, Tex.]: Dallas Public Library, Texas Center for the Book , 1992. Print. 25 October 2015.

The Waking Giant

The Waking Giant
A giant is lying in slumber, while a man, who is smaller in comparison, is standing in wait of battle. John Knott illustrated the lack of unification of China and the conquest by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai

The Waking Giant

John  F. Knott – February 10, 1932

The political cartoon The Waking Giant, created by John Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on February 10, 1932, depicts a giant lying in slumber and a man, who is smaller in comparison, standing in wait of battle. The man wears a hat with the word “JAPAN” written across it. He is holding a sword upon which the words, “MOVE TO CUT UP CHINA” are written, symbolizing Japan’s efforts to break up China into sections of conquest (Knott). The cartoon conveys the lack of unification of China and imperial conquest by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai in 1932.

This era in global history was littered with tension between colonizing nations. The French Empire, Spanish Empire, British Empire, and other western nations were colonizing large swaths of the world. Among the nations seeking to expand their territory was Japan. In the early 1930’s, Japan, a heavy industrialized nation, was in financial distress and looked towards neighboring China for the necessary natural resources to keep Japan’s national economy afloat (“Japan Invades Manchuria 1931”). The giant, which represents China in Knott’s political cartoon, is wearing traditional Chinese clothing, tangzhuang, while the Japanese soldier is in more modern military attire. The difference between traditional and modern clothing is used to emphasize China’s lack of technological and industrial progress compared to Japan and also to suggest that if engaged in war, China would face an unfavorable battle with Japan.

Perhaps the most critical question that comes to mind is: Why did Knott, or anyone in America in the early 1930s, care about what happened to China? During this era of colonization, America stood by the idea that every nation should cease to expand their territory any further. America also had a political and diplomatic investment in China through Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-shek was the nationalist political and military leader at the time. He had support from many American political leaders and citizens (Whitman). Chiang Kai-shek started to lead unification of politically disarrayed China and opposed the colonization of China by Japan  (“Chiang Kai-shek: Internal and External Conflict In China”).

Similar to the Japanese soldier ready to strike before the giant fully awoke from his slumber in Knott’s political cartoon, Japan needed to find an excuse to act against China and gain their natural resource-filled territories. Japan found its self-justification to take up arms when the Chinese military “violated” Japan’s established boundaries within which the Chinese military was allowed to operate in Shanghai. In response, Japan sent a naval fleet to Shanghai. On January 28, 1932, Japan started bombarding the city, and fighting between the Chinese and Japanese military ensued with no end in sight (Chen).

Also appearing in the Dallas Morning News along with Knott’s political cartoon was the editorial A Stubborn Defense, which conveyed how the Chinese military was desperately attempting to face off against a nation with greater military might. The article depicted China as a tenacious nation that was willing to defend what was rightfully theirs until the end. The article also stated that, even though military forces were continuing to advance in Manchuria, the Japanese public was not completely invested in the cause of war. The editorial argued that if such a tenacious defense continued, the situation might lead to withdrawal of armed forces due to disapproval on the part of the Japanese public (Dallas Morning News Section 2 Page 4).

The fighting did on stop, however, until almost three months later, when the Shanghai Ceasefire Agreement was signed. In contrast to the hopes of the editorial, the result was not in China’s favor. Shanghai and the surrounding cities ended up under the control of Japan (Chen). The relationship between Japan and China after the battle remained tense and eventually gave away to the Second Sino-Japanese War. As for America, their political and diplomatic investment fell through when a civil war erupted in China between the nationalist party Kuo Min Tang and the Communist forces led by Mao Tse Tung. After the Communist Party took power, Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan (“Chiang Kai-shek: Internal and External Conflict In China”). America continued to support Chiang Kai-shek and also engraved its influence on defeated Japan after World War II (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”).

This historical incident holds relevance even today. Similar to the previous tensions surrounding Japan’s colonization of China, recently China has been in dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea. Juxtaposed to when America supported China under Chiang Kai-Shek, the U.S. now has a strong political and diplomatic investment in Japan. In keeping with formal U.S. treaty obligations negotiated after the Second World War, President Barack Obama has announced that America will support Japan with military power if tensions over the disputed islands were to turn violent (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”). The constant change is diplomatic alliances conveys the fact that, among other things, each nation is looking out for its own self-interest. This is neither a selfishly evil or a morally righteous act, but rather is something that everyone should be aware of as the world’s balance of power(s) continues to shift.

Works Cited

“A Stubborn Defense” Dallas Morning News 10 Feb. 1932: Section 2 Page 4. Print.

“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Asia for Educators. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Budge, Kent G. “Shanghai.” The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia:. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Chen, Peter. “First Battle of Shanghai.” WW2DB RSS. Lava Development, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“Chiang Kai-shek.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Japan Invades Manchuria 1931 – Inter-war Period: Causes of WWII.” Japan Invades Manchuria 1931 – Inter-war Period: Causes of WWII. Weebly.com, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Knott, John. “The Waking Giant” Dallas Morning News 10 Feb. 1932: Section 2 Page 4. Print.

“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine.” The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine – 1921–1936 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Whitman, Alden. “The Life of Chiang Kai-shek: A Leader Who Was Thrust Aside by Revolution.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 6 Apr. 1975. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Can’t You Spare a Nickel More

Can't You Spare a Nickel More
A cotton planter in tattered clothing is being given a measly ten cent loan by a much wealthier looking Uncle Sam. Knott emphasizes not only the strains placed on cotton farmers, but also the inadequacy of the payments received.

Can’t You Spare a Nickel More

John Francis Knott – October 20, 1933

The political cartoon, “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More,” was created by John Francis Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1933. It depicts the cotton planters of the United States with regards to the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the economic aspects that accompanied it. The cartoon reveals the economic issues faced by the United States and the twenty million cotton planters depicted in the image. Knott’s cartoon highlights the negative effects that the U.S. government and its New Deal policies – such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Commodity Credit Corporation – had on cotton planters nationwide. These negative effects included the acreage reduction’s failure to raise crop prices, the tenant farming system’s lack of productivity, the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931, and the overall economic incongruities which were created.

The Great Depression spanned from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. While the depression was most known for its negative effects on American society and the crash of the stock market, it was also associated with the sharp decline of profitable cotton prices; this was devastating due to the increased agriculture during that time period. Therefore, it was important for farmers and cotton planters to get back into business. In 1933, the U.S. government created a program that financially helped farmers for lowering cotton acreage, which reduced supply and thus created higher prices. The program, known as the New Deal, brought about interesting changes to the agricultural aspect of the nation – it constituted the Agricultural Adjustment Administration which called for a forty percent cotton acreage reduction and the Commodity Credit Corporation which provided a ten cent loan for each pound of cotton as long as planters promised to reduce its acreage in the following year (Golay 204).

“Can’t You Spare a Nickel More” depicts stress on the cotton planter’s face as well as Uncle Sam’s (Knott 2). These difficult times created a bleak outlook for the nation along with its twenty million cotton planters. Even after the Agricultural Adjustment Administration enforced an acreage reduction on cotton, thirteen million bales remained to sustain the world demand for the rest of the year. This countered the goal of raising the price of crops. In addition to this issue, the tenant farming system – a system in which tenant farmers contributed their own land and labor for capital resulted in wastefulness and inefficiency. It caused trouble for the South’s traditional cash crop and created conflicts between planters and tenants due to its many internal economic problems (Hawkins).

The accompanying article, “The Price of Cotton,” explains the cartoon’s exchange of ten cents profoundly; it questions the unfairness of lending of ten cents per pound of cotton rather than fifteen cents and explicitly states that the discrepancy is inadequate (“The Price of Cotton”). The Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 further emphasized the strains placed upon cotton farmers by requiring that the amount of cotton planted in 1932 and 1933 could not surpass thirty percent of that of the preceding year (Jasinski). The synthesis of these two sources develops the notion that the combination of reduced cotton acreage and lowered payment to cotton farmers only created an increasing lack of sustenance as well as an overall miserable lifestyle.

The humor in this cartoon is evident in the distinct contrast between the two parties depicted and their relation to the underlying meaning of the image. Despite the fact that the wealthier man is not explicitly labeled as Uncle Sam, it can be inferred based on the combination of the cartoon, the article, and knowledge of American popular culture. While the man representing the twenty million cotton planters of the U.S. is illustrated in tattered clothing with a grim expression, the man who appears to be Uncle Sam handing him the ten cent loan looks stern yet well dressed which emphasizes the economic gap as well as the issues which were created by the loans and cotton reduction (Knott 2). The prominent issue that Knott’s cartoon focuses on is the unfair loans given to the cotton planters by the government. The cartoon focuses attention on the twenty million cotton planters receiving a ten cent loan which insinuates that the planters are not receiving sufficient funds for their duties, thus creating a cycle of internal and external economic incongruities.

 

Works Cited

(1) “The Price of Cotton.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.

(2) Golay, Michael. America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal. New York: Free, 2013. Print.

(3) Hawkins, Van. “Cotton Industry.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

(4) Jasinski, Laurie E. “Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931-32.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015. 

(5) Knott, John. “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.

(6) Novak, James L., James W. Pease, and Larry D. Sanders. Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.

 

“Boloney!”

John Knott illustrates Al Smith, a notorious opponent of federal policy, disapproving Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy.

The cartoon “Boloney!” published on November 27, 1933 by John Francis Knott illustrates the economist, Al Smith, to be very unhappy with Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy. Roosevelt’s monetary policy, in short, is “how the Federal Reserve regulates the money supply and the interest rates to reach or fine tune macroeconomic goals” (McCusker). The essential purpose of Knott’s cartoon is to highlight how recurrent it is for Al Smith to have opposing views towards national policies.

After taking office on March 4, 1933, Roosevelt made sweeping changes. Within two months he had taken the U.S. off of the Gold Standard. “The removal of the “Golden Fetters” and the devaluation of the dollar to $35 dollars per ounce of gold combined with political events in Europe to cause a flow of gold into America. The economy began to recover” (Napier).  Ultimately, “Roosevelt took away the gold standard to get people to use federal money on programs in hopes of jump starting the economy” (Fisher).  Because of this success, people of the United States were likely to believe that the monetary policy was a good idea.

Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy had great strengths which led him to having many supporters, however, this policy also had adversaries. The most notorious opponent of all was Al Smith. “He was elected as Governor of New York four times and was also the Democratic candidate in the presidential election of 1928″ (George). “Al Smith is known for being an anti-Prohibition candidate”(Richards) which further extends on the idea that Smith supported states rights. Smith’s determination to urge repeal of the prohibition amendment feathered from the fact that he believed in local government majority rather than federally imposed laws and policies.  As mentioned in the editorial that was coupled with this political cartoon, even Al Smith admitted that “his severe condemnation of present national policies is not the first time that he has taken the unpopular side of a question” (No Brass Collar). The article, “No Brass Collar”, delves into Al Smith’s past in order to give critical background information. The fact that Al Smith has always been a supporter of states rights further allows for the viewer of this cartoon to understand and analyze why Al Smith is showing so much animosity towards Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy. Because Smith was also extremely anti-FDR, this could lead to the viewer of this cartoon to believe that his animosity towards Roosevelt was the reason why he hated the monetary policy. However, with the accompanying article of “No Brass Collar,” it is evident that Al Smith hated Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy simply because he had been and always was an advocate for states rights.

Analyzing Knott’s carefully illustrated cartoon, the viewer is able to dig deeper into the real issues proposed in the cartoon. The expression that Al Smith exudes is mainly of disgust and resentment towards the monetary policy. In addition, Al Smith has his hand flexed in a manner that is almost his way of saying that the monetary policy is not even worth looking at, that it is worthless. It is evident in the cartoon that Al Smith does not believe that this policy will be successful by any means. Furthermore, with the title of the cartoon being “Boloney!” which is commonly coined to represent foolishness, the reader can assume that to be Al Smith’s reaction toward the “nonsense” that is Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy. The humor in this cartoon comes mainly from the title itself and how the word “boloney” is certainly not a common word used in politics. Also adding to the overall humor of the cartoon is of course, Al Smith’s facial expression. His face is masked into such disgust that one would believe his frown would never turn upside down. There is just enough humor in the cartoon to enlighten the viewer while also still adequately conveying the political component.

In essence, this cartoon depicts the antipathy that Al Smith exudes towards Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy because of his firm belief in local majority versus national regulation. With the accompanying article, the reader is able to understand that the purpose of Knott’s cartoon is to depict the idea that Al Smith is notorious for opposing federal policy, and that his opinion on Roosevelt’s monetary policy would be no different.

                                                                  Works Cited
“Alfred Emmanuel Smith.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 284-85. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

    Fishback, Price, 2010. “US monetary and fiscal policy in the 1930s,” Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 385-413, Autumn.

George, Alice L., John C. Stoner, and Daniel J. Walkowitz. Social History of the United States. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 164-65. Print.

   McCusker, John J. History of World Trade since 1450. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2006. Print.

Napier, Steven, “Roosevelt’s Monetary Policy” (2005). Theses, Dissertations and Capstones. Paper 746. http://mds.marshall.edu/etd/746

“No Brass Collar.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News. 27 November 1933, sec 2: 2.

Richards, Lawrence. “Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1921-1945.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ, 2010. 316-319. Print.

The Gold Standard of Politicking

Seated man (labeled Congress) playing a fiddle (labeled partisan politics) and an angry Uncle Sam standing and pointing out that the world is on fire and is experiencing distress to the seated man.
Knott’s depiction of an incompetent Congress fiddling around, and a furious Uncle Sam gesturing to the rest of the world burning.

Renowned for his critical illustrations of early twentieth century United States politics, John Francis Knott fueled debate on American policy through his work with the Dallas Morning News. The vast majority of Knott’s career as a political cartoonist consisted of criticizing the government on a plethora of issues ranging from welfare to war (Perez). In his cartoon “No Time for Fiddling!” Knott humorously denounces Congress, through symbolic images, for squandering valuable time over frivolous partisan politics instead of mobilizing to save the American economy during the onset of the Great Depression.

Knott’s piece, published December 15th, 1931, contains various symbols, each one conveying a unique concern of the times: the bearded man representing righteousness and action, the flames representing an imminent threat, the fiddle representing partisan politicking, and the sitting man representing an incompetent Congress. Through these symbols, Knott creates a symphony of critiques, which scolds Congress for their petty antics.

Uncle Sam, the man standing and aggressively gesturing to the flame-ridden world, represents American pride and strength. Used initially for war recruitment ads, Uncle Sam became associated with America’s call to action and impending threats (“The Most Famous Poster”). Knott utilizes this well-known American symbol to rhetorically attack the United States Congress, calling it to action to address and acknowledge the “WORLD’S DISTRESS.”

The accompanying editorial article titled “The Gold Standard” addresses the economic state of the world, and countries’ suffering due to reluctance to depart from the gold standard. It emphasizes that the United States is currently in a severe financial depression, later called the Great Depression, and continues on to request action from Congress to solve the economic suffering experienced by the world. Additionally, the departure off the gold standard by select countries (e.g. Japan, countries of the United Kingdom, Argentina) destabilized trade in regions since these countries were now trading in deflated currencies, which resulted in a significant negative impact on foreign economies (“The Gold Standard”). Beginning with Black Tuesday, the U.S. stock market crash of 1929, America spiraled into economic turmoil along with the rest of the world. The general consensus of historians blames the downward spiral primarily on Congress, which at the time was not willing or able to engage in some sort of expansionary fiscal policy or depart from the gold standard (Smiley).

Knott’s visualization displays Congress as a rotund geezer slouching on a chair with a fiddle, labeled “partisan politics,” in his hand. The large man has a look of both anger and frustration on his face while confronted by Uncle Sam. Clearly, Knott’s physical representation of Congress serves to associate the politicians with languidness, incompetence, and ignorance. The cartoon serves as critical commentary on the lack of bipartisan action in Congress during 1931, when the members of Congress were split almost evenly between the two major political parties, Republican and Democratic (“72nd Congress”). Republican policy, primarily characterized by its isolationist view on foreign policy and disdain towards governmental intervention, essentially acted as a catalyst for the Great Depression (“Republican Party Platform of 1928″). The debate regarding individualism versus intervention played a key role in the Great Depression, since it was individualism, supported by the Republicans, that led to the Great Depression, and intervention, supported by the Democrats, which brought the economy out of the Great Depression.

The fiddle, labeled “partisan politics,” generates most of the humor in the cartoon. The term “fiddling around” alludes to the colloquial phrase, “fiddling while Rome burns.” The phrase is a reference to a rumor that the Roman Emperor Nero played a lyre while Rome burned (“fiddle while Rome burns”). Knott draws a parallel, underscoring the point that in 1931 Congress was fiddling with partisan politics while the world was on the brink of destruction. Additionally, Knott lampoons Congress by drawing it as a plump old fogy, who appears to be clueless. The negative connotations created by the countenance and physique of Congress effectively delivers the point that Congress was absent-minded and only capable of fiddling around instead of acting.

“No Time for Fiddling!” serves as a vessel both to criticize a self-interested and ineffectual Congress and to draw attention to the chaos and despair of the world around them. A progressive agenda was eventually passed under a new Democratic majority and FDR’s New Deal shortly after, but only because of critics like John Francis Knott was the American public informed enough to move towards reform (Smiley). Although Knott’s cartoon wasn’t enough to prevent the Great Depression, it will forever remain a part of important critical discourse through the Dallas Morning News.

Works Cited:

“72nd Congress (1931 – 1933).” History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives. n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“fiddle while Rome burns.” Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed.. 2006. Cambridge University Press. 4 Nov 2015.

Knott, John F. “No Time for Fiddling!” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News[Dallas] 15 Dec. 1931: n.pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

Perez, Joan Jenkins. “Knott, John Francis.” Handbook of Texas Online. Demand  Media, 15 June 2010. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“Republican Party Platform of 1928.” The American Presidency Project. Peters, Woolley, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

Smiley, Gene. “Great Depression.” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. 2008. Library of Economics and Liberty. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“The Gold Standard.”  Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 15 Dec. 1931: n.pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“The Most Famous Poster.” American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

How Much Wood Would Congress Chop if Congress Could Chop Wood

A hard-working Congress asks Uncle Sam if there is more work for him to do.
A hard-working Congress asks Uncle Sam if there is more work for him to do.

In the midst of a cold winter, a fast approaching holiday season, a sixteen percent unemployment rate, and the Great Depression; December of 1931 was a troubling time for a lot of people (“Unemployment”). On November 19, 1931 John Knott illustrated to humorously interpret what was occurring at that time in history in Dallas, Texas. The political cartoon accompanied an article published on the same page of the paper titled “A Disposition to Work.” The cartoon depicts Uncle Sam facing a young boy with “Congress” on his shirt, . Knott used the cartoon to educate people about current events and also to poke fun at politics.

On October 24, 1929, Wall Street saw disaster strike. The Stock Market came down, and brought thousands of people’s investments down with it. The initial crash set the course for the next several years, which would be filled with hardship and suffering for citizens all over the country (“The Sock Market”). Within the next year, twelve million people would lose their jobs and fifty million would fall into poverty. It became clear that government action was necessary to relieve these dire circumstances (“The Hungry Years”). It was in the middle of these trying times – accurately coined the “Great Depression”- that Knott worked at the Dallas Morning News illustrating cartoons paired with editorials about the current events of the time.

In 1931 Congress had their work set out for them. As the cartoon illustrates, immense pressure to pass relief efforts was placed on Congress by the citizens of the US. This is depicted by the Uncle Sam figure (the American public) looking at the little boy (Congress).The President at the time, Herbert Hoover, believed that relief efforts should be the responsibility of individuals and the states; however, many people believed the national government should play a role (“Financing”).

In Knott’s cartoon the boy has obviously been chopping wood, and working hard at it. Amongst the chopped wood are the words “moratorium” and “relief measures”, clearly suggesting that these things were also a product of Congress’ work. The moratorium referred to was proposed by Hoover to postpone paying debts for a year to encourage economic growth (Kennedy). By December 1931, the moratorium had gained support and was ready to be debated on the floor, one step closer to being passed (“A Disposition”). The boy asks Uncle Sam, “Is there any more wood you would like me to split, Paw?” Knott clearly believed that Congress had been hard at work for the country and was willing to do even more.

Knott was not alone in his optimistic view of the work Congress had done in the winter of 1931. Accompanying with his political cartoon, a separate editorial titled “A Disposition to Work” was published on page two section two of the Dallas Morning News. The opinion piece defended Congress and explained how the moratorium and relief efforts were important in order to move the country in the direction it wanted to go. At the time, President Hoover believed that the government should not be involved in relief efforts, however the author of editorial makes it clear that Congress was expected ones to lead the effort to relieve poverty, hunger and unemployment, and they had successfully done their job The article took an optimistic view that the members of Congress were willing to fight and work hard to bring relief to their fellow countrymen. It claimed that “patriotism is not dead under the dome of the capitol” (“A Disposition”).

Knott used his illustration to promote humor during the political battle between Hoover and Congress involving relief efforts. The wood acted as a simile for the work done by the legislature; this is made clear by the words strewn about in the logs. As its title suggests, the cartoon was appeared “just before Christmas” when it was cold out. Many people, especially those who were impoverished and without adequate shelter, had to split wood in order to have fire to keep them warm throughout the night. Because Congress would not be in session during the holidays, they needed to get their work done before it was time to go home; and at that time there was a lot of work to be done so that their suffering constituents could make it through those difficult times.. The moratorium and relief efforts were the wood that would keep everyone warm throughout the break. The immense size of the woodpile was Knott’s way of humorously exaggerating how much work Congress had to do, and just how large America’s problems were.

Knott’s ability to take the grim state of the country and turn it into a funny and optimistic cartoon is something truly exceptional. Both the editorial and the cartoon used their media outlet to focus on positives in a time of overwhelming negatives. Knott took serious daily concerns, such as the upcoming holiday and the struggle to stay warm, and highlighted their connection to politics. It is important that individuals stay in touch with current events no matter their social status or situation. Knott made it easier for people to get in touch with what was going on by making it relatable and light hearted. This still rings true today. Many people keep up with current events through comedic outlets. While the Great Depression was inarguably one of the most traumatic times in America’s History, Knott kept his spirits high, and worked to put a smile on the faces of those who needed it most.

 

 

 

Works Cited

“A Disposition to Work.” Dallas Morning News 19 Dec. 1931: 2. Dallas Morning News Historical Archive [NewsBank]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

“Financing Relief Efforts.” 1931 – Herbert Hoover. Texas A&M University, Texarkana. 26 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: the American People in Depression and War. New York: Oxford University Press. 1999.

Knott, John F. “Just Before Christmas”. 19 December 1931. Folder 2, Box 3L317, John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Kutler, Stanley I. “Hoover Moratorium.” Dictionary of American History. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

“The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America.” Choice Reviews Online 37.06 (2000): n. pag. BRT Projects. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“The Stock Market: Crash.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 3: 1920-1929. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

“Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression.” Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.

Slavery Must Be Abolished

farmer labeled "The South" standing in a barren field chaned to a bail of cotton.
Cartoon by John Knott depicts farmer in a barren field, chained to a bale of cotton.

 

Slavery Must Be Abolished

John F. Knott- August 27, 1931

This cartoon published in August of 1931, is a raw depiction of a typical southern cotton farmer’s situation during the Great Depression. During the Great Depression era, before President FDR or his New Deal, little was being done to help cotton farmers handle the struggling market. The constant production of cotton at high rates caused the cost of the crop to drastically drop when the Great Depression hit, as consumer demand for these products fell. Farmers were left with copious amounts of unwanted crop that they could not get rid of. At the time, Southern leaders agreed the solution was to diminish cotton acreage, as to reduce the ample supply and therefore raise the market value of the crop. Texas proposed the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 (TCACL) as the remedy to the cotton problem, and as an example for other Southern states. However, unlike President Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), passed in 1933, the TCACL did not directly offer subsidies to the farmers. Rather, it fined them if they overproduced under the provisions of the law (Jasinski). Knott compares these issues for farmers to the issues slaves had seventy years before with through his cartoon, “Slavery Must Be Abolished.”

The article that accompanies this cartoon, “He Owes Too Much Now,” explains the situation and relationship between the banks and the farmers of this cotton issue as well as sharing the author’s issues with the proposed solution. The article highlights that banks in Texas were not able to finance the large scale reduction of crop production for farms. Big banks were trying to keep a large supply of money in depositories in case of emergencies, and small banks had loaned out far too much to “take on a heavy line of credit” with the cotton industry (“He Owes Too Much Now”). After not receiving financial help from the government and being unable to borrow any more money from private investors such as banks, farmers were forced to sell their farms and lay off workers, including their tenants. Herbert Hoover, the president at the time, attempted to help with the issue by establishing the Federal Farm Board to “supervise agricultural cutbacks and levy a special tax” (Kentleton).  Despite Hoover’s endeavors, many felt he was not doing enough to affect much change in the market, typical of his laissez-faire approach to economics (Baughman).

The humor in this cartoon comes from the comparison of the struggles of 1930’s southern farmers with cotton, to the plight of African slaves to their slave owners in America up to the Civil War. The cartoon depicts an elderly man who is identified as “The South” by the writing on his shoulder. It is easy to surmise that he is a farmer by the hoe in his hands, the clothes he is wearing and the barren field he is standing in, specific characteristics of agricultural life during that time period. Knott uses the old man to represent southern farmers and the barren field he is in represents the mandated curtailing of cotton production to reduce the surplus that has slashed the market value. He also shows the farmer chained by the ankle to a bail of cotton, illustrating a metaphor for the fiscal issues southern farms faced with the surplus of their crop. The strongest factor of the humor of the cartoon is easily the title, where Knott points out the ironic parallel between the relationships of Great Depression farmers to their cotton, and pre-Civil War slaves to farmers/plantation owners. The fact that these farmers who are now slaves of their crops were generally the same people that participated in slave culture some seventy-plus years before creates the humor and apathetic message Knott wanted to portray.

Farmers in the south faced a tough situation throughout the Great Depression. Many were forced to sell their land and move, either to support their families or because banks would foreclose on their property. Knott’s cartoon “Slavery Must Be Abolished” creates an accurate depiction of the condition of these farmers.  These families had so much invested in cotton as their livelihood, the market crash forced them to cling to whatever assets they had remaining. The farmers were bound to their way of life, and needed to bare through the painful remedy of withholding supply if they wanted any chance of recuperating their businesses.

 

Works Cited

Author Not Listed. “He Owes Too Much Now.” Dallas Morning News. 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015

Baughman, Judith S. “The Farm Crisis.” American Decades. Ed. et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Fred C. Elliott, and E. A. Miller, “COTTON CULTURE,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Jasinski, Laurie E. “TEXAS COTTON ACREAGE CONTROL LAW OF 1931-32,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 4, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Kentleton, John. “Success or failure? Herbert Hoover’s presidency: he sent the troops against the bonus marchers and gave his name to a shantytown in Washington, but has history been fair to President Hoover?” Modern History Review 14.4 (2003): 7+. General OneFile. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “Slavery Must Be Abolished.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 01 Nov.2015