Category Archives: Fall 2015

Posts created during the Fall 2015 semester.



For states in the South, the question of what they are and aren’t allowed to do may never be clear to them. John Knott uses this humorous cartoon to portray a skinny boxer named “Kid Injunction,” who represents the power of judicial review, has knocked out two very large opponents. The first opponent, named “Martial Law in Oil Fields” is a burly man who’s been beaten senseless. The symbol of Martial Law here is intended to represent a power perceived as limitless, that has been taken down by the judicial system in Texas. The second opponent, “Cotton Planting Law” is just as burly as his unconscious compadre, and has also been definitively knocked out. The “Cotton Planting Law” this character is named for was a law enacted to limit cotton crop sizes in texas to respond to the Great Depression. This law was also struck down by “Kid Injunction,” as courts also reviewed and overturned this law.

Martial Law is defined as a use of military personnel to enforce laws and control a designated civilian population. This power can technically be enacted at any time by almost any executive branch head (I.E. Governor, Mayor, President) In Texas, in 1932 Martial Law was declared by Governor Ross Sterling to enforce new conservation statutes that he imagined would cause rioting in the oil fields that would be limited by said statutes. The statutes were quite extreme, limiting daily production of oil to less than a fifth of the previous yield(Smith). This event raised a question that Knott asked directly in the article: “If the Governor elects to and can without challenge declare Martial Law arbitrarily, what guarantees exist for property rights?” The cartoon implies that injunctions by the judicial system sufficiently limited the power of Martial Law in this instance as well as establishing precedent and did guarantee some rights for property owners. The precedent that was set was that Martial Law can be reviewed, and found unwarranted, and also that any soldier enforcing martial only has the powers a standard police officer would have (Author not listed). While this is not overly inconsistent with historical uses of Martial Law, such as cases where federal troops were used to control riots and stop looting after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and similar states of emergency, this case still offered important definitions as to the rules of Martial Law.

The Great Depression had the entire world on its heels, and the Southern cotton economy was no different. Low consumption and flat production lead to falling prices and farmers hemorrhaging money no matter how much they planted. A law was enacted in 1932 that required any crop to only be 30% the size of the crops from the year before, as well as requiring more crop rotation in an attempt to force farmers to diversify and, through that diversification, stabilize the export market of the Southern economy (Jasinski). While on paper this law seems like a smart idea, it was not handled in an ideal way, it was viewed as entirely too extreme and too limiting to the farmers. The reception of this law lead to most farmers either ignoring or finding ways around these limitations, and resisting diversity in their crops. The long-term effectiveness of this law was never determined, as it was struck down by district courts and declared unconstitutional. Kid injunction from the cartoon is credited with this knockout as well, as he is demonstrative of the power of judicial review that can often overturn decisions made by legislators and executives. This further proved that a state’s laws do not supercede the laws or constitution of the parent country.

In conclusion, Knott uses this cartoon and the accompanying editorial to convey that a conflict of state’s rights and the rights of people had been resolved by injunctions from courts. The undersized, and comedically skinny “Kid injunction” defeated Martial Law and cotton planting restrictions, limiting the power of the government of Texas. Private property owners were guaranteed due process before they were restricted, and the need to review any declaration of Martial Law was further emphasized and exercised.




Author Not Listed. “Martial Law Decision.” Dallas Morning News 21 Feb. 1932: 36. Print.


“Martial Law.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. 2008. The Gale Group 3 Nov. 2015




“Martial Law.” Gale Encyclopedia of American Law. Ed. Donna Batten. 3rd ed. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 480-482. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.


Ross Shaw Sterling Papers”, 1930-1939, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


“TEXAS COTTON ACREAGE CONTROL LAW OF 1931-32,” Jasinski, Laurie E. Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 03, 2015.


All Over the Plan!

Stalin is angered because global depression ruined his Five Year Plan for the rapid industrialization of Russia.

John Francis Knott
December 13, 1931
All Over the Plan!

The article, ‘Soviet Russia’, accompanied Knott’s cartoon and painted a grim picture for the future of Russia. With the Great Depression hitting the world, Western capitalist countries weren’t importing as much raw materials as they were before. Russia’s agrarian economy relied on the exportation of wheat, timber, and oil (Jones 1). With that revenue source diminished considerably, Russia did not have the money to import industrial machinery. Also, they could not afford to pay experts to set up factories and give instruction on manufacturing processes. The article went on to say that this wasn’t solely Russia’s problem. If Russia fell into an even deeper economic pit it would drag down all of Europe (Author 6). The writer of the article along with Knott did not have an optimistic opinion on what would become of Russia. Russia’s economic depression is the subject of Knott’s cartoon.

‘All Over the Plan!’ is a cartoon by John Knott that was published on December 13, 1931 that illustrated his grim forecast in dictator Joseph Stalin’s first Five Year Plan (1928-1932) which aimed to transform the mainly agrarian economy into an industrial powerhouse. The cartoon depicts Stalin drafting his Five Year Plan and it being ruined by an ink blob labeled ‘world depression’. Stalin’s efforts to industrialize his country were temporarily stymied by the world depression that stemmed from the stock market crash in the U.S. in 1929. Encompassing both industrial and agricultural production, the Five Year Plan is a common feature of Communist nations’ centrally controlled economies, in which state run committees decide what products should be produced and in what quantity. In stark contrast, free market systems allow businesses and market forces to dictate production.

The Five Year Plan was Stalin’s initiative to catapult Russia to a more centralized position in the world since it had been historically agrarian and poor. Wanting to avoid the failures of the contemporary capitalist economies, Stalin took control and set up a planned economy with output numbers for every factory operating in the system as well as output goals for the state farms.

Collectivization is the second half of Stalin’s Five Year Plan, which calls for the state control of agricultural production. To achieve this end he had to take control of the peasant farmers in the major grain producing regions and convince them to stop selling their crops for profit (Collectivization 637-640). Stalin needed to strip these peasants of what little they had and make them work for him; it did not go well. The peasants slaughtered livestock and destroyed harvests and crop stores when Stalin sent collectors to take the goods to the cities to feed the quickly growing industrial urban workforce (Collectivization 637-640). Stalin’s first effort at collectivization was such a disaster that he blamed the collectors and made collectivization voluntary. Stalin hoped that the middle peasantry would flock into the state farms as they were the most successful in implementing traditional farming techniques to new areas, but only the poorest peasants were voluntarily moving into the state farms (Atkins 325-329). They had nowhere else to turn to and the farms provided food. The second goal of collectivization was to eliminate the large land holding peasants; the kulaks. They were barred entry into the state farms and were killed or shipped to slave camps in Siberia and Central Asia (The Great Depression in Soviet Union 446-447). They had held a surprisingly large amount of power relative to their small numbers in the rural areas. These people had the most land that Stalin wanted for his state farms, so he killed them and took it.

Collectivization’s benefits did not come to Russia until the late 1930’s. The effects of trying to collectivize forcefully were felt in Ukraine when a famine hit the region from 1932-1933 (Atkins 325-329). Millions died because of Stalin’s initial failure at collectivization. Even with this gross tragedy, Russia’s industrialization was ticking along successfully. The first Five Year Plan (1928-1932) was completed in four years and three months. One thousand and five hundred factories were built in this time span which doubled the industrial capacity of Russia (Atkins 325-329).

The humor in Knott’s cartoon comes from Stalin’s expression of surprise as well as the play on words with ‘planned economy’ and depicting Stalin as a drafter. Stalin’s expression is one of anger and surprise. It is trivializing the consequences that Russia endured due to Stalin and his Five Year Plans. It shows Stalin drawing on a piece of paper that is labeled “Five Year Plan” and signed “Jos Stalin, Arch.” (Knott 6). A planned economy requires state ownership of all means of production. The products and how much of the products produced are determined by the state as well as the price for the goods. So showing Stalin as a drafter is taking the planned economy aspect of communism quite literally, thus creating humor.

‘All Over the Plan!’, depicted a dire picture for the future of Russia. Knott did not think that the Soviet Union would be able to pull through and achieve industrialization because of the “world depression”. The article, ‘Soviet Russia’ forecasted a similar fate for Russia as Knott. The article called for other European countries to send relief because a “140,000,000” starving Russian peasants wouldn’t better the situation for Europe (Author 6). As it turns out Soviet Russia did not take as big of a blow as it was thought, due to the general declining economic affairs of the capitalist west. Industrialization continued rising, but the peasant farmers of Russia did pay the price for this advancement. Stalin killed and enslaved the kulaks and forced all the other peasants into state farms. The Soviet Union would soon become an industrial powerhouse in WWII, only being outpaced by the Americans. Although, this achievement came at the cost of millions of innocent Russian lives.

Works Cited:

Atkins, William Arthur. “Forced Labor: USSR.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide. Ed. Neil Schlager. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2004. 325-329. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Author Not Listed. “Soviet Russia.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 13 Dec. 1931, sec. 3: 6. American Historical Newspapers. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. .

“Collectivization.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 2. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 637-640. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Jones, Gareth. “Majority for Russian Imports Bill: Dwindling Soviet Trade.” Western Mail [Cardiff] 6 Apr. 1933: n. pag. Print.

Knott, John Francis. “All Over the Plan!” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 13 Dec. 1931, sec. 3: 6. American Historical Newspapers. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. .

“The Great Depression in the Soviet Union.” World History Encyclopedia. Ed. Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel. Vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 446-447. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Urgent Letter to Santa Claus

John Knott, "Urgent Letter to Santa Claus"  A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit "or else".
John Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”
A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit “or else”.

“Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”

December 21, 1931

John Knott

Following World War I, Germany was asked to pay reparations to Britain and France; however, Germany was reluctant given the staggering sum requested and the inevitable financial distress associated with paying such reparations.  Germany’s reparation bill seemed so incredibly outrageous that it was almost impossible for the struggling country to pay for the large sum (Schuker, 542) . A 1931 Los Angeles Times article supported the notion that, “Germany [would] simply not pay, [because] no party and no government…willing to agree to payment [could] possibly stay in power” (“Germany and Reparation”, 4).   At the same time they also accumulated a large amount of international debt.  Consequently, the public lost faith in the German currency, and hyperinflation took over the country.  In 1931 the German government battled high unemployment, plunging farm income, and political unrest as economic depression enveloped the country.  To combat the deflated currency and economic distress, Germany continued to borrow capital and placed a massive strain on its banks.  The German debt spiraled to an unsustainable level while debtors became increasingly concerned about recovering their capital.  It was important to note that forty percent of those debts were owed to Americans (Fearon, 510) .  By the summer of 1931, the banking system of Germany began losing when “Germany introduced exchange controls and froze foreign-owned credits, [which made] it impossible for US citizens to withdraw their capital (Fearon, 510). Similarly, that consequential loss of economic confidence could also be traced back to modern economic dilemmas, such as the 2008 Credit Crisis (Stewart).  Those measures set the stage for heated foreign relations and an international credit crisis, because most countries were occupied with their own domestic economic difficulties in the midst of The Great Depression.

The 1933 editorial in The Dallas Morning News, “Panic or Prosperity,” underscored the bleak economic outlook for the world and emphasized the necessity for international cooperation to resolve the crisis.  “Panic or Prosperity” explicitly highlighted a suggestion for an international conference on debt as recommended by Great Britain, “in order to restore confidence and credit relations among the states of the world” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2).  The editorial also articulated concerns regarding restrictions on the war debt revisions due to the Hoover Moratorium. The Hoover Moratorium was a proposal by President Herbert Hoover to postpone all intergovernmental debt payments and reparations, excluding governmental obligations held by the general public (Fearon, 511).  The moratorium was an attempt to alleviate some of the financial turmoil and depression that plagued Germany due to their massive debt after World War I (Robinson, 456).

“Panic or Prosperity” claimed that the ratification of the moratorium would hinder war debt revision as well as the global discussion required for effectively combating the German credit crisis. The article supported its plea for international collaboration by referencing the thoughts of world-renowned economist, Sir George Paish of England, who predicted, “a speedy breakdown in world credit [would occur] unless an international conference is held” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2). Moreover, there was concern that the strong financial interdependence between nations would serve as a catalyst for global economic decline. Reliance on the stability of other foreign nations directly impacted the economic condition of the United States. Such economic dependence rendered the U.S. more vulnerable to the Great Depression due to international instability and the inability to withdraw U.S. capital from Germany. Accordingly, Germany left other nations susceptible to poverty, unemployment, and overall economic instability. The editorial concluded that passing the moratorium and ignoring the need for an international debt conference could have dire consequences. Such actions, therefore, should not be viewed from an isolationist perspective since putting the needs of a single country or political party above the collective need for international collaboration would result in global economic chaos.

An accompanying political cartoon by John F. Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, illustrated personification of the globe writing a letter to Saint Nicolas and demanding the receipt of credit. The sketch alluded to the growing tension amid world powers in 1931 and their impatience with Germany for causing an international credit crisis.

In his cartoon Knott highlighted these grievances against Germany and their freeze on global credit by addressing the problem to Santa Claus. The depiction of Santa Claus, universally known as a giver of gifts during Christmas, was incorporated within the illustration. The cartoon itself was drawn around the time of the holiday, a season that is known to encourage thoughts of generosity and hope. The character of Santa Claus or Saint Nicolas originated from Germany, therefore, it can be assumed that the cartoon was directly addressing Germany.

Worldwide dissatisfaction with the international credit freeze was apparent as the primary figure of the cartoon clearly expressed frustration with the international financial situation. Likewise, Knott’s use of “…or else” sardonically pokes at the destructive financial consequences following Germany’s actions in the summer of 1931 (“Panic or Prosperity, 2).

Furthermore, Knott illustrated the deteriorating nature of the financial condition within the U.S., depicted by broken windows, tattered clothing, and lack of shoes on the character. The use of these details emphasized the poverty and economic collapse that followed the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression era (Mcelvaine, 151).

Upon closer examination of Knott’s work, there was also a juxtaposition of the scribe with a lower body which resembled a young boy, while his hands were seemingly aged.  The depiction of the adult hands stressed the seriousness of the message and the threat of “or else”—i.e., the dire consequences of the credit crisis.  The kid-like aspects of the cartoon suggested a needy world looking, as children do, towards Santa to deliver wishes.  Through this contrast, Knott implied that even though the world powers were delivering a serious message to Germany, their requests could come across as foolishly desperate.

The congressional vote on the Hoover Moratorium was set to occur within days of the cartoon’s publication.  Accordingly, even the title, “Urgent letter to Santa Claus”, conveyed the pressing nature of the topic. As a final attempt to alter the impending ratification of the Hoover Moratorium, the cartoon directly addressed the readers of The Dallas Morning News as well as Congress to carefully consider the consequences of passing the bill.

John Knott’s, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the plummeting financial circumstances of countries directly involved with the debt that Germany owed. Knott acknowledged the frustration with Germany and the poverty and instability caused directly by their actions. As a way of combating the destruction created by Germany, Knott drew attention to the matter to fight for future economic restoration.

Both the editorial “Panic or Prosperity” and John Knott’s cartoon, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the need to reconsider the consequences of passing the Hoover Moratorium.  Knott’s cartoon placed the blame for the declining international economies on Germany and suggested that the primary solution to the problem was to coerce Germany to unfreeze repayment of foreign credit. Meanwhile, “Panic or Prosperity” highlighted that the true means of repairing the economic destruction would occur solely through international cooperation rather than isolationist actions. Differences aside, the two sources agreed that immediate action was required to restore the deteriorating financial situation and prevent further damage to the world economy.

Works Cited

“Panic or Prosperity.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed.,  sec. 2: 2. Print. <>

Knott, John F. “Urgent Letter to Santa.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Robinson, W. A. “Moratorium, Hoover.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I.  Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Schuker, Stephen A. “World War I War Debts.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 8. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 542-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

“War Reparations.” World History Encyclopedia. Ed. Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel. Vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-  CLIO, 2011. 439-441. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

FEARON, PETER. “International Impact of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 510-516.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

MCELVAINE, ROBERT S. “Causes of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 151-156.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

“GERMANY AND REPARATIONS.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File): 1. Jan 12 1932. ProQuest. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Stewart, Heather. “We Are In The Worst Financial Crisis Since Depression, Says IMF.”  Editorial. The Guardian. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

The Sunken Road

Joseph Knott depicts the problems facing the French economy in 1933 amidst the Great depression in his cartoon, “The Sunken Road”.            

In 1933, a time plagued with fear and uncertainty amidst the deepest economic downturn in history, the Prime Minister of France, Albert Sarraut, believed that the French economic condition could be restored by cuts in administrative expenses, lowering taxes, and increasing shares of the gold standard. However, the French economy did not recover as expected placing a huge responsibility of the global Great Depression on France. In “The Sunken Road, ” a political cartoon by Joseph Knott, featured in The Dallas Morning News, a man on horseback leading France into an “Economic Waterloo” represents the potential economic degradation of France.

Sarraut is drawn on horseback, continuing to use the gold standard, and running into a field marked “Economic Waterloo.” The cartoon suggests that the use of the gold standard was pushing France into a horrible economic defeat. This is a reference to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 when France, lead by Napoleon, was defeated and thus ended Napoleon’s rule as emperor (Dodds). Knott’s illustration suggested that the French economy would soon be defeated as if they were in battle. Much of the humor found in the cartoon derives from the comparison to the Battle of Waterloo. In comparing the economic situation of France to a horrible French military defeat, the audience is able to find humor in the extreme comparison.

The inflated exaggeration is also shown through the startled expression on the horse’s face. The horse exemplified that the economic decisions and leadership of France were not in their best interest. France was still using the gold standard in 1933, an economic system in which the value of currency was defined in terms of gold. Most countries including the US and Britain abandoned the gold standard in the late 1920s through the early 1930s because it did not allow much economic stimulation to take place (Lars). Thus, during the Great Depression, governments were fairly powerless in the battle against the economic downturn because the gold standard was too restrictive of a grip. Despite this, France continued to use it and even increased their share of world reserves, further harming and limiting their control on the economy.

Ultimately, between 1927 and 1932 France increased its share of world gold reserves from 7% to 27%. In comparison, many other large countries were backing out of the gold standard (Irwin). France failed to monetize much of their new reserves. They placed extreme amounts of deflation on other countries and contributed a large part of why the world witnessed a period of economic downfall before World War II. This caused France to go down in history as one of the largest global contributors to the Great Depression (Lars).

The accompanying editorial that also appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “Too Many Factions,” explained that France was concerned with the possibility of one ruler taking over. Sarraut was quick to discourage this, but the public feared Sarraut’s economic ideas would not be well received, forcing the deputies to shut down the cabinet, leading to a period of economic uncertainty with a dictatorship (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]).

France feared “the man on horseback,” that one ruler, would take over like that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]). The analogy is humorous because of the political and historical truth behind it. France had a figurative fear that Knott depicted literally in his cartoon. Because of differing opinions in the French government about how to deal with the economic crisis and despite the fact that Prime Minister Sarraut was opposed to opening relations with Germany, France was forced to look at Germany with a small amount of envy for its political unity and strength, but with greater fear that a single dictatorial rule would suppress differing opinions and actions within their government (Weinburg [Page 32]). Knott’s cartoon shed light on the economic and diplomatic issues that challenged France in 1933. These issues ultimately impacted not only the French economy, but also the World economy.

Works Cited:

Christensen, Lars. “France Caused the Great Depression – Who Caused the Great Recession?” The Market Monetarist. 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Dodds, Lawrence. “The Battle of Waterloo, as It Happened on June 18, 1815.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Irwin, Douglas. “Did France Cause the Great Depression?” NBER (2010) Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “ The sinking road.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 18 Nov. 1933: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web.02 Nov.2015. <>.

“Too Many Factions.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 18 Nov. 1933: 2. Print.

Weinburg, Gerhard L. Hitler’s Foreign Policy 1933-1939. New York: Enigma Books, 2005. Print.

“WHKMLA : History of France, The Economy 1929-1939.” WHKMLA : Historyof France, The Economy 1929-1939. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.


Welcome to your UGS library blog!

For your archives and library assignment, you’ll be writing a post to this blog that incorporates what you’ve learned at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the University of Texas Libraries research session.

If you’re here it likely means that you’ve received an invitation to this blog.  Make sure you accept the email invitation to be an author on this blog and create a strong password to accompany your username.