Tag Archives: Dallas

“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.

Caveat Emptor: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Political Corruption

Two men waiting in line for a handout from a government official while behind a fence around the Capitol
Two men waiting in line for a handout from a government official while behind a fence around the Capitol.

Economic turmoil created heavy doubt in civil servants in 1930’s Dallas. Political scandals didn’t help the federal government’s case when trying to win over the good hearted people of Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Morning News’ 1933 editorial “Civil Service Needed” is an outcry against the job buying problem in political machines. Knott’s political cartoon, “Caveat Emptor,” perfectly captures political bosses ripping off Congressmen in a back alley deal. Knott’s humorous insight and the Dallas Morning News sheds light on corruption at the federal level.There are many factors that prelude to the punchline in Knott’s cartoon. Political machines created problems long before 1933, such as the Tweed Ring of the late 19th century (Kennedy 473). Progressive legislation from the Theodore Roosevelt Administration simmered down political machines (Jackson); however, with FDR’s New Deals creating about three million empty jobs at the state and local levels (Kelber), the system began to pick up some more momentum. Traditionally with this form of corruption, people at the lower rung of the machine would give funds and votes to a certain candidate. A newly elected and corrupted official would then rig legislation to give jobs and contracts to contributors to his campaign, cutting out the poor souls who believed in hard work over money. Now with such a large increase in government owned jobs in Depression era America, who was to determine the allocations of these jobs? Enter newly surcharged political machines, ready to give out jobs to the highest bidder.

The good folks of Dallas, Texas weren’t so keen on government handouts made by the political machines. An November 3rd 1933 editorial in the Dallas Morning News titled, “Civil Service Needed” strongly urges, “the wider need of civil service in state employment” The editorial serves as a response to new revelations of campaign solicitation within the Treasury Department (Dallas Morning News 18), which slides perfectly into the definition of political machines. According to the Editorial, corruption can’t be eliminated until change has been brought at the highest level, a burning need for legislation that penalizes political machines higher and higher. It’s also pretty safe to say the, “evil revelation” of job buying is also shared by the mass majority of Americans, a time where nobody found new jobs in a broken economy.

Knott’s cartoon repeats this message against job solicitation, but allows the audience to laugh at the powerful individuals involved. The young man with his hand in his deep pocket portrays congress. His happy-go-lucky face clearly describes he has no idea what is going on. His counterpart to his left has a better idea of a bigger picture. The cigar, large gut, and authoritative demeanor of the man to the left makes him literally large-and-in-charge in the transaction. Cigar man can easily be related to the political bosses who ran the machines, holding a parchment titled state jobs. He’s not the only boss, the next guy behind him is expecting the same treatment and handout from congress on the right. The fence in the background makes the action in the foreground very wrong, like some back alley drug deal. So clearly Knott is saying political machines are shady, and this process is happening again and again. What’s humorous comes from the relationship between the two parties. In a political machine, the representative is meant to be seen as the guy in charge, as he is the one giving the jobs to the highest bidder. Though the other guys look more aware of what’s going on, after all, “the job buyer is no less guilty of political corruption than the job seller” (Dallas Morning News 18). Very much akin to the image of the communist spy in the war room in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; two parties who think they have the upper hand, but in the end are still the loser. Knott flips that around because the bosses are ripping off the corrupt congress, instead of politicians apparently selling to the highest bidder.

Can there be any benefits to job distribution? Or does Knott’s cartoon serve as the ultimate warning to corrupt politicians? The cartoon title, “Caveat Emptor” translates from Latin to “Let the buyer’s beware” Although, the machines weren’t so wary against they’re actions, they believed corruption was in the right. The political machines did manage to benefit those who were a part of it, and they were the only way to, “ultimately provide stable and reliable government,” in an already corrupt system (Ehrenhalt). Take Mayor Daley’s Chicago in the 1950s, where his political machine built many jobs in and around the city (Ehrenhalt). So to some Americans, and I guess some politicians, in order to move forward as a nation, jobs must be bought, and loyalty must be seized, and men must appear with big guts and cigars behind fences. There are definitely men such as Mayor Daley who oppose Knott’s opinions, saying he’s just Knott funny. According to machine supporters, if you corrupt an already corrupt system, then two wrongs can make a right.

Political Machines bought and sold jobs like hot commodities during the Great Depression. The desperate American people and general apathetic feelings toward government allowed corruption to spread. Nevertheless, the people at the Dallas Morning News weren’t afraid to show their true colors. Knott’s cartoon made politicians look like the fools that they are, creating humor in an otherwise dark subject.  The impact of the article at the time may have been small, but in today’s world of information, the archives help show how Americans thought in 1930s Texas. Knott was a forefather in political satire, a sign of not only more mistakes made by politicians, but great satirists such as Stanley Kubrick. Both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon make America’s voice heard in an otherwise silenced nation, crying against any form of political corruption, and making fun of those who do.

Sources:

Dallas Morning News, ed. “Civil Service Needed.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 3 Nov. 1933: 18. America’s Newspapers [NewsBank]. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Ehrenhalt, Alan. “Why Political Machines Were Good for Government.” Why Political Machines Were Good for Government. Governing, July 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/columns/assessments/gov-political-machines-positives.html>.

Kelber, Harry. “How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression.” How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression. The Labor Educator, 9 May 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.laboreducator.org/newdeal2.htm>.

Jackson, Bill. “Political Machines.” Political Machines. The Social Studies Help Center, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Kennedy, Robert C. “Nast, Thomas (1840–1902).” Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Ed. John D. Buenker and Joseph Buenker. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2013. 473-474. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Come Down and Be Organized

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At first glance we see a worker sitting a top a tower in what looks to be an oil field.  He is eating a sandwich and he looks pretty happy and content with his current situation.  At the bottom of the picture we have a more powerful man that looks as if he is angry with the worker.  The powerful man could be possibly yelling at the worker.  When we read the text given in the picture we see “East Texas Oil Fields” posted on the tower.  So we know that our location of this cartoon is most likely in East Texas.  Right next to the sandwich in the worker’s left hand says, “Liberal Wage” which could possibly mean that the workers are only getting paid enough to eat.  There is a bucket of food sitting next to the worker on the tower and the text next to that says, “Harmonious relationship with employers.”  As we look at the man at the bottom he is holding a paper that says “John L. Lewis” at the bottom and “C.I.O.” on the top.  We can assume that this man is in fact John L. Lewis.  The cartoonist John Knot does a wonderful job in this piece by simplifying what is going on and still creating a brilliant cartoon.

Let’s start with who John L. Lewis is.  John L. Lewis was considered to be one of the most powerful men in the U.S. during his time.  He was described as something of a maverick because he made sure that the CIO ignored sex, color, and race when it came to employing workers.  This persuaded women, immigrants, and blacks to join his new organization.  The CIO stands for the Committee for Industrial Organization.  This is an organization that helped changed our country in a great way.  This was somewhat a start to equality though at the time, equality was far for from being true.

The article that goes along with cartoon comes from The Dallas Morning News on April 4th, 1937.  The article entitled “Oil and the C.I.O.” states that it is the beginning of John L. Lewis’s committee’s plan to unionize a great East Texas oil field.  The writer expresses the worry of East Texas and Dallas workers that unionization or any attempt to unionize might prolong ongoing labor problems in the oil industry.  In the past, attempt to unionize has failed.  East Texas is a section of the C.I.O.’s plan to bring together 1,000,000 workers in its efforts to produce, transport, refining, and distributing petroleum.  The C.I.O. looks to be a good organization in creating jobs for East Texas residents.  There was no attempt made to match John L. Lewis’s competition by other companies.  The consequence, working with a field that has not been touched or worked on, and having inexperienced workers in the work force from the East Texas area.  The writer expresses his opinion on the possible hazard that workers would neglect and be late on signing up and paying their union dues.  The article in all shows that there are mixed feeling on whether East Texas oil fields should follow the path of unionization. In the grand scheme of things, John L. Lewis is attempting to make things more organized in East Texas.

As we can see from the article and the cartoon itself,  John L. Lewis has an agenda.  The cartoon is funny because it shows that John L. Lewis is growing impatient while East Texas workers just go about there day as if there is no need to be rushed or organized.  The cartoon’s depiction of John L. Lewis represents the C.I.O., John L. Lewis and his determination to execute the plans on his agenda.  The depiction of the man atop the tower in the field represents the East Texas community.  The community is not making it exactly easy for the C.I.O. to go about their plans.  When I look solely at the cartoon, I see a simple, uneducated looking man sitting atop an oil rig getting yelled at by an angry, powerful man.  It is just a funny site to see because it looks like a father yelling at his innocent child to get out of a tree.

The cartoon is entitled “Come Down and Be Organized.”  This is basically saying  that John L. Lewis wants East Texas to change and become unionized.  The C.I.O. believes that unionization is organization in a sense.  A big part of Lewis’s plan was to helping non-skilled workers through collective bargaining.  Some of these non-skilled workers were the people of East Texas.


Work Cited:

“The CIO and the Triumph of Unionization.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“The Cio, 1936–1938.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 4: The 1930s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 196-216. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“Oil and The C. I. O.” Dallas Morning News 4 Apr. 1937. NewsBank/Readex, Database: America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=S53J5EFRMTQxNzQ3MTk1MS42NjgyMTQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425511E33C878E@2428628-10425511EEFC6D5F@0&toc=true&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425511E33C878E@2428628-104255127303FD76@21-10425517179ED9FB>.