Tag Archives: World War I

Suggestion for Historical Mural

Suggestion for historical mural

Going against the wishes of the League of Nations, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and his italian army invaded Ethiopia in an effort to gain an advantage in the imperialistic race Europe found itself in at the time. This increased tension between Italy and other members of the League of Nations, particularly England and France.

In the Knott cartoon, a man is dressed in Ancient Roman robes and a laurel wreath. He is labeled as Mussolini and Caesar. Mussolini rides a horse drawn chariot through the street under an arch labeled “Roma”, surrounded by an enormous crowd and people leaning out of windows waving flags. The design of the town is evocative of ancient Rome. Being marched behind him, attached to the chariot by the neck with a rope, is a bedraggled black man wearing nothing but a large barrel, labeled Ethiopia.

This cartoon references the Italo-Ethiopian war, an armed conflict which was one of the leading causes to world war II and ended in the subjugation of Ethiopia by the Italian forces.One of the reasons for this conflict was imperialism. Before World War I, European countries were racing to colonize Africa — this competition was a major inciting factor for the war. One of the reasons for the creation of the league of nations after the war was to settle disputes between nations and avoid further war. They pushed for the disarmament and demilitarization of nations involved in the first war in an effort to seek and maintain peace. However, during this time Benito Mussolini and his movement of fascism rose to power in Italy. He became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and focused on the expansion of the Italian military forces. By the late 1930s, he had used his military to invade Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Albania, making Italy a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean area.

The Italo-Ethiopian war was a significant one of Mussolini’s conquests. Ethiopia was one of the few independent countries in the European colonized continent; Italy had tried and failed to acquire it as a colony in the late 19th century. A small border conflict between Ethiopia and the Italian controlled Somalia gave Mussolini the justification for invading Ethiopia. The rationale was that Ethiopia was to be held accountable for the conflict, but the real motive was to gain the resources and boost Italian prestige.

This was exactly what the league of nations wanted to avoid. It denounced Italy’s invasion and tried to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but it was ultimately ineffective due to lack of support. The conquest of Ethiopia angered the british, who had colonized East Africa and worried about maintaining their control, but other major powers had no real reason to interfere with Italy. Supporting the rise of fascism within Europe, this war contributed to the tensions between fascist regimes and western democracies.

Equally important to understanding this political cartoon is the reference to Julius Caesar. The ancient politician and eventual dictator of Rome bears similarities to Mussolini: both were ruthless Italian dictators bent on expanding Italy’s control through military force and who were eventually killed by those who opposed them. Although in the present day we know of Mussolini as a dictator, at the time the cartoon and editorial were published that was up for debate, as he was still accumulating power. By likening him to Caesar, someone historically known as a tyrant, Knott made a strong political statement about the ethics of Mussolini’s conquests. This is further emphasized by the title of the cartoon, “Suggestion for Historical Mural”. Murals are a large, public, accessible artform. Since they reach such a wide audience, they have the capability to sway public perception. By suggesting that this unflattering depiction of Mussolini be a historical mural, Knott is making a statement about the way he wants history to remember Mussolini.

The cartoon shows Mussolini on top of a chariot, crowned with a laurel wreath, while the Ethiopian man is dragged below by the neck, wearing only a bucket. Mussolini’s stature is one of power: he is in possession of technology that allows him to be swifter and stronger, he stands above the other man, and he wears a crown that is symbolic of victory. Meanwhile, the barrel the Ethiopian man wears signifies destitution, and the rope around his neck helplessness. Mussolini and his army reign over Ethiopia with formidable strength, and this is reflected in the positions the people in the cartoon find themselves in.

The editorial accompanying this cartoon is titled “A Hot Time in the Old Town”. This title is drawn from a popular song from the time period of the same name, “A Hot Time in the Old Town” (also referred to sometimes as “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” after a memorable refrain in the chorus) composed by Theodore A. Metz in 1896. This march was popular in the military, associated with the Spanish American war and Theodore Roosevelt’s rough riders. Although the song was created before the 20th century, a popular rendition of it was recorded in 1927 by Bessie Smith, a notable singer of the era. This would have made the song a relevant reference in the 1930s, when the editorial was written. In regards to the article, the “hot time” would be the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, and the “old town” would be a reference to Rome, a city in Italy with an ancient history of conquest, and fits in with the parallels the cartoon draws between Ancient Rome and Italy during the 1930s. The fact that this song was popularized with the military emphasizes the militaristic nature of the conflict in Ethiopia, drawing attention to the fact that Italian armed forces were sent in to occupy Ethiopia.

By equating Mussolini with the tyrant Caesar and showing him subjugating the Ethiopian man, Knott draws attention to the situation between Italy and Ethiopia, as well as making it clear he believes Mussolini is a dictator wrongfully conquering Ethiopia.

Works Cited

“Italo-Ethiopian War.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia.” Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia | History Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Julius Caesar.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Benito Mussolini.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Kalinak, Kathryn Marie. How the West Was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford. Berkeley: U of California, 2007. Print.

Knott, John. “Suggestion for Historical Mural” Dallas Morning News 18 Apr. 1936. Print.

Militarist Nation, Coming and Going

knott-cartoon

 

Amid shifting political powers and tense foreign relations of the early 1930’s, both France and Japan faced the challenge of balancing their budgets between the economic depression and the necessity of increased military spending. An editorial, written by an unknown author in 1933 in the Dallas Morning Newspaper, “Troublesome Budgets”, explicates the larger political stakes at play. It reveals the French government, urged by Premier Daladier, has increased taxes to offset the budget deficit and that while the Japanese Parliament is not currently in session, they will soon face the same dilemma. Frances is pressured to give out loans to the Japanese territory, Manchukuo, and that Japan is under pressure to forge a diplomatic agreement with the Soviet Union. Due to the debts and future responsibilities of both these countries, they cannot truly afford a full-scale war without assured bankruptcy, so they must remain open to political agreements with Germany and other potentially hostile nations. While admitting the concerning nature of these events, the author is optimistic, as these concessions may lead to the prevention of a massive, global war (Troublesome Budgets).

In the accompanying political cartoon, Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, John Francis Knott, a prominent cartoonist of the era, satirizes the precarious political situation of the French government in 1933, challenged with maintaining military strength in the wake of the devastation of World War I and facing the economic downturn of the Great Depression (Knott). The illustration depicts the front and back of a French soldier representing the two opposing sides of the interwar French government. His front, a crisp and well-maintained uniform with the words “Millions For Armament” on the ammunition pouches, is the paragon of military ideals, the image France wanted to convey to Germany as part of their defensive mentality. The back, however, is in tatters, covered with patches stating “taxes”, “unbalanced budget”, “defaulted debts” and “reduced wages”. The implied pacing motion of the soldier could be interpreted as a metaphor for France being on guard, a sentry keeping an eye out for possible warlike advancements by Germany. The soldier is wearing prototypical uniform of the World War I era, complete with an Adrian helmet, made of steel, and only issued to soldiers in heavy combat (Suciu). The defensive nature of the soldier’s uniform, as well as his worried expression is parallel to the apprehensive, tense nature of France during the interwar period. The patches on the uniform represent temporary sacrifices that are meant to fix the holes in the economy. This exposes what is underneath pretense of the supposedly formidable French Armed Forces: a weakened economy and divided populous.

The events leading up to this period in French history are crucial for understanding and interpreting the mentality of the French government and people. The French and global economies were still recovering from the devastation of the first World War, ending in 1918, with a victory by the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States) and the creation of the League of Nations, aimed at preventing another worldwide military conflict. Germany, due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, was mandated to make war reparations, however because of their ruined economy, were unable to complete the payments, leaving France to fend for themselves, who in turn had to repay war debts to the United States. France had to spend large sums of money on reconstruction to repair the damage to the infrastructure and the ingrained societal systems (Hautcoeur 9). In 1924, taxes were too low to balance the budget, but instead of raising taxes they lowered the interest rate on bonds, which led to a decrease in the purchase of bonds which worsened the recession. In 1926, Prime Minister Raymond Poincare was given nearly absolute power over the economy and repaired by implementing new sales taxes and trimming the fat off the bureaucracy (Beaudry 16). While this left the economy in relatively good shape, the shock of World War I had created a defensive mentality in France. The resulting turmoil led to support for extremist groups and split France into two diametrically opposed, radical political alliances: The National Bloc, the right, who advocated for business, the army and were hellbent on revenge against Germany, and the Cartel des Guaches, a coalition of leftist parties who lobbied for the lower-middle class and were in favor of a foreign policy of security by negotiation.

The differing economic policies of the alignments came into play in 1931, when the Great Depression began to affect France. The Depression was not as consequential in France as it was in the United States; the French economy was mainly self-sufficient and relied on smaller business and local economies (Beaudry 12). The mentality towards depression was different than that of the United States; it was seen as a necessary evil to purge excess money and to send indebted companies, barely staying afloat, to failure. A success of the government was that they maintained a restrictive and procyclical policy, meaning that in a recession, they reduced government spending and increased taxes, which helped them avoid the full implications of the depression (Hautcoeur 7).

In 1933, the year of the cartoon, radicalistic Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, in an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1920’s, made the argument to Parliament that the augmentation of taxes is needed to offset the necessary military spending (Troublesome Budgets). This request is granted, demonstrating that they have learned from their past economic mistakes, however, in his cartoon, Knott outlines all their new errors. While Parliament is focusing on armament and defensive foreign policy, they are ignoring the crucial implications for their own economy. The largest militaristic expenditure was the Maginot Line, proposed by André Maginot, the French Minister of War, at the cost of 3 billion francs, a tactical defensive perimeter that spanned eighty-seven miles of the German-French border (Wilde). This dismal financial situation left France struggling to maintain insecure political relations and commit to defensive military tactics, while feigning to have the upper hand. Their financial difficulties made them receptive to Japanese and German demands, for treaties and military movements.

The irony in Knott’s cartoon is apparent in that things are not always what they seem on the surface. The title, Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, while fitting the illustration, seems to also imply the inevitable fall of France as an imperialist empire, in part due to its unrealistic budget priorities. Before the first half the 20th century, French was a prominent and influential player on the global stage. However, the two World Wars left the economy, politics and infrastructure of France devastated, and France was never able to return to its former status as a major power.

 

Works Cited

Beaudry, Paul, and Franck Portier. “The French Depression in the 1930s.” Review of Economic Dynamics 5.1 (2002): 73-99. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Hautcoeur, Pierre-Cyrille, and Pierre Sicsic. “Threat of a Capital Levy, Expected Devaluation and Interest Rates in France During the Interwar Period.” SSRN Electronic Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Knott, John. “Militarist Nation, Coming and Going.” Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Kuttner, Robert. “The Economic Maginot Line.” The American Prospect. N.p., 11 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Suciu, Peter. “The First Modern Steel Combat Helmet: The French ‘Adrian’ – Military Trader.” Military Trader. N.p., 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
“Troublesome Budgets.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Wilde, Robert. “The Maginot Line: France’s Defensive Failure.” About.com Education. N.p., 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

 

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.

There Ain’t No Such Animal

Uncle Sam as he passes by the "Germanese Twins"
Uncle Sam as he passes by the “Germanese Twins”

There Ain’t  No Such Animal

John Knott ~ December 28, 1931

World War I was an enormous global conflict that completely altered the geopolitical landscape and changed the way the world thought about war. Many societies, including the United States, were astonished by the unprecedented death toll that occurred due to advances in weapons, machines, and trench warfare. The introduction of tanks, the automatic gun, and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, led to horrors that had never been seen before. With a generation of young men killed and injured due to the Great War, society was left changed, and the United States’s view of the contributing factors and aftermath of this war were broadcast throughout the nation in newspapers. In the political cartoon There Aint No Such Animal, by John Knott from the December 28, 1931 issue of the Dallas Morning News, we see a satirical and politically biting interpretation of the controversial war reparations brought upon Germany by the Allied powers.

Following World War I, at the Paris Peace conferences, the Allied powers had to decide what punishments to divvy out to the Central powers. The Allied powers decided to force the defeated Central powers to pay reparations. However, the other Central powers could not pay reparations because many countries were bankrupt and their governments had broken apart, such as the dissolution of Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Germany was forced to take sole responsibility for World War I and for the reparations. Many countries recognized there were other contributing factors to World War I and believed the reparations would be too harsh, which would lead to geo-political and economic consequences in the future (Webb, 786). However, France believed Germany deserved to pay all these reparations due to France’s destruction at the hands of German troops. The debate over reparations was a point of contention throughout the Paris peace conferences. Germany had to pay thirty-three billion US dollars to the Allied powers in 1931, which is the equivalent of five hundred and sixteen billion dollars in 2015 (Webb, 793-4). The Allied powers should have had the foresight to see that these penalties were too harsh and would ultimately lead to further tragedy, such as World War II.

In the political cartoon, There Aint No Such Animal, we see Uncle Sam passing a store front acknowledging, yet walking away from the ‘Germanese twins’.  The title of the cartoon alludes to the idea that this colossal amount of debt and reparations had never been seen before because no war resolution had ever resulted in such large reparations directed at one country. As we see Uncle Sam peering into a window, in shock at the two fat twins, and he is trying to wave at them. Yet, the twins look back angrily through the window. Germany was angry because America was one of the countries that contributed to the reparations, and the German people believed the reparations were unfair and humiliating to their country. The twin’s size illustrates that Germany had a large war debt. Uncle Sam’s facial reaction alludes to the American people’s guilt of Germany’s financial situation. The ‘Germanese twins’ represent the massive war debts and the one hundred and thirty-two billion gold marks of war reparations that Germany had to pay (Taussig, 37-8). Knott employs the use of humor through his characterizations of the two global superpowers. The emblem of Uncle Sam is supposed to demonstrate American military heroism, yet here Uncle Sam shies away from his own actions. The large size of the twins and their angry expressions are literal in demonstrating Germany’s large debts and reparations and their anger about said debts and reparations, and Knott illustrates the humiliation and reduction of Germany as a country by placing the twins behind a glass window. The glass window allows others to ignore their plight and their accountability.

The Basel Report opinion article that is paired with the cartoon explains the economic consequences of Germany’s war debts and reparations. The article states that economists in over eleven nations believed that Germany was unable to pay these reparations due to their “declining business, departures from the gold standard, tariff bars, and heavy interest charges on loans and credits” (The Basel Report).  Another issue set forth in the article is that taxes could not be raised to pay the reparations. There was growing fear that Germany’s economic crisis could start a global economic decline. In the cartoon, we see Uncle Sam shying away from the twins, but also staring at them in fear of what troubles they could bring. The issue that the war debts and reparations were part of the same issue and could not be separated is demonstrated in the cartoon by representing them as twins. Basel asks, “If war debts due us cannot be met in full, they should be reduced. Why worry over the loss of driblets, when billions of dollars are being lost annually through the continuance of hard times and unemployment?” (The Basel Report). Clearly the reparations were not the answer to global economic repair, and many people found the reparations to be ridiculous and humiliating, as the cartoon illustrates.

Ultimately, these reparations were unjust and shortsighted because they forced Germany into a financial crisis from which they could not recover. As world renowned economist John Keynes said this was a ‘Carthinagian’ solution that ultimately led to the complete destruction of Germany’s economy and political system. The economic collapse and degradation of the ineffective Weimar Republic led to poor quality of life, rampant poverty, and desperation in Germany that ultimately led the German people to alternatives like the Nazi party to save the country from total disaster.

Works Cited

Bradley, Megan. “Reparations.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. George Thomas          Kurian. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. 1459-1460. Gale Virtual Reference              Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “There Ain’t No Such Animal.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed. Print.

Taussig, F. W.. “Germany’s Reparation Payments”. The American Economic Review 10.1 (1920): 33–49.

“The Basel Report.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed., sec. 1: 4. Print.

Webb, Steven B.. “Fiscal News and Inflationary Expectations in Germany After World War I”. The Journal of Economic History 46.3 (1986): 769–794.

 

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. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=U50X50WDMTQ0OTk1NjYwOC44ODgyODQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D221569F70FFE@0&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D22159BA346A4@9-104D2217C3412E7A>

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.

Germany’s Christmas Tree

A desolate Christmas tree without pine needles garnished with the burdens of Germany and strung together with thick chains.  Ornaments labeled with terms such unemployment, reparations, hunger, debts, communism, fascism, and revolution threat. Instead of a star, the top of the tree is decorated with small lit candle labeled hope.
Germany’s Christmas Tree

 

Germany’s Christmas Tree

John Francis Knott- December 23, 1931

This political cartoon, published on December 23, 1931, depicts the economic crisis Germany faced due to reparations after World War 1. The Treaty of Versailles, negotiated among the Allied Powers and Germany, stated that Germany would agree to pay reparations under the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan. Germany’s paramount issue involved foreign debts with the United States. During the 1920’s, Germany’s government borrowed excessive amounts of money abroad in order to fulfill reparations payments to France and Great Britain. In the summer of 1931, various German banks began to close while the percentage of bankruptcy and unemployment continued to increase at an alarming rate. Germany’s economic struggle ultimately became a catalyst for voters to consider political parties such as fascism and communism. The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party reached its peak during this particular era. Hitler promised to end reparations, eliminate unemployment, overturn the Treaty of Versailles, eradicate debts, and lay the foundation for a strong national government thus recovering Germany’s sense of authority and pride.

The article associated with this cartoon titled “Center of Interest” capitalizes Germany’s strategy to rebuild its infrastructure and reputation. Hitler is confident that his Fascist party will be in power in Germany and Premier Laval loudly proclaims that France will never permit reparations to be sacrificed to private debts or permit the tampering of the Young Plan (“Center of Interest”). The economic interests of the French and United states would be jeopardized if Germany were to disclaim reparations and decide to pay short term credits instead. Ultimately, refusing to pay reparations could potentially lead to another war. President Paul von Hindenburg would no longer be a candidate for re-election in the spring due to his old age which leaves Germany with an unanswered question of who would obtain power. Hitler’s political claims for the economic stability of Germany are beginning to appear much more attractive to voters. Author John Hartwell Moore suggests that many in the international community such as British general Henry Wilson and economist John Maynard Keynes believe that reparations authorized under the Treaty of Versailles were unreasonably disciplinary, stripping Germany of its dignity which ultimately created geopolitical circumstances that aided Hitler’s rise to power in Germany (“Reparations for Racial Atrocities).

The humor conveyed in this political cartoon derives from an ironic representation of how a Christmas tree should be decorated. Instead of a beautiful arrangement of ornaments and bright lights wrapped around a healthy pine tree, the Christmas tree portrayed in the political cartoon illustrates a desolate tree without pine needles garnished with the burdens of Germany and strung together with thick chains. Ornaments on a common Christmas tree consist of ornaments and decorations that represent the Christian religion. Christmas is usually perceived as a holiday involving an abundance of gifts yet there are no gifts under Germany’s Christmas tree. Christmas lights which signify hope, happiness, and safety is substituted with thick chains representing bondage and enslavement. Germany’s Christmas tree vividly epitomizes Germany’s economic well-being at that time.  A small candle lit on the top of the tree labeled “hope” exemplifies Hitler’s proposal for safety, strength, and renewal for Germany utilizing fascism as a catalyst.

Works Cited:

John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook, [ca. 1930-1942], 1952, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Author Not Listed. “Center of Interest.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 23 Dec. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “Germany’s Christmas Tree.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 23 Dec. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.

“Reparations for Racial Atrocities.” Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. Ed. John Hartwell Moore. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 490-493. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

 

His Final Refuge

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His Final Refuge

John Francis Knott- February 7, 1932

His Final Refuge by John Knott is a political cartoon that criticizes the events leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War.  His Final Refuge is told from the American viewpoint and how the United States viewed the countries in East Asia.  As Japan and Russia industrialized and became world players over the course of the 20th Century, the United States viewed each country as a potential threat to its own power.  Due to increasing politico-economic tensions the United States would back certain countries at different times in accordance with its own foreign policy agenda.  In this context we can begin to see how different wars between the East Asian countries affected the United States’ alliances.  Once Japan began to rise to prominent power and began to attack Russia for resources, the United States supported Russia.  Later on in World War I the United States and Japan ended up on the same side while still not on good terms, which further increased tensions.  With the rise of communism the United States stopped supporting Russia and sent in troops to help clear the country of its communist revolution.  The complex political-economic relationships between all of these countries provide the backdrop for His Final Refuge by John Knott.

Nationalism amongst nations in the 19th century grew which in turn cause many countries to become colonial nations to expand their borders.  With many new nations becoming colonial nations, the new colonial nations began to challenge the already powerful Western European countries like Germany and France.  The first Sino-Japanese War in 1894 dealt with China and Japan fighting over Korea.  China ended up losing due to being poorly equipped.  Due to the Japanese victory Japan began to rise to power and split China up into a weak country that consisted of spheres of influence, which are territories that accommodate an outside nation culturally, economically, militarily or politically.  Japan then continued their expansion into the Asian mainland in order to grow their empire.  Japan also fought with Russia over the possession of Manchuria and Korea in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904.  Japan won the Russo-Japanese War and Russia gave up Port Arthur and the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan and recognized Korea as a Japanese sphere of influence.  In 1914 World War I had begun and Japan had joined the Allies in order to gain Germany’s pacific territories.  During this time Japan began to politically dominate China and the Pacific.  The United States began to dislike Japan due to competition over territories in the Pacific and tensions further increased when both nations were on the same side in World War I despite competition with each other.  In 1917 during the Russian Revolution once Tsar Nicholas II was removed from power the United States praised the revolution but once the Bolsheviks regained power president Wilson sent troops to stop the revolution even though Russia was technically an ally.  This shows us that the United States is also vying to keep other nations in control and keep its place as the most powerful industrial nation.

In the February 7th, 1932 edition of the Dallas Morning Newspaper, It is reported that Japan laid down its heaviest bombardment in Shanghai on January 28th, which shows how much tensions are escalating in East Asia.  Another article in the February 7th, 1932 edition of the Dallas Morning Newspaper reports that Russia is expecting another world war and has began to train troops to prepare.  It is also reported in the same edition of the Dallas Morning Newspaper that Russia might join with China in order to stop Japan from encroaching on its territory, although the two countries have treaties.  These events reported by the newspaper show us that tensions between these nations were building at a rapid pace.

His Final Refuge by John Knott depicts Russia as a communist nation living in a wooden shack watching China getting hit by a Japanese soldier with a large rifle.  In John Dower’s book, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific, Dower explains that in many other cartoons of in that period Japan is depicted as ape like.  Many Americans believed that the Japanese were inferior and possessed less intelligence than them, which created this common trope among American political cartoons at the after World War I.  The Russian is depicted as looking silently among the horrendous act of the Japanese moving the Chinese into submission.  His Final Refuge refers to China being put in its final resting place through complete political and economic domination.  At the time of 1932 it looked like Japan would dominate China but during The Second Sino Japanese War in 1937, The United States began to aid China and in 1945 the Japanese troops surrendered.

This cartoon provides a grim depiction of what the United States believed was going on with Japan.  Japan was increasingly militarizing and expanding itself as a nation after the first Sino-Japanese war and the United States believed it was going to finally dominate Japan during the period in between the First and Second Sino-Japanese Wars.  This period before World War II in East Asia marks an era of increasing tensions due to colonialism, which in turn creates shifting alliances between China, Japan, Russia and the United States.  These increasing tensions will finally erupt later on proving to be fatal for the world as the Second Sino-Japanese War occurs in 1937 and World War II begins in 1939 with The United States and Russia siding with the Allies and Japan siding with the Axis.

Works Cited:

Andrea, Alfred J., and Carolyn Neel. “Sino-Japanese War, 1894–1895.” World History Encyclopedia. Vol. 16. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 837. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Author Not Listed. “Heaviest Bombardment Yet Laid Down by Japanese Guns.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Feb. 1932: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Christensen, Karen, and David Levinson. “China–Japan Relations.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Vol. 2. New York City: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 6-12. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Dower, John W. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon, 1986. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Eberspaecher, Cord. “Russo-Japanese War.” Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. Ed. Thomas Benjamin. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 988-990. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

Elias Tobenkin. “World War Expected By Soviet And Men, Women and Children are Being Given Rigid Training.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Feb. 1932: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “His Final Refuge.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Feb. 1932: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.