The Campaign is On!

Cartoonist John Knott provides his audience with a glimpse of various points of views on New Deal policies implemented by the Roosevelt Administration preceding the 1936 presidential election.
Cartoonist John Knott provides his audience with a glimpse of various points of views on New Deal policies implemented by the Roosevelt Administration prior to the 1936 presidential election.

The Campaign is On! is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott displaying the partisan views of New Deal policies as a solution to the Great Depression preceding the 1936 presidential election. It shows Franklin D. Roosevelt, the incumbent president and democratic nominee, holding up a sign with the words “MORE FOOD AND BETTER HOMES”, both promises of his New Deal policies. It also shows two men walking directly beside him, one labeled as a farmer and the other as a city worker. The cartoon then depicts a frustrated-looking elephant, symbolizing the Republican party, wearing a coat with the words “ANTI-NEW DEAL” and holding a sign that asks “WHO’S GOING TO PAY FOR THEM?” (Knott 2) This cartoon suggests that Franklin Roosevelt, farmers, city workers and the Democratic party wish to continue on with the New Deal as the solution for the depression, while it displays the Republican party’s skepticism and disapproval of such a measure.

The editorial “The Roosevelt address”, which the cartoon was paired with, described Roosevelt’s speech at the National Democratic Dinner in 1936. It explained that this particular speech was utilized by Roosevelt to launch his campaign for his second term in office. The writer also asserted how the two main points of his speech left him vulnerable to economic criticism. The first of Roosevelt’s claims being that the national income had increased dramatically during his presidency from 1932 to 1936, which the writer explained did not take into account the devaluation the dollar underwent during his first term in office. Roosevelt’s second claim expressed his disagreement with the Republican ideology that simply lowering manufacturing costs would lead to economic recovery. He believed it instead would result in either the displacement of workers by machinery or a decrease in wages while hours on the clock increased for workers. The writer of the editorial then followed up with citing Henry Ford’s manufacturing model which gave worker’s fair pay scales while still lowering manufacturing and sell cost (“The Roosevelt Address” 2).

In the late 1920s and the 1930s the worst economic depression the nation had ever endured took place. This infamous period is known as the Great Depression. Prior to total economic collapse, the country had already been trending towards a recession, however, a notable start to the depression took place on October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed (McElvaine 151). This event alone was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, but it did spark a general reluctance of the population to invest in stocks. From 1929 to 1933, the overall “consumption levels declined by 18 percent and investment levels declined by 98 percent.” (Lawson 61) As a result of this, one-quarter of the available labor force was unemployed. The streets began to fill with homeless and breadlines began to grow. It became clearer and clearer that government intervention was required. Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt’s predecessor and a Republican, implemented some measures to combat the economic downturn, although not much was done under his administration. An honest effort by the government to relieve the economic pains of the Great Depression was not put into motion until Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

During his first term in the White House, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs and agencies, which became known as the New Deal, to combat the damage being done by the Great Depression. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civil Works Administration, the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration were the first of many programs created under the banner of the New Deal to help control “prices, wages, trading practices, and production.” (Savage 845) The second major wave of New Deal legislation came in the form of the Social Security Act, the Wagner Act, and the Works Progress Administration. These measures aimed to increase consumption and decrease unemployment and also added “new social welfare benefits, such as retirement pensions and unemployment insurance.” (Savage 846) When the 1936 presidential election and the illustration of Knott’s cartoon came about, the country needed to decide whether to continue with such policies and reelect Roosevelt or to abandon the New Deal and bring in a Republican presidential elect.

Before the Great Depression was in full swing, the nation’s agricultural sector began to suffer in the 1920s. World War I had brought a large amount of agricultural growth to the United States. However, following the conclusion of the war, there began to be an overproduction of crops that flooded the market and impeded the farmers’ ability to make a profit (Lawson 62). Many of the country’s farms, particularly the ones at a larger scale, were being held afloat by New Deal policies such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. This measure aimed to limit the production of crops in order to raise prices to profitable levels. This straightforward plan by the Roosevelt Administration, as well as many incentives from the government, may have swayed many farmers of the time to align with the implementation of the New Deal. This is evident in a 1936 election report by the Los Angeles Times titled the “Vote of the Drought States” that shows major agricultural states of the Midwest displaying a majority of party votes for Roosevelt (“Vote of Drought States” 14).

Major cities in the United States, such as Los Angeles, Akron, and Detroit, experienced a rapid growth in population during the 1920s because of the increase in the number of industrial jobs, as well as the retail and service industries. The occurrence of the stock market crash of 1929 and the persistent economic decline that followed proved to be a challenge for the ill-equipped city governments to combat. This resulted in a decrease in the consumption of products which led to a surplus in the goods being produced. In reaction, industry began to cut production and commit massive layoffs of its workers. These now unemployed city workers could no longer afford to pay their mortgages and rents, this is lead to an increase in the presence of homelessness of these major industrial centers (Flanagan 311). This put these people in a position where government aid was a necessity and the Roosevelt administration up until the 1936 election had a demonstrated a willingness to do so. The New Deal policy, the Federal Relief Act, provided monetary aid to state funded unemployment compensation programs. Also the Civilian Conservation Corps provided work for thousands of jobless young men on federal oriented projects, such as reforestation, road building, and flood control (Kennedy 430). Through agencies, such as the National Recovery Administration (NRA), Roosevelt aimed to “secure the agreement of major industries to government-backed codes designed the to stop the downward slide of payrolls, prices, and production.” (Kennedy 431) Those specific measures might have proven to be ineffective because even after their implementation the economy still “remained sickly.” (Kennedy 432) However, these and many other policies displayed to city working voters a clear effort by the Roosevelt administration to provide assistance to a suffering demographic of the United States’ population. This is possibly what coerced many wage earning voters to side with Roosevelt during the 1936 election. This is displayed when an article that was published in the New York Times following the election stated that “the wage-earner votes might easily account for the landslide” Roosevelt victory (Huston E4).

The Republican party during the 1936 presidential election was firmly against the measures implemented by the Roosevelt Administration and as a result were “anti-New Deal”, as Knott’s cartoon suggests. During the Republican Convention of 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio, the party’s platform began with the sentence, “America is in peril” and “focused on the alleged threat of New Deal policies to American Constitutional government.” (“1936 Conventions” 117) Essentially the Republicans wished to place the majority of the burden of unemployment relief back into local and state governments. They also wanted to restrict the federal government from placing production regulations on agriculture and industry, which was done by the National Relief Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. Alfred M. Landon, the Republican candidate, and the Republican party as a whole believed the New Deal had slowed the recovery of the economy by placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of private enterprise and industry (Merz E3).

The Democratic party during the 1936 presidential election was prepared to back Roosevelt and his New Deal policies. The Democratic Party Convention of 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania “was one of the most harmonious in party history.” (“1936 Conventions” 117) The party’s platform “supported the continuation of the extensive federal programs undertaken by the Roosevelt Administration” and expressed a necessary collaboration between federal and state governments to handle the issues brought about by the Great Depression (“1936 Conventions” 118). In an article published by the New York Times it is expressed that Roosevelt wished to divide the cost of relief between the national and state governments. Also Roosevelt expressed that the policies implemented by his administration did not slow down economic recovery, but instead brought “the return of confidence and the advance of business.” (Merz E3)

The Campaign is On! by John Francis Knott provides the viewer with a snapshot of various points of views on New Deal policies leading into the 1936 presidential election. Farmers at the time experienced a substantial loss in profit as a result of crop overproduction and the Great Depression. This group tended to side with Roosevelt and his New Deal policies for regulation and guaranteed profit. City workers began to struggle as a result of massive layoffs that took place in response to a rise in the surplus of goods. Wage-earners sided with the Roosevelt because of the measures taken in the form of industrial regulations and social projects implemented by his administration. Republicans at the time called for the abandonment of the New Deal, believing that it violated the United States’ Constitution and slowed down economic recovery. On the other hand, the Democrats and Roosevelt vouched for the continuation of the New Deal arguing that it had led to apparent improvements in the economy during his first term as president.

Works Cited

Flanagan, Richard. “Great Depression and Cities.” Encyclopedia of American Urban History. Ed. David Goldfield. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2007. 311-313. Print.


Huston, Luther A. “Labor and Farm Groups Big Factors in Voting: Credit for Outcome Shared by Small Cities and Large, Negroes and Whites, New Voters and Old.” New York Times, 8     Nov. 1936, p. E4.


Kennedy, David M. “Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Presidents: A Reference History. Ed. Henry F. Graff. 3rd ed. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 427-443. Print.


Lawson, Russel M. and Benjamin A. Lawson. “Great Depression.” Poverty in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press, 2008. 61-65. Print.


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. Print.


Merz, Charles. “Issues the Campaign Has Brought to the Fore: With President Roosevelt Himself as the Chief Issue, These are Also Vital.” New York Times, 1 Nov. 1936, p. E3.


Savage, Sean J. “Roosevelt, Franklin D.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004. 838-849. Print.


“Vote of Drought States.” Los Angeles Times, 9 Aug. 1936, p. 14.


“1936 Conventions.” National Party Conventions 1831-2008. Washington DC: CQ Press, 2010. 116-118. Print.  

We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms

Two business men wade through waist high water, "old-timer" is written across the man who is speaking. He says "Call this a bad storm? Why I kin remember back in 1873, and 1893--". Lightning outlines depression in the background.
Cartoonist John Knott mocks the depression and challenges Texans to persevere in the early years of The Great Depression.

The political cartoon We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms by John Francis Knott shows the optimism that older generations had in the early years of the Great Depression. In The cartoon there are two men in business attire, one of whom has old-timer written across his belly and the other is a younger man with a worried look. They are having a conversation while wading in waist deep water and avoiding floating debris. In the background there are fallen telephone polls and flooded houses, and depression is written in the thundercloud outlined by two lightning bolts. The old-timer is telling the younger gentlemen “Call this a bad storm? Why I kin remember back in 1873, and 1893–”, he is referring to The Panic of 1873 and The Depression of 1893 (Knott, 2).

The accompanying editorial titled “Survival of the Fit” emphasizes the strength that is needed to survive the depression. It comments on not doing as bad in the depression as other states due to it’s mainly rural population, and the drive of Texas men finding pleasure in a challenge (Editorial Team, 2). Although there are no ships in the cartoon the Editorial refers to the oncoming depression as an “Economic storm”, and makes many nautical references, comparing a ship to a business and it’s crew to businessmen.

The Panic of 1873 was a major depression in the U.S. caused by the Legal Tinder Acts. The Legal Tender Acts authorized the influx of over one billion in paper currency, or Greenbacks (Blanke). These Greenbacks were no longer founded on the gold standard, which was an idea that all paper money could be exchanged for gold. Since they were off the gold standard the actual value of the Greenback went down and the amount of Greenbacks needed to purchase something went up, also known as inflation. At this time a man named Jay Cooke who was a prominent investment banker decided to purchase the Northern Pacific Railroad ( The land that the Railroad was built on was a sixty million dollar land grant from the government. In an effort to make a profit, Cooke sold the land around the railroad to the public for farming. The problem arose when Cooke found the land surrounding the railroad could not be used for farming. As prices for further construction and repairs for the railroad continued to rise, Cooke faced with a tough decision, lied to the public about the value of the land. When Cooke was found out the investors pulled out and with no source of income and no way to pay back investors Cooke sent the U.S. into a depression that lasted six years. However the U.S. beat the depression with the continued growth of the railroad and the influx of immigrant workers.

The Depression of 1893 was again caused by inflation and the reliance on the gold standard. The economy was booming with the massive growth of the railroads, but they were using borrowed money to do it. At this time Europe was invested heavily in American companies, but when the British banking firm, Baring and Brothers, went bankrupt it scared a lot of people, and Europeans began to redeem their stocks for gold. Coincidentally the price of silver began to drop, and since gold was the preferred worldwide currency, people in the U.S. also began to redeem their cash for gold (Sioux City Museum). These things caused the major loaning companies to go bankrupt spiraling the U.S. into a 3 yearlong depression. But the U.S. beat this depression as well by borrowing sixty five million from J.P. Morgan and the Rothschild banking family of England, to get back on the gold standard.

The Great Depression came about because of the rapid growth of the economy, and people investing in the stock market with borrowed money (Procter). Knott uses the depression as an analogy to a storm in the cartoon because like a storm The Great Depression came about quickly and people were not prepared for it. It started on October 24th, known as Black Thursday, it continued into the next week with Black Monday and then to the worst day in Wall Street history, Black Tuesday (Silver). Within one week the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is a “price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange” fell more than twenty percent (Silver). With unemployment exceeding ten percent across the country the president at the time, Herbert Hoover predicted numerous times that the depression would be over soon, that the storm would pass, but it did not (Whitten). Not until the Second World War, which started in 1939, would the economy begin to look up as the U.S. began trading arms.

Knott is using his cartoon to instill optimism in his readers through the old-timer. The old-timer is saying that the storm will pass eventually, and he has been through worse even though he had not. By having the two men wading through water and debris, Knott is making light of the situation, as if to taunt the “storm” further. By referencing the Panic of 1873 and The Depression of 1893 Knott is showing that the old man is at least fifty-eight at this point, and yet, he is out in the storm giving advice to his younger friend. Knott uses this age difference in the men to show if an old man can make it through both of those depressions and still be ok then why can’t the young business man.

We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms was created to show readers that the U.S. has been through depressions before and they have survived all of them. The editorial provides words of encouragement and challenges Texans and Americans alike to face the depression head on. Knott mocks the depression with the old-timer, and the cartoon serves as a political commentary on not only the strength of Texas but the nation as a whole.

Works Cited

Blanke, David. “Teaching, Home of the National History Education Clearinghouse.” Panic of 1873 | Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Editorial Team. “Survival of the Fit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 28 May 1931, sec. 2: 4. Print.

Knott, John Francis. “We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 28 May 1931, sec. 2: 4. Print.

“Panic of 1873.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact. . 29 Nov. 2016 <>.

Procter, Ben H. “GREAT DEPRESSION.” Texas State Historical Association. TSHA, 15 June 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Silver, Caleb. “Stock Market Crash Of 1929.” Investopedia. Investopedia, 10 Oct. 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Sioux City Museum. “Financial Panic of 1893.” Financial Panic of 1893. Sioux City Museum, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Whitten, David O. “The Depression of 1893.” EHnet. Economic Historical Association, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.




Continue reading

Germany’s Christmas Tree

A very meager and sad looking Christmas tree sits behind a broken window. The ornaments are chain links, solders fighting depciting communism and fascicm, and presents with the words reparations, debt and unemployment written on the outside. A candle of "hope" sits at the top of the Christmas tree.
A very meager and sad looking Christmas tree sits behind a broken window. The ornaments are chain links, solders fighting depicting communism and fascism, and presents with the words reparations, debt and unemployment written on the outside. A candle labeled “hope” sits at the top of the Christmas tree.

Description: This political cartoon from the early 1930s, depicts a Christmas tree with ornaments of war, but with one small glimmer of hope – that of a candle topping the tree. It is referring to the hope that France and Germany will work out their differences regarding reparations in the post WWI landscape.

This cartoon is humorous because of it’s contrasts between the usually happy celebrations of Christmas time with the sad, meager tree and the angry, combative “ornaments that are hung on the lowest branches – perhaps implying the lowest hanging fruit and thus  the most likely to occur.


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

Reparations.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction. Ed. John Merriman and Jay Winter. Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2205-2209. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Oct. 2014.

A Timely Shower Down on the Farm

"A Timely Shower Down on the Farm;" depiction of a farmer and his family looking up to a rainy sky. The cloud has the words "Soil Conservation" in it, while the words "$500,000,000" are in the rain. The farmer says, "The soil sure needs it."
Knott’s cartoon predicts the effects of the Soil Conservation Bill on the farmers that it will assist.

A Timely Shower Down on the Farm by John Francis Knott –
Saturday, February 29, 1936

This political cartoon pictured above and entitled “A Timely Shower Down on the Farm” is in reference to the Soil Conservation Bill, which is also known as the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936, which was passed on February 29 of 1936, the same day that this newspaper was first printed (“Soil Conservation Bill”). This bill was passed by the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, also commonly called “FDR.”

President Roosevelt was known for his vast expansion of government aid programs, in particular the New Deal, which was a series of federal aid programs intended to help the public recover from the economic downturn in the United States during the 1930s known as the Great Depression. Some of these programs include the Social Security act, which helped the unemployed by giving them money to live on in the form of pensions; the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps, which helped to remove the excess amount of people looking for work that were in cities at the, as well as provide money for families; and the AAA or Agricultural Adjustment Act, which protected farmers from the cost of their crops dropping by providing subsidies to them.

The Soil Conservation Bill was largely put in place as a replacement of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which was ruled unconstitutional in the month prior to the passing of this bill (“Seventy-Fourth Congress”); as such, the goal of the Soil Conservation Bill, much like that of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, was to financially support farmers so that they would grow more soil-conserving crops to help prevent more soil erosion, a great problem in the 1930s due to the Dust Bowl (Gregg), a series of severe dust storms and droughts that plagued farmers throughout the 1930s.

The article which accompanies this cartoon, simply entitled “Soil Conservation Bill,” talks about the bill and its goal to prevent further soil erosion by reducing the farmers’ crops and compensating them for the resulting loss in income. Because the newspaper that this article and cartoon were printed in was first run the day the Soil Conservation Bill was passed, the writer and cartoonist could not have known whether President Roosevelt would sign the bill. However it seems clear that he will, considering the sort of government aid programs President Roosevelt has approved in the past. The author of the article even goes as far as to say that it is “doubtless” that President Roosevelt will sign the bill (“Soil Conservation Bill”).

The humor of this cartoon is derived from the use of metaphors.

The political cartoon depicts a farmer and his family on their farm, which serves to represent the farmer’s livelihood, which seems to be experiencing a drought as shown by the leafless and perhaps dead tree in the background as well as the apparent lack of grass (Knott). This is representative of the farmers’ lack of income as well as the more literal effect of the Dust Bowl. The farmer remarks that the soil needs the rain (Knott), which is used to represent the money given to the farmers by the Soil Conservation Bill “cloud.” The name of the cartoon, “A Timely Shower Down on the Farm,” refers to the good timing of the bill in order to improve the state of not only the farmer, but also the soil.


Works Cited:

“Seventy-Fourth Congress.” Landmark Legislation, 1774-2002: Major U.S. Acts and Treaties. Stephen W. Stathis. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2003. 205-208. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

GREGG, SARA M. “Conservation Movement.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 203-206. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Author Not Listed. “Soil Conservation Bill.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 29 Feb. 1936: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “A Timely Shower Down on the Farm.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 29 Feb. 1936: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.