This Cartoon depicts one of FDR’s greatest challenges during the depression.
A Californian tourist mistakes the San Joaquin Valley and a farmer for Death Valley because of the strikingly dry climate.
A frightening and frequent image that has been broadcasted across all forms of media since 2011 is the fast-spreading wildfires that have torn through California. The blazes that are displacing California residents are caused by the state’s severe drought. Over 99 percent of the state is abnormally dry, 71 percent is experiencing severe drought, and 46 percent is in exceptional drought (AccuWeather.com). The extreme climate that California is going through is putting a stress on the fresh water supply, creating ideal conditions for menacing wildfires and creating difficulties for agriculture.
Researchers believe that the drought is caused by a large mass of warm water that has moved near the California Coast. “La Niña,” the counterpart part of “El Niño,” is believed to have started the drought cycle (Koons). A high-pressure system touching the California Coast. The system causes storms to be redirected to other regions, limiting the amount of rainfall reaching California. California also relies on snow melting off mountains throughout the year. The high-pressure system cause a two to seven-degree Fahrenheit increase in the atmosphere, causing most precipitation to come down as water instead of snow. Due to the water management techniques in California, heavy snowfall is more beneficial than heavy rainfall (Koons).
One solution proposed by residents and officials was to limit water consumption by 25 percent. Eventually California Governor, Jerry Brown instituted mandatory water restrictions in June of 2015. Rivers and lakes had become so low that the tightest fishing regulations in the history of the state were implemented because species of fish were becoming endangered.
Over 100 million trees died from the drought in between 2011 and 2017. Although some of the area was devastated, northern California began to emerge from the drought in 2016. By the end of the year, over 30 percent of the state was not considered to be experiencing drought, and 40 percent remained in extreme or exceptional levels of drought. 2017 finally began to see heavy rainfall. Northern water reserves began to fill and outlook began to look better after 6 years of struggle (Koons).
A consistent weather pattern has allowed a majority of the state to emerge from drought. Rain storms have been persistently hitting all parts of the state, and snow fall is well above the yearly average. By the end of February over 60 percent of the state was considered to not be in a drought. It was not until April 7, 2017 that Governor Brown that the drought had finally ended.
Aside from environmental concerns, the economic implications of the drought have been devastating for California. Agriculture accounts for nearly 30 billion dollars of Gross Domestic Product for the state. Ever since the beginning of the drought, the state has lost billions of dollars due to the implications that came from a water shortage. Even after some of the state had begun to recover from the drought in 2016, California farmers still lost over 600 million dollars. Nearly 80,000 acres of farmland was fallowed after the 500,000 that was lost in 2015. The drought also cost nearly 2,000 farming jobs for the state. Agriculture uses over 80 percent of water in California, so the drought demanded there be changes in use. The most crucial farming areas that have struggled during the drought are found in the San Joaquin Valley (Koons).
The cartoon, The Fried West (Horsey), depicts a tourist in California believing she is visiting Death Valley. She is referring to the desert valley found in Eastern California. It is one of the hottest destinations in the world during the summer, comparable to Africa and the Middle East. The region is famous for its desolate and dry appearance. The farmer responds to the woman by informing her he is a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley. As previously mentioned, the valley is historically known for its bountiful production of agricultural products. Although it is hyperbolizing, the cartoon suggests that the drought in California is so brutal that a once fruitful region has become as bare and dry as one of the most famous deserts in the in the world. The cartoonist aims to inform the public about how bleak outlook has become, and the drought is not only devastating to the environment but also to individuals attempting to earn a livable income.
Horsey’s cartoon above and the previous Knott cartoon entitled The Salvation of Your Soil, regarding the impact over-cultivation had on farmers in the past, are similar by how they represent the struggle of the American farmer. Events such as the collapse of the cotton industry in the 1920s or the drought in California display the reasons the federal and state governments subsidize farming. Farming is such an integral part of the economy, however there is a constant battle to be profitable. The separation of time between the cartoon is an indicator that the battle for farmers to produce a suitable amount of crop and earn a livable income is constant and never-ending struggle.
Koons, Stephanie. “California’s Drought Is Over, but Water Conservation Remains a ‘way of Life’.” Local
Weather from AccuWeather.com – Superior Accuracy™. N.p., 28 Apr. 2017. Web. 03 May 2017.
Horsey. “The Fried West.” True Democracy Party, 16 Sept. 2014, truedemocracyparty.net/2014/09/california-mega-drought. Accessed 16 June 2017.
President FDR warns farmers of planting too much and ruining the arable land.
John F. Knott was born in Austria in in 1878 and emigrated in Iowa with his mother at the age of five. Hired as a cartoonist, Knott began working for the Dallas Morning News in 1905. Knott is famous for his character “Old Man Texas,” a proponent for transparency, capitalism, low taxes, and property rights. His cartoons became popular during World War I and historians believe his cartoons boosted the sales of Liberty Bonds. His cartoons have been reprinted in various magazines and newspapers since their original publication.
The cartoon that is displayed above is a depiction of the “Old Man Texas” character as a rural farmer in Texas. The setting is very rural and is clearly on the fencing line of a Texas farm or ranch. The character is hunched over reading a letter being held by a government man in a suit who is standing on the other side of a barbed wire fence. The cartoon is called “The Missionary in Cottonland,” referring to the man in the suit’s persuasive nature. The letter he is holding states, “The salvation of your soil and income depends on moderation in cotton planting – Join the co-operative soil conservation movement.” The letter is referring to the conservation movement started by President Roosevelt. The government man is urging the farmer to slow down his production of cotton (The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt).
At the time the cartoon was drawn the Texas cotton industry was booming. Agriculture and cotton farming had expanded from Central Texas to the Gulf Coast, and had steadily moved north. A small drought had begun in North Texas and there was fear of over-planting. Cotton is the most-drought resistant crop, so farmers felt inclined to switch from crops such as corn. Roosevelt feared that an increase in the acreage of cotton would increase supply too far, ultimately causing a significant drop in price. The cotton industry in the United State was already struggling because of the mass production in countries such as Brazil, Egypt, India, Sudan, Argentina, and Russia (Britton, Elliot).
Knott is suggesting that Texas farmers follow Roosevelt’s suggestions and switch to crops such a feed. On the side of the cartoon he writes a short column, and at the end wrote, “These foreigners got the jump on our farmers during the last few years and last season they supplied 14,222,200 bales of the world’s cotton consumption of 25,428,000. The United States supplied only 11,205,000 bales. Farmers should take a hint from these figures” (Roosevelt Warns Farmers). The direct language from Knott makes it clear that he strongly encourages that the spread of cotton acreage come to a stop. He uses two main arguments in his writing to support his claim. The first is that the environment and soil must be conserved or there will be no opportunity for future agriculture. The second is that the United States cotton industry is being trumped by foreign competition, and it would be beneficial for farmers to make the switch to other products and forms of agriculture.
Although both Roosevelt and Knott’s advice for farmers was clear, individuals could not turn away from short-term profit. By the 1920s three quarters of individuals working in agriculture were on cotton farms (Britton, Elliot). The United States cotton industry hit a crisis in the early 1920s. The entire industry saw a collapse due to overproduction and a widespread pest that destroyed certain strains of cotton. The introduction of man-made fibers also hurt the industry. By 1944, the first crop of cotton to be completely planted and harvested by machinery had been produced, marking the end of cotton farming boom (Britton, Elliot).
Knott’s cartoon represents the struggles agriculture has with the markets they belong to, and the constant battle with government institutions. As traditional farming has declined over the past century, this battle has become even more prevalent. Environmental concerns have also become an issue as the climate change narrative becomes more relevant. There is a connection between agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century and current times because of the continuing struggle for the industry. The solution to one problem is followed by an additional hurdle that must be passed. The industry is often glorified, and met with description such as “the backbone of our nation,” however there has recently been a lack of glory and benefit. The contemporary cartoon in my next blog post, entitled The Drought in California, regarding the recent devastating droughts in California and how they have effected modern farmers, will display how the struggles for the American farmer are just as real as they were when cotton used to be “king.”
Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Elliott, Fred c. and Miller, e. a. “Cotton Culture.” Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Elliott, Fred c. and Miller, e. a. n.p., 11 June 2010. web. 03 May 2017.
“The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.” U.S. Department of the Interior. N.p., 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 3 May 2017.
Knott, John. “The Missionary in Cottonland.” The Dallas Morning News, 21 March 1936.
“Roosevelt Warns Farmers.” The Dallas Morning News, 21 March 1936.
Cartoonist John Knott foreshadows the demise of the NRA regarding the opposition from some industries and companies.
The political cartoon, “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott for the Dallas Morning News published October 28th, 1933, portrays a football team huddled together with “NRA” written on the back of their pants. The field goal in the back has a sign that reads, “’Nobody’s goin to tell us how to run our business,’” (Knott 2) and the opposing team is standing in front of the goal in tackling stances with angry looks on their faces. The men huddled in the group are slouched over as if they are defeated and don’t have a strategy to continue while the team in the back look ready to attack and finish the game. Knott’s cartoon demonstrates the opposition between businesses and the NRA, which was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 amongst his other New Deal propositions to cure the economy through industrial self-government.
The accompanying editorial, “A Test for the NRA,” provides context for the cartoon regarding Henry Ford and steel companies that oppose the National Recovery Administration. The steel companies wanted to run their own businesses, hence the sign hanging from the field goal, and to not be controlled by the government or by codification that moderated how the businesses ran. There were a select few Ford dealers who had accepted the blue eagle, but there were also others who opposed it, leaving the NRA at a predicament on whether to punish the steel companies or not. There was also a section of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a law passed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to authorize him to regulate production, that stated that companies must recognize work unions, but the steel companies did not recognize the United Mine Workers of America, a labor union. Although the strikers were not recognized, they still refused to go to work despite the President’s demands. Furthermore, the NRA was having difficulties being in charge and keeping industries in check due to the clashing temperaments within the steel companies, which foreshadowed its own demise.
In 1929, the stock market crashed due to a decline in consumer spending and increase in unsold goods during World War I, leading to the Great Depression. When Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1933, he enacted the New Deal in an attempt to hasten recovery from the Depression. The National Industrial Recovery Act was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program, and it authorized the President’s right to regulate production. The NIRA attempted to end the Depression through industrial self-government in which industries and businesses would draft codes of fair labor practices, such as set wages, maximum hours, and the right to withhold unions.
Along with the NIRA came the National Recovery Administration, which approved the codes of business. Hugh S. Johnson was in charge of the NRA, but he was not fit for the job due to his submissive character. He was afraid that the Supreme Court would rule out the NRA, so he depended on businesses to voluntarily cooperate with the codification and establish set wages and hours within their workplace. These codes meant change; unfortunately, prosperous companies, such as steel and automobile companies, were not happy with these conditions and refused to comply with them. They had their own successful methods and were not willing to change them as the NRA prompted to do so. Because the Depression was affecting the nation atrociously, production and jobs were necessary to keep the people alive, and the NRA allowed businesses to uphold restrictive policies that hindered the road to recovery. The NRA soon created a voluntary blanket code, in which set wages and hours were provided for businesses to expedite codification. Those who agreed to the blanket code were given a placard with a Blue Eagle, the symbol of the NRA, with the words “We Do Our Part,” that was to be placed on their windows, and consumers were only permitted to give their business to those who adhered to the blanket code.
The irony behind the cartoon lies within the players. Football is known to be in an intense sport in which the players put up a fight no matter the circumstance. However, the players huddled up in the center look worn out and ready to quit due to their inability to think of a “game plan” or solution. The “NRA” players aren’t living up to their expectations as football players; instead, they look like they do not belong in the game. Knott presents the NRA this way to portray the NRA’s weakness and inefficiency and to foreshadow the loss they were about to experience. The NRA’s downfall began when Johnson became erratic and caused various conflicts with government officials and businessmen. Code compliance became a problem, and the NRA let bigger industries get away with code violations. The NRA became so unpopular that it was compared to fascism and was also called “No Recovery Allowed.” The ideas held by the NRA were naïve in that they believed society would look past their interests to work together and better the nation. Due to this, the Supreme Court shut down the NRA and declared that the NIRA was an unconstitutional assignment of power to the president.
“What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott reflects the conflict between the NRA and steel companies during the 1930’s. Steel companies were independently successful and did not want interference from administrations that were forcing new workplace conditions down their throat. However, not all steel companies were unanimous in their decision to adhere to or decline the blanket code, stressing the NRA as depicted in the editorial. The NRA was unsure of what they’d do, for they feared hurting the business of those who adhered to the blanket code. Because of the NRA’s inability to resolve conflict and take charge, the “NRA” team depicted in the cartoon is slumped over and defeated just as they were in reality.
Knott, John. “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec. 11: 2. Print
“A Test for NRA.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec 11:2. Print.
OHL, JOHN KENNEDY. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 683-688. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
In the political cartoon “Five Year Anniversary,” by Nate Beeler, five stacks of one hundred dollar bills are set on fire on top of a cake that reads “2009 Stimulus.” The five candles represent the Stimulus Package’s, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, five years of age upon being signed into legislation by Barack Obama in 2009. Beeler’s cartoon depicts the idea that the ARRA wasted money rather than pushing the economy out of the Great Recession.
In December 2007, the United States experienced a time of rising unemployment and declining GDP (gross domestic product) that lasted until 2009. This period was dubbed the Great Recession due to the severity of the negative impacts. The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research defines a recession as a “period of at least two consecutive quarters of declining levels of economic activity” (Krabbenhoft), and during the time span between 2007 and 2009 GDP decreased by 3.5 percent and the unemployment rate increased more than 5 percent. The gross domestic product indicates the total value of goods and services produced over a period of time, so production and consumer spending decreased drastically. The government attempted to alleviate the unemployment rate and increase economic growth by creating what’s known as a multiplier effect. The multiplier effect occurs when there is an increase in final income from the increase in spending from the initial stimulus. Consumer expenditures make up 70 percent of GDP, and increasing consumer expenditures would create this effect, for consumption leads to the selling of goods and so on. Business investments are also a main component of GDP, and providing business incentives to increase the level of investment was also critical to alleviating the economy. With these two conditions kept in mind, President Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 into legislation. The ESA consisted of 3 provisions: the first provision provided a tax rebate for taxpayers while the second and third provided tax incentives to businesses to stimulate business investment. Unfortunately, consumer spending did not increase as the government hoped it would. Many households preferred to keep their money in their savings rather than spend it or pay their debts; thus, the multiplier effect did not take off. The tax incentives for businesses were also ineffective because the success was minimal and did not improve the economy; therefore, the ESA was failed, but it inspired a new act that was created by the next president, Barack Obama.
After becoming president, Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into legislation. The ARRA allowed people to keep a larger segment of their paychecks, provided tax credits for homebuyers, college expenses, and home improvements. Essentially, people got more than a single rebate and had more of an incentive to increase consumer spending. The ARRA also provided money for the government to improve health care, education, and infrastructure in order to create more jobs for the public and decrease the unemployment rate. Despite these efforts, the economy continued declining; however, GDP increased slightly during the third quarter of 2009 and fourth quarter of 2013, but unemployment continued to increase. Although the ARRA played on the idea of the multiplier effect, it did not work because people either lost hope during the recession and stopped looking for jobs or used their money in ways the government didn’t intend. The ARRA had good intentions, but nothing occurred the way the government believed or wanted it to happen. This relates to John Knott’s cartoon, “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” because of the naive thought that people would comply with what higher officials wanted them to do; in the end, people spent money the way they wanted to spend it or stopped trying to find a job whenever hope was lost. It is difficult to bring an economy out of a recession or decrease the unemployment rate immediately, and it takes time for such drastic changes to occur because people do not have unanimous opinions. Ultimately, the ARRA failed just as the NRA had due to the difficulty in governing people’s actions. The failure of the ARRA and the NRA also expressed the theme that assuming what an entire nation of people would do is naive because people do not act or think similarly, and it is not safe to predict how millions of people would behave, especially during a crisis.
The irony behind the cartoon lies behind the fact that the anniversary of the Stimulus Package was being celebrated despite how negatively people viewed it. It is celebrated because the White House believed the ARRA was good for the economy, but many others thought otherwise as indicated by the burning money. Beeler’s cartoon depicts both standpoints, but the main focus is on how disfavored the ARRA was as shown by making the burning bills the focal point of the cartoon.
Nate Beeler’s political cartoon “Five Year Anniversary,” stresses how much of a fail the ARRA was due to the amount of money it dissipated. Many efforts were put in to save the economy, but the government did not consider the fact that some households or businesses wouldn’t comply with their intentions. The government was unable to dictate the people’s actions, ultimately leading to the collapse of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Krabbenhoft, Alan G. “Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” Encyclopedia of Business and Finance, 3rd ed., vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2014, pp. 234-236. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
The political cartoon Unions by David Fitzsimmons uses well recognized connotations to depict civil tension that still remains today much like it did during the Great Depression. This cartoon captures how the GOP continues to take more and more from public servants, claiming everyone must sacrifice, yet the rich seem to get richer. As is reflected with the theme of the John Knott cartoon Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie, this cartoon conveys the same message as the one portrayed almost 80 years ago: socioeconomic tension leads to civil unrest.
Though the United States emerged from the Great Depression into an economic upswing (Steindyl 1). The feeling of unease seems to be a cyclical trend that political cartoonists can expound upon no matter the decade. In our current economy, public servants, such as teachers seem to be having more and more of their rights restricted. In 2015 the GOP proposed a cut of 5 billion dollars to America’s educational system (Brown 10). Yet after the GOP decided that educational funding would be cut, they also seemed to find a way to help themselves. For example, recently President Trump released a tax plan that one journalist described as a plan that “would be ridiculously good for rich people” (Carter). This new plan cuts top tier business taxes from 39 to 15%. Furthermore, it proposes an elimination of the alternative minimum tax. This would cut our own presidents federal income tax from 37 to 5 million. (Sahadi 4). The outrage of this disparity is what cartoon illustrator David Fitzsimmons conveys with his witty cartoon.
As Knott depicted the right to unionize in Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie published in 1938, Fitzsimmons depiction reflects our countries’ current economic struggles. While there are many differences between the two, there are also similarities to be found. Though much has changed in our country in the past 80 years, economic uncertainty continues to effect unions and their influence upon government (Kebbi 4). While the labor unions in Knott’s cartoon were fighting for the right to unionize, teachers unions today have used their right to unionize to influence policy and form political action comities. (Teacher Unions). It appears as though Knots cartoon highlighted the struggles of earning the right to unionize, while Fitzsimons depicts that, even though the right to unionize has been won, unions are still a threat to big government.
Comparing Knott’s and Fitzsimmons’ political cartoon demonstrates that the humor has not really changed, however the imagery used to tell the cartoonists’ story has evolved. In today’s society, poking fun at political figures as just as humorous today as it was in the 1930’s. In Knott’s cartoon the image of a housewife used to portray Secretary Perkins is central to the cartoons theme. However, if used today, the depiction of a housewife with an apron would no longer be relevant, verging on offensive. Conversely, using well known imagery to provide connation is just as prevalent today as it was in the 1930’s. Knott uses a cat and dog fight to depict the rising tension, while Fitzsimmons uses a bulbous elephant to depict the GOP. Rather than towering above the public servant the elephant is at eye level, diminishing his power. This growing disdain for republican controlled congress could be a reflection on the proposed voucher system which will gravely effect public school funding (Lauter 2.)
In both cartoons the artists seem to both have to portray an antagonist. In John Knott’s cartoon, he portrays the aggressor “Industry” as the antagonist. However, in Fitz’s cartoon he portrays the antagonist to be the rich man standing in the back. One thing to be noticed is how Fitzsimmons’s draws the clothing of both of these figures. The public servant is in baggy clothes and just a white t shirt, on the opposite end we see the rich man in a very nice tailored tux. This portrayal highlights how these cuts effect both parties even down to the way the dress. This can even be known when looking at an article by Lam that states in a very recent study done that the top 1 percent of Americans still hold 20 percent of the nation’s wealth.
Fitzsimmon’s political cartoon Unions demonstrates that unrest between the public servants of the middle class and the elites in government are still prevalent in modern society. As John Knott once portrayed with his political cartoons, we can assume that civil unrest will not cease until socioeconomic tension is dispelled.
Dallas Morning News. Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie. 1938. Print.
Fitzsimmons, David. Unions. 2017. Print.
Kebbi, Yann. “The Decline Of Unions And The Rise Of Trump”. NY Times 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.
Kirkpatrick, David. “Teachers Unions”. Encyclopedia of Education 2002: 2475-2482. Print.
Lam, Bourree. “How Much Wealth and Income Does America’s 1 Percent Really Have?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 12 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017.
Lauter, David. “Education: Trump Wants More Money For Vouchers, Cuts Elsewhere”. LA Times 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.
Steindl, Frank. “Economic Recovery In The Great Depression”. : 1. Print.
Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie is a political cartoon by John Knott depicting the rising tension between labor unions and industries during the Great Depression. Published in the Dallas Morning News in April 1937, this kitchen bout contextualizes the Hershey Pennsylvania Strike of 1937 between peaceful union workers protesting for their right to unionize, while Frances Perkins, the US Secretary of Labor, mitigates between these two parties two with the enactment of Fair Labor Standards Act (Grossman 1).
In 1937 in the wake of civil unrest and growing unease with the American Economy, the workers at the Pennsylvania Hershey Chocolate Factory began to formulate their plan of strike. Just four months before the strike a note entitled “Chocolate Bar-B” circulated the factory. Signed by the Communist Party of Hershey, it brought attention to poor working conditions and highly encouraged them to unionize (De ‘Antonio 3). Furthermore, after owner Milton Hershey fired many workers without apparent reason, union leaders felt they were being punished for unionizing and decided to have no more. On April 2nd the strike began with the union president’s signal and over 600 workers abruptly stopped there. What they were doing was perfectly legal and they gave no reason for them to be forced out. Several days later Hershey sent a message to the protesters “Evacuate by 12 or face the consequences”. Workers did exactly that however as they began to exit the building disgruntled farmers and antiunion members that were affected by the strike attacked the protestors with clubs, bats, and pitchforks. Twenty-five workers, were severely beaten to the extent they had to be transported to the local hospital (Chocolate Workers 2).
John Knott cleverly and comically depicts each entity in this cartoon with specific and deliberate details. For example, the labors right to strike being depicted as a cat. The labors well thought out strike was almost cat like in the sense that they just sat their peacefully. With constant food coming to the protestors it gave them no reason to move from their place. They were able to just dwell in their spots.
Also Knott depicts the aggressor the Industries right to operate as a dog. He brilliantly draws the dog with its teeth shown and claws out, pointy like the pitchforks they used to beat the protestors. Furthermore, unlike the cat with open eyes Knott draws the dog with x’s where his eye would belong. This could symbolize the dying industry of unorganized labor and the rebirth of unionized labor unions.
Lastly and what I believe most canny was John Knotts depiction of Frances Perkins. With a masters from Columbia and an extensive public service resume Frances Perkins was more than qualified to fill her position as Secretary of Labor. Frances Perkins was the first woman to ever be appointed to the United States Cabinet; she represented a milestone in American history (Frances Perkins 1). Still, John Knott uses a patronizing and misogynist tone when depicting her. John Knots bias is explicitly shown as he reduces her to the stereotype that women are expected to fit at the time; a housewife who is confined to the walls of her kitchen. Trying to get the pests underfoot to simmer down.
John Knotts Nice Kitty, Nice Doggy makes light of the tension between labor unions and industries during the Great Depression. It uses the imagery of a cat and dog fight to reveal the growing tension between industry and labor unions. Furthermore, it uses obvious undertones to make fun of Secretary Frances Perkins. The political cartoon serves to comment on how this outbreak at the Pennsylvania Chocolate Factory is a significant event for the unionizing movement during the Great Depression.
“Chocolate Workers’ Sit-down Strike Historical Marker.” ExplorePAHistory.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.
D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007. Print.
Biography.com editors. “Frances Perkins.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, 07 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
Grossman, Jonnathon. “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage.” United States Department of Labor. N.p., 09 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.
This cartoon by Pat Bagely was published on November 19, 2013 and refers to the poor treatment of Walmart workers, as well as shows support for those who went on strike due to these conditions. On of the most famous strikes occured on November 29, 2013 by workers at Walmart because it is notoriously anti-union, doesn’t provide healthcare to about half of their workers, and does not adequately pay their workers (Weissman). Sixteen people were fired from their jobs at Walmart for striking, but an administrative judge ruled that the workers be allowed back and compensated for their time (Malcom). Walmart has cited the laws created which rule strikes illegal in the National Labor Relation Act in order to justify its actions and is still fighting a legal battle to this day (Malcom).
In this cartoon, there are two juxtaposing sides. One, labelled “Walmart Heirs”, depicts a clearly affluent woman named Christy auctioning off a painting of a can of soup. In order to understand this image, one must first know who “Christy” is. Christy Walton is the widow of John T. Walton, one of sons of Sam Walton (the founder of Walmart) (“Christy Walton”). As of today, she is currently one of the wealthiest women in the world (“Christy Walton”). What further establishes the idea of providence on this side of the cartoon is the specific painting being referenced. The cartoonist is alluding to the painting by the famous artist Andy Warhol (his name can be seen scrawled under the image of the can of soup) titled Campbell’s Soup Cans. This painting last sold for 11.7 million dollars (Heinrich). Clearly, the cartoonist is attempting to represent the amount of wealth linked to the Walmart brand.
The other side of the cartoon, labelled Walmart employees, stands in stark contrast to the left side of the cartoon. It depicts a disheveled woman in a break room picking through a bin labelled “food donation for hungry fellow workers”. In her hand is a can of what looks to be Campbell’s soup. This is clearly a commentary on the inadequate pay for Walmart workers, because it is suggesting that they can barely afford a can of soup. Additionally, the security camera conveys the idea that the workers are constantly under surveillance and have little room for error despite inadequate pay and awful working conditions. The humor in this cartoon is clearly derived from the wealth discrepancy between the two sides of the cartoon. While on one hand, the Walmart heirs are capable of possessing a painting of a can of soup worth 11.7 million dollars, Walmart employees are barely able to afford an actual can of soup, which are worth approximately 2 dollars. Because this cartoon was published in the midst of the Walmart strikes, it is an expression of the opinion that workers went on strike for good reason, and deserve to have their needs met.
While it is easy to understand the cartoon at a surface level by ascertaining that Walmart heirs are rich and Walmart employees are poor, it is beneficial to know how these conditions came to be and why they were eventually met with such discontent. One aspect which contributed to these feelings is Walmart’s continuous anti-union sentiment. For many years, Wal-Mart has taken a fiercely antagonistic stance towards organized labor, keeping its stores union free by using every ounce of leverage Congress has given employers — so much so that, in 2007, Human Rights Watch called the company “‘a case study in what is wrong with U.S. labor laws.” (Weissman). Walmart kept its workers in constant fear of joining unions, and was not afraid to take extreme actions in order to keep it that way. One example of this is when a group of Texas butchers voted to unionize in 2000, the company responded to the only successful U.S. union drive in its history by switching to selling pre-packaged meat company wide (Weissman). No more butchers.
As a result of this anti-union sentiment, Walmart has managed to keep pay and working conditions less than ideal. The median retail worker for a large chain earns $14.42 an hour, but independent analysis pegs the figure much lower for Walmart, closer to $9 (Hiltzik). This is not a living wage. Across the country, many employees of Walmart were living at or below the poverty line. In 2009, Ohio officials disclosed that more than 15,200 Wal-Mart employees in the state were receiving Medicaid, and 12,700 were on food stamps (Hiltzik). In 2013, a company executive disclosed that more than 475,000 of its employees earned more than $25,000 a year (Hiltzik). Unfortunately, this means that half of a million people were earning wages which put them below the poverty line.
In response to their treatment by Walmart, employees gathered together to form OUR Walmart, an employee advocacy group focused on pressuring Walmart to improve pay and working conditions (Eidelson). When workers went on strike on November 29, 2013, sixteen employees were eventually fired due to their participation in the strike (Malcom). Upon investigation, it was found that Walmart’s actions against striking employees was a direct violation of labor laws (Malcom). This reveals a direct correlation to the cartoon “Not a Good Place to Sit” by John Knott. In both cases, an issue was brought to the National Labor Relations Board due to strikes caused by inadequate pay and bad working conditions. Because of the legislation set up in the era of the John Knott cartoon in response to the General Motors strikes, it was ruled that Walmart was not legally allowed to fire employees simply because they were striking (Malcom). Had the employees been subject to the laws presented by Texas Senator Dies in the 1930’s, they would have been fired without dispute. Because the laws have changed since then, strikers are protected in the way of employment and felony charges. However, Walmart is still trying to find loopholes in the National Labor Relations Act in order to justify their actions (Malcom). As a result, the legal battle between Walmart and its employees continues to this day.
In Conclusion, this cartoon is a show of support for those workers who went on strike and continue to fight Walmart in court. It points out the clear disparity between the owners and the employees of Walmart, and alludes to much deeper issues. Finally, it provides a direct correlation between the labor laws established in the late 1930’s and those which we have today, and how they aid or harm workers when they go face to face with an extremely powerful company such as General Motors or Walmart. One day, we may see the fault in actions taken against workers which have time and time again resulted in discontent and copious amounts of legal work. This shows that issues we had more than half a century ago are still unresolved and need to be seriously reconsidered if we are to look towards a more desirable future for our nation’s workers.
“Christy Walton.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Jan. 2017. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.
Heinrich, Will. “$71 Million Can’t Be Wrong! ‘Andy Warhol Colored Campbell’s Soup Cans’ at L&M Arts.” Observer. Observer, 01 June 2011. Web. 2 Feb. 2017.
Hiltzik, Michael. “Wal-Mart’s Raise Underscores the Poor Condition of Most Low-wage Workers.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 23 Dec. 2016.
Eidelson, Josh September. “Walmart Workers Plan ‘Widespread, Massive Strikes and Protests’ for Black Friday 2013.” The Nation. The Nation, 29 June 2015. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.
Malcolm, Hadley. “Judge Rules Walmart Unlawfully Fired Workers on Strike.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 16 Dec. 2016.
Weissmann, Jordan. “Who’s Really to Blame for the Wal-Mart Strikes? The American Consumer.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 22 Nov. 2012. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
The cartoon Not A Good Place to Sit by John Knott refers to the Sit-Down Strike Law proposed by Texas Democrat Senator Martin Dies and its continuation within Texas, which made it a felony for workers to perform sit-down strikes. Sit-down strikes are a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at factories or other centralized locations, take possession of the workplace by “sitting down” at their stations. (Encyclopedia Britannica) These strikes occurred throughout America in the 1930’s as a result of unsafe labor conditions and inadequate pay. (Encyclopedia Britannica) The cartoon is a supplement to an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News titled Texas vs. Illegal Strikes published on April 7, 1937.
The cartoon itself is visually simple. It depicts a prickly pear cactus with the words “sit-down strike law” written on it. The cactus is growing out of the center of Texas. The humor in this cartoon can be found through the use of the cactus because if can be interpreted in two ways. At the most basic level and without knowledge of the sit-down strike law, it is obvious that Texas, a place with an abundance of cacti, is not a comfortable place to sit. Additionally, because the cactus is specifically a prickly pear, the name adds to the idea that Texas is inhospitable and prickly. It also strengthens the link to Texas because the prickly pear cactus has a long association with Texas and other southern states, and was even named the official state plant of Texas in 1995. (Cain) On a deeper level, it is clear that the cartoon is referring to the sit-down strikes and legislation taken against them at the time in the state of Texas. It is specifically referring to Texas because Texas legislation took the national sit-down strike law one step further. This made it, quite literally, more dangerous to “sit” in Texas than in other places in the United States.
Sit-down strikes were met with such intense opposition due to their ability to render huge businesses entirely helpless. They effectively prevented their employers from moving production to other locations because the strikers would need to be physically moved in order to continue production (Encyclopedia Britannica). Furthermore, this form of protest prevented their ability to bring in “strike breakers” (Encyclopedia Britannica). These were people brought into the company to replace the workers on strike alleviated pressure on the companies being protested against (Encyclopedia Britannica). Because sit-down strikes made it impossible for companies to get back on their feet without adhering to the strikers’ wishes, they were extremely controversial throughout the United States.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were the first American union to use the sit-down strike (White). On December 10, 1906, at the General Electric Works in Schenectady, New York, 3,000 workers sat down on the job and stopped production to protest the dismissal of three fellow IWW members (Authors of History.com). A decade later, the United Auto Workers staged successful sit-down strikes in the 1930s, most famously in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 (Authors of History.com). GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put (Authors of History.com). GM turned off the heat in the buildings, but the strikers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and hunkered down (Authors of History.com). On January 11, police tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; in the resulting riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” 16 workers and 11 policemen were injured and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) took over the adjacent Fisher Two plant (Authors of History.com). On February 1, the UAW won control of the enormous Chevrolet No. 4 engine factory. GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December to just 125 in February. Despite GM’s enormous political power, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy refused to use force to break the strike.
Though the sit-ins were illegal, he believed, he also believed that authorizing the National Guard to break the strike would be an enormous mistake. “If I send those soldiers right in on the men,” he said, “there’d be no telling how many would be killed.” (Authors of History.com) As a result, he declared, “The state authorities will not take sides. They are here only to protect the public peace.” (Authors of History.com). Meanwhile, President Roosevelt urged GM to recognize the union so that the plants could reopen (Authors of History.com). In mid-February, the automaker signed an agreement with the UAW (White). Among other things, the workers were given a 5 percent raise and permission to speak in the lunchroom. A wave of sit-down strikes followed, but diminished by the end of the decade (White). This was due to legislation proposed by Texas senator Dies, which led to the courts and the National Labor Relations Board holding that sit-down strikes were illegal and sit-down strikers could be fired (“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes”).
The editorial Texas vs. Illegal Strikes focuses on the legislation passed specifically in Texas in order to take the sit-down strike law a step further (White). The national anti-sit-down strike law had already been passed, but the Governor of Texas, James Allred, wanted to make sit-down striking a felony (White). This was a generally agreed-upon stance in Texas, so when the Welmert bill to make sit down strikes a felony was proposed, it was immediately and unanimously accepted by the Texas Senate (White).
Although this legislation was widely supported by Texans, it caused others to become fearful of being charged as felons for past actions. One of the most prominent dissenters of this legislation was John L. Lewis, the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which established the United Steel Workers of America and helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s (White). At the time, Lewis was attempting to organize the vast Texas Oil Industry and was worried that his unionizing activities would be stopped if he were to be charged for organizing any sort of sit-down strike.
The growth of the CIO was phenomenal in steel, rubber, meat, autos, glass and electrical equipment industries (White). In early 1937, Lewis’ CIO affiliates won collective-bargaining contracts with two of the most powerful anti-union corporations, General Motors and United States Steel (White). General Motors surrendered as a result of the great Flint Sit-Down Strike, during which Lewis negotiated with company executives, Governor Frank Murphy of Michigan, and President Roosevelt (White). U.S. Steel conceded without a strike as Lewis secretly negotiated an agreement with Myron Taylor, chairman of U.S. Steel (White). The CIO gained enormous strength and prestige from the victories in automobiles and steel and escalated its organizing drives, now targeting industries that the American Federation of Labor (AFL) have long claimed, especially meatpacking, textiles, and electrical products (White).
Harvey C. Fremming, a colleague of Lewis in Texas, demanded that Governor Allred look into Lewis’s activities and exonerate the CIO organizers completely (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”). This was based on the grounds that the CIO had only fostered sit-down strikes in states other than Texas, and should therefore still be allowed to operate within Texas (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”). Lewis was never charged with as a felon, but the entire CIO group was expelled from the AFL in November 1938 and became the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), with Lewis as the first president (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).
In conclusion, this cartoon is a commentary on the sit-down strike law and the turmoil it caused in Texas. It shows how the Texas government caused sit-down strikes to become almost non-existent due to legislation passed which made such strikes felonies. It clearly shows that this legislation made it exceedingly dangerous to attempt to perform a sit-down strike. In all its simplicity, the cartoon fully conveys the prickly climate of Texas at the time and all the turmoil that would come out of a group of workers simply wanting to be paid a decent wage. Though this seems ridiculous, echoes of this time are still heard today and these issues continue to fester in the broken labor force of America.
“ALLRED AND PEERY AGAINST SIT-DOWNS.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 40. Apr 04 1937. ProQuest. Web. 22 Feb. 2017 .
The Authors of History.com. “Sit-down Strike Begins in Flint.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.
Cain, Delman. “Prickly Pear Cactus, Our State Plant.” Native Plant Society of Texas. Native Plant Society of Texas, 03 Aug. 2015. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Strike.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.
Knott, John. “Not a Good Place to Sit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Apr. 1937: 6.America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.
“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 7 Apr. 1937: 6. America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.
White, Ahmed A. “The Depression Era Sit-Down Strikes and the Limits of Liberal Labor Law.” Seton Hall Law Review 40.1 (2010): 1-82.
The Texas Miracle, by John Cole is a political cartoon mocking Texas Governor Rick Perry for his comments on the well being of Texas and his presidential candidacy. It shows a man wearing a white robe and sandals with the word Perry on his robe. He appears to be walking on water, but directly under the surface are children and men holding him up. The people underneath Perry have “education cuts”, “uninsured”, and “Minimum wage workers” written on their shirts (Cole). The cartoon implies that Gov. Perry is not performing any miracles; he is both physically and metaphorically stepping on the groups of people underneath him. The Texas Miracle is similar to the John Knott cartoon, We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, in that the subjects in the people depicted are in water, and this water is oppressing them. The “storm” that Knott used as an analogy for The Great Depression could also be parallel to the flood that Noah and his family escaped in the bible. However in The Texas Miracle the population was unable to escape the flood because of an ignorant deity.
The accompanying editorial, Walking on Water talks about Perry’s recent presidential candidacy, and why he appeals to the “mad-as-heck right-wing base”. The authors also talk about the not-so-miraculous Texas miracle (Editorial Team). The miracle that Perry claims to have caused is just Texas continuing to profit off of a new way to drill for oil called fracking, which harvests the oil through horizontal fractures and drilling (Krauss). The editorial also comments on how well the housing district is doing, again emphasizing that this was not Perry’s doing, “Much of what Perry lays claim to is not the result of his governance, but existed well before he took office.”
You may recognize the Phrase “Texas miracle” from President George W. Bush’s two thousand presidential campaign and his “No child Left Behind” education reform act (Leung). The act was plan to make teachers accountable for their students’ grades, and required standardized testing for all students, while attempting to lower drop out rates in Houston especially. The program had great success in the first year but it was too good to be true. A vice principal at Sharpstown High School, found there were no drop-outs in the two thousand one two thousand two school year, when in fact there were four hundred and sixty two drop outs. The system had made a code for when a student dropped out it was programmed as a transfer or other acceptable reasons, so the miracle was just a lie. Just like Bush, Perry took advantage of the natural strength of Texas and used it for his own benefit. “According to The American Statesman, almost half of the state’s job growth came in the education, health care, and government sectors”, but when the state was faced with a twenty seven million dollar deficit Perry took four billion from K-12 schools. Already suffering as one of the least educated states, Perry stepped on education so that Texas would have less debt, and Texas suffered for it.
Texas’ population was been growing more rapidly than any other state from nineteen ninety to two thousand eleven this is in part due to the oil boom, but Perry found a way to make this benefit him (Plumer). Perry brags that Texas has a low unemployment rate but in fact at the time it was just a tenth lower than the national average, and the majority of those workers are working for minimum wage, which means that they have little or no insurance from their job (Meyerson). To add onto that Perry Doesn’t would prefer the states control of minimum wage and opposes the increase of minimum wage, claiming to be protecting the small businesses (Selby). At this time Texas was also the most uninsured state in the country, with twenty six percent of the population uninsured, Rick Perry still resisted universal healthcare. Perry said “They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance”, which may be the case, but this works well with Perry’s views on minimum wage and his refusal to increase the Medicaid (Benen). You see if Texans make less than four thousand five hundred dollars a year they can apply for Medicaid, but if they make less than eleven thousand six hundred dollars a year they are too poor to buy insurance for themselves (Damico). This is called the Medicaid expansion gap, and Rick Perry walked all over the people in this gap just to make the state more profitable.
A few parallels can be made between The Texas miracle and We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, the major one being the water. In both cartoons the water is rising, because Rick Perry has no intention of changing his policies and will continue to take money from education. The water is also rising on the two business men while they converse in the storm, which was also brought on by the government’s inflation during the twenties. We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms could also have a religious aspect to it, where Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for The Great Depression, could be seen as an ignorant deity. As he told the public over and over that the depression would pass, doing little or nothing to help the floundering public, while the floodwaters continue to rise leaving the population without an ark. In both cartoons the public is the victim of the governments poor choices and both cartoonists depict their suffering through water.
The Texas Miracle by John Cole is mocking Rick Perry’s foolish attempts to take credit for the relative low amount of debt that Texas is in. The cartoon and editorial both ridicule him for refusing to help those beneath him, calling him a lone star blustering bible thumper. The Texas Miracle illustrates just how unlike Jesus Rick Perry truly is, and what lengths he is willing to go to in order to make a profit for the great state of Texas.
Benen, Steve. “Perry Boasts about Texas’ Uninsured Rate.” MSNBC. NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Cole, John. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Time Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Damico, Oct 19 2016 | Rachel Garfield and Anthony. “The Coverage Gap: Uninsured Poor Adults in States That Do Not Expand Medicaid.” Kaiser Family Foundation – Health Policy Research, Analysis, Polling, Facts, Data and Journalism. WordPress.com, 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Editorial Team. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Times Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Krauss, Clifford. “Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 May 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Leung, Rebecca. “The ‘Texas Miracle'” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 6 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Meyerson, Harold. “The Sad Facts behind Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
New World Encyclopedia. “Texas.” Texas – New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Pallardy, Richard. “Rick Perry.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Plumer, Brian. “Breaking down Rick Perry’s ‘Texas Miracle'” The Washington Post. WP Company, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Selby, W. Gardner. “In 2014, Rick Perry Saying He Opposes Federal Government Setting Minimum Wage.” @politifact. Politifact.com, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.