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.