Category Archives: Fall 2017

Posts created during the Fall 2017 semester

Daily Dose of Government

A man in the labor union  is protesting while a woman is trying to reach President Roosevelt on the phone.
A man in the labor union is protesting  via sit-down strike while a woman is trying to reach President Roosevelt on the phone.


John Knott depicts the United States crisis regarding labor unions and striking in a cartoon titled “Chronic Disease” for the Dallas Morning News published on March 23, 1937.  The image shows a man sitting hunched over with his hands on either side of his face.  He appears very burly and very defeated. He has the word “labor” printed across his shirt sleeve. Behind him is a woman wearing an apron. She is on the telephone and has the word “public” printed on her apron. She is speaking into the telephone.  Her quotation bubble reads, “Is this Dr. Roosevelt?” The cartoon demonstrates the disparity between government action and the labor unions.


In the United States history, the Great Depression is regarded as one of the worst economic crisis the country had ever seen. The Great Depression spanned from 1929 with the stock market crash until about 1939. Within these ten years,1937-1938 featured a massive spike of unemployment rates and a decline of industrial production rates (Auerbach, “The General Motors Strike”). These declines were greatly related to the labor unions and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”).


The Congress for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed in November 1935 (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”) due to an utter need. Companies were overworking and underpaying their employees. (Terrell). Workers congregated into unions and began to fight for a better work environment and more benefits. John L. Lewis along with many others formed the CIO to “organiz[e] framework for [workers’] mobilization and unionization” (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”). The organization campaigned against employers with strikes and picket lines.


One of the most notable movements that the organization pursued was the sit-down strike movement. A sit-down strike is when workers spontaneously and simultaneously stop working and sit down. The first recorded sit-down strike was in November of 1935 (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). Because of the strike, the workers involved received what they asked for from their management: higher wages. Other workers noting the success began to partake in the sit-down strike movement. (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). By the end of 1937, over half a million workers were involved in sit-down strikes. In 1936 and 1937 over 1000 strikes were recorded (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). These massive strikes stretched for hours at a time and caused loss of production in completely unprecedented ways (Jones, “Labor and politics”). This began to affect the United States as a whole. Trade levels were decreasing and the country was faced with a lot more than simple unemployment.


As a result, President Roosevelt knew that he could not simply allow for the country to self-destruct. He began to implement laws to ban these sit-down strikes and hopefully cause the country to get back on its feet. President Roosevelt received enormous support from the public (Jones, “Labor and politics”). According to author Thomas Jones’ extensive research, the public saw the strikers as “‘housebreakers’ and elected officials [as] ‘policemen’ who ‘should protect [their] rights’”(Jones. “Labor and politics”).


This is very clearly demonstrated in John Knott’s cartoon. The labor unions (represented by the man) are upset because sit-down strikes are forbidden and the general public (represented by the woman) are pleased because government officials are taking action against the labor unions. The woman is speaking into a telephone and is asking if “Doctor Roosevelt” is there. The public is very pleased with Roosevelt’s actions and  thus they call him doctor. This title is highly respected and alludes to the fact that doctors prescribe medicine. The allusion is made that Roosevelt is prescribing laws and policies to these “sick and insane” strikers.


The general public’s true feelings are displayed even further in an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News in conjunction with Knott’s cartoon. The editorial titled “General Strike Threat” gives a specific example of a sit down strike that took place in Detroit. The author comments on this strike as “the spread of [an]…epidemic” (“General Strike Threat”). Not only that, the author notes that the continuation of sit down strikes will certainly lead to a “condition of anarchy” (“General Strike Threat”) in the United States. The author further addresses the ‘epidemic’ by writing about foreign countries’ approaches to striking (“General Strike Threat”). These examples of foreign countries are used to exemplify the perceived excellence in President Roosevelt’s action towards the United States sit down strikes.


John Knott analyzes two sides in his cartoon. He looks at how the labor unions felt towards the sit-down strikes and showcases that with the slumped over union worker and looks at how the general public feels and showcases that with the woman calling ‘Doctor Roosevelt.’



Auerbach, Jerold S. “Sit-Down: The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937. By Fine Sidney. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1969. Pp. Ix 448. $12.50.” Business History Review, vol. 44, no. 2, 1970, pp. 259–260., doi:10.2307/3112371

Rosswurm, Steve. “Congress of Industrial Organizations.” Encyclopedia.Chicagohistory. 2005,

“General Strike Threat.” Dallas Morning News. 23 Mar., 1937,

Greene, Julia, and Julie Greene. “International Labor and Working-Class History.” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 48, 1995, pp. 206–209. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Jones, T. L. (1999). Labor and politics: The Detroit municipal election of 1937 (Order No. 9929854). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304516286). Retrieved from

Smith, Sharon. “The sit-down strikes.” Socialistworker. 10 June, 2011,




Raise the McMinimum

After raising the minimum wage, fast food prices rise and many workers are laid off.
After raising the minimum wage,  some workers are satisfied whereas consumers are not after the effects of the raise cause prices to go up and other workers to lose their jobs.


Cartoonist A.F. Branco published a cartoon titled “Minimum Wage Rage” for the Liberty Alliance organization in 2013 that depicts a man ordering a meal at a fast food restaurant. He is complaining about the high price of a hamburger meal to the cashier. The cashier notes that although the price is high, at least he, the cashier, is making fifteen dollars per hour. There is another worker in the background upset that he was just laid off from his job.

This cartoon is about the protests that began in 2013 in the United States regarding the minimum wage. The United States minimum wage was set at $7.25 in 2009. Americans have found that this hourly wage, which many are forced to live off, is insufficient. Minimum wage workers work on average 40 hours a week (“What are the Annual Earnings”). This pay translates to $290 a week (based off of the federal minimum wage) not including taxes. With roughly 4 weeks in each month, the average worker makes a little more than $1,000 a month. This is where problems arise. The average rent in the United States is about $1,200 a month (Glink, “Top 10 Cheapest Cities”).  The average worker cannot afford this based on their pay. This is rent alone. Then the cost of food and travel expenses must be accounted for. As a result of this, workers are protesting to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

As of 2013, the poverty rate in the United States was approximately 14.5 percent (DeNavas-Walt and Bernadette, “Income and Poverty”). In 2016, the United States poverty rate featured a decline to 12.5 percent (Semega, Fontenot, and Kollar, “United States: 2016). However, despite this obvious decline, living conditions worsen and inflation causes prices to rise for the United States in 2017.  Many working class citizens survive off of government issued food discounts and healthcare. The citizens that find themselves in poverty cannot find a way out with current wages (Chiarito, “Hundreds Protest Over Minimum Wage”). Minimum wage workers cannot keep up and demand for wage increases. Labor unions have taken it upon themselves to protest major corporations in hopes that one might listen. In May of 2017, hundreds of fast food workers marched outside the headquarters of fast food giant McDonald’s Corp (Chiarito, “Hundreds Protest Over Minimum Wage”). This protest is just one of many and the labor unions across the United States are not going to stop.


Protests against major corporations have been occurring for decades. In 1937-1938, situations for workers were similar back then to how they are now in the United States from 2013-2017.  In 1937, workers were underpaid and congregated into unions to fight for a better work environment as well as benefits. John Knott, a political cartoonist, in 1937 produced several cartoons depicting the struggles workers had to face. He drew one cartoon in particular titled “Chronic Disease” that is similar to A.F. Branco’s cartoon “Minimum Wage Rage.”

John Knott depicts the United States crisis regarding labor unions and striking in a cartoon titled “Chronic Disease” for the Dallas Morning News published on March 23, 1937.  The image shows a man sitting hunched over with his hands on either side of his face.  He appears very burly and very defeated. He has the word “labor” printed across his shirt sleeve. Behind him is a woman wearing an apron. She is on the telephone and has the word “public” printed on her apron. She is speaking into the telephone.  Her quotation bubble reads, “Is this Dr. Roosevelt?” The cartoon demonstrates the disparity between government action and the labor unions in that the President Roosevelt banned sit down striking and the labor unions were highly upset.

The cartoon depicting the fast food workers connects very easily to John Knott’s cartoon. Both demonstrate the effects of the government action on the working class. In Knott’s cartoon, the government restricts the working class by banning sit down strikes and in Branco’s cartoon the government restricts the working class by having a low minimum wage.

A.F. Branco’s cartoon depicts the struggle minimum wage workers and labor unions have had against the government in attempting to raise the minimum wage in the 2013-2017 era.

Works Cited

Chiarito, Bob. “Hundreds protest over minimum wage at McDonald’s stockholder meeting.” Reuters, 24 May, 2017,

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Proctor D. Bernadette. “Income and Poverty in the United States in the United States: 2013.” Census,16 Sept. 2014,

Glink, Ilyce. “Top 10 cheapest U.S. cities to rent an apartment.” Cbsnews. 20 July. 2013,

Semega, Jessica L, Fontenot, Kayla R., and Melissa A. Kollar. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016.” Census, 12 Sept. 2017,

“What are the annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker?” ucdavis, 30 Aug. 2016,

Especially Interesting Money

The Democratic Party’s donkey and the Republican elephant entrench themselves behind piles of special interest money.
The Democratic Party’s donkey and the Republican elephant entrench themselves behind piles of special interest money.

Campaign finance reform has been a hot-button political issue since the early 1970s and the advent of soft money. Soft money describes unregulated amounts of campaign donations from special interest groups – a type of lobbying collective focused mainly on campaign finance – who then effectively control the candidate’s platform and voting record (Williams). The above cartoon, created by former Brigham Young University Magazine political cartoonist Aaron Taylor, depicts Taylor’s opinion of special interest groups and soft money – a natural evolution of the soliciting banned by the Hatch Act’s provisions banning federal employees from involvement in political campaigns – and their negative effects on the political process in America (Porter).

Taylor’s cartoon itself features the mascots of the nation’s two party system deeply pitted against the other in trench warfare, each sheltered behind a mountain of money bags. The animals themselves obviously represent their respective parties; additionally, the donkey wears the military uniform of Andrew Jackson, who created the logo after a political opponent called him a jackass (CBS News). The elephant, while not dressed as any specific Republican figure, exhibits attire evocative of the Republican-dominated Eisenhower era. The parties’ entrenchment against each other manifests visually through their foxholes, illustrating the perpetual gridlock inherent to bipartisan democracy. Outside their dugouts, piles of sacks labeled “Special Interest Money” further separate the two parties, mirroring the real life deepening of political divide through allegiance to financiers (Drutman).

Just as the bordeaux blazer clad, high ranking politicians depicted in Knott’s cartoon controlled the votes of their employees through intimidation and coercion prior to the Hatch Act, large businesses and labor unions exercise an enormous amount of power over legislators by extensively funding their campaigns. And the volume of money only increases. Despite the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act – a law intended to stop the flow of soft money into politician’s pockets – in 2002, spending from special interest groups increased by $366 million over the following two years (Thomson; Tarr &  Benenson). Due to this increased corporate influence, party leaders no longer have meaningful control over their constituents, lending credit to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s qualms regarding the Hatch Act’s depletion of partisan unity.

Taylor’s cartoon, along with Knott’s “How the Workers Will Enjoy It!” share an overwhelmingly negative view of money’s involvement in politics and high ranking political officials in general. While in Knott’s case, the elite solicited money and support from their employees, Taylor’s finds them subject to corporate soliciting themselves. Although further attempts at campaign finance reform continue to be debated in Congress, the lucre of the legislator’s current situation makes it hard to believe they would do anything to rock the boat.



Drutman, Lee. “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy.” The Atlantic. April 20, 2015. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.

“How the Parties Got Their Animal Symbols.” CBS News. August 26, 2012. Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.

Porter, David L. “Hatch Act.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 103-104. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.

Tarr, Dave, and Bob Benenson. “Soft Money.” Elections A to Z, 4th ed., CQ Press, 2012, pp. 592-595. CQ Press American Government A to Z Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 12 Nov. 2017.

Taylor, Aaron. Cartoon. Brigham Young University Magazine, Summer 2004. Web.

Thomson, Lisa Ann Jackson. “Informing Campaign Finance Reform.” Brigham Young University Magazine, Summer 2004.

Williams, Glenda C. “Soft Money.” Encyclopedia of Political Communication, edited by Lynda Lee Kaid and Christina Holtz-Bacha, vol. 2, SAGE Publications, 2008, pp. 749-750. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 10 Nov. 2017.

How the Workers Will Enjoy It!

A government employee works unbothered while two politicians stand in the background trying to figure out a way to exploit new campaign legislation.
A government employee works unbothered while two politicians stand in the background trying to figure out a way to exploit new campaign legislation.

In 1938, seventy-three New Mexico members of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) were indicted on charges of graft and corruption. In the following investigation, law enforcement alleged that New Mexico Senator Dennis Chavez operated a system of patronization and nepotism through abuse of his senatorial powers, including the questionably legitimate employment of seventeen of Chavez’s relatives in his division of the WPA (Chavez, Dennis). Such an abuse of power motivated Chavez’s fellow New Mexico senator Carl Hatch to draft a 1939 reform bill addressing the involvement of government employees in partisan politics known as the Hatch Act.

In “How the Workers Will Enjoy It!”, Dallas Morning News political cartoonist John Knott illustrates his belief that the Hatch Act carried positive effects for the lives of government employees in the late 1930s despite initial opposition from the political establishment.

The Hatch Act limited the possible participation of government employees in local and national elections by blocking their financial contributions to political campaigns (Porter). Along with inhibiting their direct involvement, the Hatch Act also prohibited solicitors from approaching workers for campaign funds as well as making it illegal to fire said workers for their political allegiances and voting preferences.

Knott’s cartoon depicts the intended effect of the Hatch Act via the literal representation of the newly legislated barrier between government employees – characterized by the extremely content man in the foreground completing his work unbothered by the canvassing suffered previously – and the campaign side of government – personified by the cigar puffing gentlemen standing in the background reading articles titled “Subscription to Campaign Fund” and “Instructions – How to Vote.” The politicians wear boater hats and striped bordeaux blazers, traditional bourgeoisie garb, while the worker dresses much more relatably in a plain button-down shirt and an accounting visor. Additionally, the men in the back appear overweight and smoke cigars (two more tokens of the upper class) while the employee sits rail thin and sucks on a pipe. These both bolster the portrayal of the campaign financiers as wealth-obsessed and cause the audience to identify more with the worker, a tactic which illustrates the wide-reaching nature of the Hatch Act as well as unconsciously attracting the public’s sympathy toward the workers and supporting Knott’s positive view of the bill.

The cartoon’s accompanying editorial, “Political Reform Bill,” elaborates on the reluctance of the political establishment to endorse the Hatch Act. At the time, the end of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term crept on the horizon as the president geared up for a third campaign. Although unable to publicly condemn the bill due to its popularity and agreement with his own reform-based platform, Roosevelt’s administration tried multiple times to cripple it by attaching various esoteric conditions and riders in an attempt to stop the law from hindering the president’s reelection. Although the general election stayed mostly unaffected, the Hatch Act had potentially revolutionary effects on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions by “[preventing] any administration in power from writing a platform and picking a candidate by packing the nominating convention with postmasters, district attorneys, collectors of internal revenue, and other federal office holders” (“Political Reform Bill”). Despite the opposition, Roosevelt signed the bill into law on August 2, 1939 (Porter).

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality on two separate occasions in 1947 and 1973 and the law protected the employment of government employees during the McCarthy era (Paradise). The Hatch Act remained unamended until 1993 when Bill Clinton signed the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993, allowing federal employees to manage political campaigns (Porter). Due to its foundation in constitutional principles and sound logical structure, the Hatch Act proved one of the most effective political reform laws of the 20th century.



History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “Chavez, Dennis,” November 16, 2017.

Knott, John. “How the Workers Will Enjoy It!.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News, 31 July 1939: 2. Web.

Paradise, Lee Ann. “Hatch Act.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, edited by Neil Schlager, vol. 1, St. James Press, 2004, pp. 415-418. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.

“Political Reform Bill.” Dallas Morning News, 31 July 1939, p. 2.

Porter, David L. “Hatch Act.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 103-104. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.

Sharp, J. Michael. “Hatch, Carl Atwood (D).” Directory of Congressional Voting Scores and Interest Group Ratings, 4th ed., vol. 1, CQ Press, 2006, p. 685. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 8 Oct. 2017.

The Little Steel Strike of 1937 Forges Lasting Progression for the Working-Class.


Steel Workers and their employers come to fair resolution following the violent and widespread strikes of 1936-1937
Steel Workers and their employers come to a fair resolution following the violent and widespread “Little Steel Strikes” of 1936-1937.


The Star of Bethlehem and the Wise men by John Knott depicts a seemingly “peaceful” resolute to the Little Steel Strike of 1937, which was a violent eruption of outrage from decades of tensions between the unionized, to the de-unionized, to the then again re-unionized steel industry. These eruptions particularly dealt with steel firms in the late 1930s dubbed as “Little Steel,” because they were smaller than the U.S. Steel Corporation. The cartoon depicts the worker now holding the more modern and civil idea of a “40-hour week, pay increase and collective bargaining,” in his own hand, this is an important commentary that is developed through the use of a commonly recognized biblical symbol, the star of bethlehem. Knott portrays his viewpoint of Bethlehem Steel’s resolution of the Little Steel Strike of 1937, particularly by utilizing the idea of ‘wise men’ that is personified as the men seen in this cartoon labeled ‘Employer’ and ‘Worker,’ and of peace, as seen through the genial nature of the two men’s handshake and expression.

Beginning in the 1870s the steel industry began to take shape, and nearly immediately The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers, the first national union to include steelworkers, formed in 1876 (Rees 544). However the main issue with the union was that it remained exclusively powerful only in the iron industry. The Amalgamated Association lost major power in the steelmaking industry during the Homestead Lockout of 1892. Carnegie Steel, the largest firm in the world at that time, began to sabotage competition by starting conflicts and strikes to better compete with rival union companies. This eventually lead one of the most famous incidents in American labor history, the gun battle between Pinkerton guards and strikers in 1892 (Rees 544). With much unrest and the union’s inability to salve the violent conflicts, The Amalgamated Association dissipated by 1901. By 1909, U.S. Steel and other major firms were practically union free, allowing for vulnerable and unprotected steelworkers at the mercy of greedy, industrialist steel firms at the turn of the century. John L. Lewis, an American Congressman, formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to get the American Federation of Labor to accompany and protect steelworkers and others who were not protected by a Union. In 1936, Lewis appointed Philip Murray, United Mine Workers vice president, as the head of the SWOC. This institution became a vital lifeline for those who worked in the steel industry, especially since U.S. Steel recognized the SWOC without retaliation in 1937 (Rees 546). However, “Little Steel” firms did not recognize the union’s demands, thus strikes arose against these individual corporations, and their deadly and violent tendencies defined this uneasy period until the coercive power of congress and FDR were able to amend the issues. By the end of World War II, almost every steelworker in America was represented by SWOC’s successor, The United Steelworkers of America, drawing an end to nearly half a century of violent uproars against the oppressive and powerful steel corporations.

Bethlehem Steel, a “Little Steel corporation,” was a major steel firm that dominated the American Economy from the early to mid 20th century. Bethlehem Steel purchased and restructured the Lackawanna Steel Company in 1922, doubling its production capacity and becoming the second-largest steel corporation in the United States. Still to this day it is difficult to name a famous building that wasn’t constructed by Bethlehem Steel. In New York City, many iconic buildings and structures can be named such as the Woolworth building, the Chrysler building, the Lincoln Tunnel, and Madison Square Garden. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a major icon that was birthed by Bethlehem steel. And in Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court building is another recognizable example (Ferrara 42). Bethlehem steel, as powerful as it was however, vigorously fought back against the SWOC until late february of 1937, when war-time demands and pressure from the National Labor Relations board forced the steel firm to cave to the ultimatums of their steelworkers. Prompting the cartoon displayed above.

John Knott, was a Dallas Morning News cartoonist from 1905 to the mid 1950s (Perez 1). He played an important role as commentator and humorist on major national and Texas specific issues during his career. The Little Steel Strike of 1937 was one of those major issues. As seen above, the most prominent and most easily understood images are the large star in the sky, the words “peace,” two men titled “employer” and “worker,” and a large steel mill in the background titled “Bethlehem Steel.” There are obvious biblical allusions, such as the “Star of Bethlehem,” which is largely applicable because of the parallel between the name of the corporation and the birthplace of Jesus and to the cartoon’s audiences’ national sense of religious morality that was widely apart of American Society in the early 20th century. The cartoon also serves as Knott’s viewpoint on the peacefulness and of the new beginnings that were brewed from the deal that Bethlehem steel struck up with their workers. Another reason Knott probably chose to use biblical allusions for capturing this situation is because in the 1930s, large steel firms seemed to have this god-like power over the livelihood of their employees, which justifies the idea of violent uproars by the steelworkers against the bearers of their fate. Knott also utilizes the idea of “wise-men,” as mentioned in the title, to editorially praise the men involved and claim their resolution as not only common sense but wise. The Little Steel Strike, was horribly violent, making this image a juxtaposition against the understood chaos that these events entailed, which is important to understanding how revolutionary this resolution between employer and worker truly is.

Overall, through the ebb and flow of the relationship between the employer and worker in the steel industry in the early 20th century, and through deadly trials and tribulations, there is still a hopeful image of resolution that beckons a sense of new beginnings, peacefulness, and common sense that is depicted by John F. Knott.


Works Cited:

“Bethlehem Steel Corporation.” Corporate Disasters: What Went Wrong and Why, edited by Miranda H. Ferrara and Michele P. LaMeau, Gale, 2012, pp. 42-44. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017

Canedo, Eduardo F. “Little Steel Strike.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 584-585. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Stark, Louis. “Organizers Rally: ‘Encircling Movement.’” The New York Times, 04 Mar. 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers.

Ben, Adler. “Labor Unions and Lawmakers in California Agree on Minimum Wage Increase.” All Things Considered (NPR), 28 Mar. 2016. EBSCOhost.

Rees, Jonathan. “Steel Strikes.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 7, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 544-546.

Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars

Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the United States automotive industry saw the development of innovative engineering in automobiles such as semi-automatic transmissions, hydraulic brake systems, and engines with more and more cylinders. Fatal car accidents and traffic safety caught the attention of legislators in Texas and all over the country during that time. In the late 1930’s, politicians and their constituents feared that older cars posed a large threat to public safety. However, few people realized the overwhelming threats were actually new high-speed cars combined with people’s reckless driving and disregard for traffic laws.

The political cartoon by John Knott titled, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars”, published on February 27, 1938, in the Dallas Morning News, illustrates the undeniable danger reckless drivers and high-speed sports cars manufactured at the time posed for passengers in other vehicles as well as pedestrians. In the cartoon, a man in a suit and tie labeled “Chronic Wild Driver” is illustrated in a sports car driving away from a crash where two people are left on the ground. One of the victims of the crash appears to be crawling away from the crash as he looks in the direction of the reckless driver, while the other victim is left lying on the ground unconscious or dead. The wild driver appears to be driving a 1938 BMW 328 Sports Coupe (Goodwood Revival). Released in 1938, the car was among the finest of its class at the time with a 6 cylinder, 4-speed manual engine and a then astonishing top speed of 93 miles per hour. Even in 1999, the car was a finalist for the “Car of the Century” award by a worldwide panel of automotive journalists (Law).

The title of Knott’s cartoon, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars” directly correlates to the editorial that was published in the same edition of Dallas Morning News; the editorial, titled “Logical Car Retirement” is written in line with public opinion at the time and focuses on the danger of older cars and their increased likelihood of breaking down or losing brake control in a highway. Although the main focus of the editorial is older cars, it does state that, “admittedly, the major portion of fatal accidents (was) in the new and high-speed car class.” By illustrating a high-end sports car in the cartoon, Knott appears to have agreed with this point, however, Knott labeled the man in the car a “Chronic Wild Driver” expressing his belief that cars were not only the ones to blame.

At the time, the development of car safety features was almost nonexistent compared to the development of faster engines (World Health Organization). Because of this, Texas began to establish laws that regulated certain driving habits, instating it’s first mandatory drivers license examination in 1937 (U.S. Department of Transportation). The original driver’s license law of Texas took effect on February 14, 1936, and required each driver to possess a license issued by the County Tax Collector.Unfortunately, these early public safety laws did little to stop the massive loss of lives. During that time, cars became a typical household item. Vehicle ownership in the United States rose 150.44% from 1920 to 1930 (Davis).

In the U.S. in the late 1930’s, legislation was passed with the intention of making highways safer. However, these laws did not have a large impact on people’s driving habits at the time (Gibson and Crooks 453). At the time, people’s driving habits were predominant over their attention to traffic laws. The journal article, “A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving” by James J. Gibson and Laurence E. Crooks explores the human behavior and self-awareness while driving. The article states that of the skills demanded by contemporary civilization, driving an automobile is the most important to humans because a defect in it has the greatest threat to our lives. Furthermore, in 1938, the sense that traffic laws were absolute agreed with the act of dangerous driving (467).

The need for more driver’s education in the public school system at that time was overwhelming (470). Additionally, the public needed to gain a common attention to the danger they were causing themselves through their ignorant driving habits. The mixture of chronic wild drivers and fast cars was detrimental to the highway safety of Texas in the late 1930’s and in his cartoon, John Knott emphasizes the danger of this combination.


Works Cited

Davis, Stacy C. Transportation Energy Data Book. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2013.

Department of Public Safety records. Texas Department of Public Safety, 1931.

Gibson, James J., and Laurence E. Crooks. A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving. 1938.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015: Supporting a Decade of Action. World Health Organization, 2013.

Heck, Katherine E., and Keith C. Nathaniel. “Driving Among Urban, Suburban and Rural Youth in California.” University of California.

Highway Statistics, Summary to 1995. PDF ed., U.S. Department of Transportation, 1997. Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Information Management.

Hugill, Peter J. Good roads and the automobile in the United States 1880-1929. PDF ed., Geographical Society, 1982.

Knott, John. Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars. 27 Feb. 1938, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin.

Law, Alex. “Car of the Century.” Auto123, 22 Dec. 1999,

“Logical Car Retirement.” Dallas Morning News, 27 Feb. 1938. Editorial.

1938 BMW 328 Sports Roadster Chassis no. 85378 Engine no. 79280. Bonhams, 12 Sept. 2015.

Texas, Legislature, Senate. Senate Bill 15. 1835. 44th Legislature, 2nd session.

Traffic Safety Facts 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation, 2015, National Highway Safety Administration.

Should Be Retired With Texting While Driving

Jeff Parker's cartoon visualizes the effects of texting and driving
Jeff Parker’s cartoon visualizes the effects of texting and driving.

Cellphones and smart devices put a world of information at our fingertips and allow communication to flow endlessly. Before, only doctors had to be “on call” at all times. Now, everyone with a smartphone is. In September of 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a law that prohibits the use of a wireless communications device for electronic messaging while driving statewide. In the United States, 1 in every 4 car accidents is caused by distracted driving because of cellphone use (Schumaker).

The growing phenomenon of texting behind the wheel is portrayed in the political cartoon by Jeff Parker titled, “Driving While Dialing”, published on October 1, 2009, in Florida Today. In the cartoon, a person texting on their smartphone is illustrated while driving into pedestrians and another vehicle. An elderly lady is one of the pedestrians depicted being hit by the car, with her groceries flying in the air above her. Parker utilizes the elderly lady, the main victim of the crash, as a representative of older generations and the cell phone user, a millennial, as a figure representing younger generations. Parker illustrates millennials literally running over the older generations carelessly, so it can be concluded that he agrees with the stereotype of millennials being largely indifferent and narcissistic. A cyclist is also hit by the car, but only their feet are pictured above the car as the victim is launched off of their bicycle. Ahead of the driver, is a man in another vehicle who is caught by surprise as the car heads towards him. In the rear-view mirror, another man can be seen; the man seems to be furious at the distracted driver. The reckless driver appears to be using a Sidekick LX 2009 smartphone. This model debuted under carrier T-Mobile and popularized the use of mobile Internet in the late 2000’s. This concept of mobile internet became a key selling point for tech companies in the coming decade (Hahn).

A study conducted in 2016 by Ioannis Pavlidis from the University of Houston explored driver behavior when absent-minded, emotionally charged or when they are engaged in texting (Merkl). The study found that when driving with certain levels of distraction, drivers utilize a “sixth sense” that allows them to perceive risk and drive with more caution. The study concluded that people lose this vital level of awareness almost entirely when texting. In fact, some research argues that drivers who text are just as impaired as people who drive while drunk. Research by U.S. government demonstrates that texting while driving “by far the most alarming distraction” (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

In 2011, the Texas Legislature was successful in passing a statewide ban on cellphone use while driving. Despite overwhelming public support, the ban was vetoed by Governor Rick Perry (Rasansky). Similarly, in 2015, House Bill 80, a bill aimed at banning texting and driving, was introduced. The bill, although approved by the Texas House panel, was turned down in the Senate before becoming a law. By this time, local governments had already passed bans on cellphone use while driving in their cities. In May of 2017, the Texas Legislature finally fully passed House Bill 62. The Texas House Bill 62 of 2017 states that the “use of a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle (is) a criminal offense.” First-time offenders of the law could be fined up to $99 and consequently, $200 for a repeat offense (Texas Department of Transportation).

Modern day issues of public safety that exist in Texas have significant connections to the decisions made in the Texas Legislature in the late 1930’s. The political cartoon by John Knott titled, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars”, published on February 27, 1938, in the Dallas Morning News, illustrates the manifesting danger caused by reckless drivers. Rising fatal car accidents and traffic safety in the late 1930’s caught the attention of legislators in Texas and all over the country. In the 1930’s the issue of a small device that communicates you with the world distracting drivers was nonexistent, let alone comprehensible. Although the technology in cars and communication has changed drastically since then, the fundamental act of driving an automobile and the risks accompanied by it remain the same. The journal article, “A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving” by James J. Gibson and Laurence E. Crooks states that of the skill demanded by contemporary civilization, driving an automobile is the most important to humans because a defect in it has the greatest threat to our lives.

The law that was recently passed by the Texas Legislature comes in a time where the public desperately needs to be saved from themselves through legal guidance. As technology continues to advance, old problems such as risky driving, become more complex. More and more, cell phones are drawing our eyes away from the road. In his cartoon, Jeff Parker epitomizes modern day distracted driving and the imminent danger it causes.


Works Cited

“Cell Phone Ordinances.” Texas Department of Transportation,

Currin, Andrew. “Distracted Driving.” NHTSA, 22 Sept. 2017.

Davis, Stacy C. Transportation Energy Data Book. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2013.

Gibson, James J., and Laurence E. Crooks. A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving. 1938.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015: Supporting a Decade of Action. World Health Organization, 2013.

Hahn, Jason Duaine. “The History of the Sidekick: The Coolest Smartphone of All Time.” Complex, 20 Sept. 2016.

Merkl, Lisa. “A Sixth Sense Protects Drivers except When Texting.” University of Houston, 7 Aug. 2017.

Pavlidis, Ioannis. Dissecting Driver Behaviors Under Cognitive, Emotional, Sensorimotor, and Mixed Stressors. Dec. 2016. Scientific Reports.

Rasansky, Jeff. “Rasansky Law Firm.” 31 Aug. 2017, Dallas, Texas. Address.

Schumaker, Erin. “10 Statistics That Capture The Dangers of Texting and Driving.” Huffington Post, revision 2, 7 July 2015.

Shropshire, Corilyn. “Teen Texting Is OTT, Even at Wheel.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 16 July 2007.

“Slaves to the Smartphone.” The Economist, 10 Mar. 2012.

Smith, Morgan. “Texting Ban among More than 650 New Texas Laws That Take Effect Today.” Texas Tribune, 1 Sept. 2017.

Taggart, Michael. “The Very Real Dangers of Texting While Driving.” Huffington Post, 17 Apr. 2017.

Traffic Safety Facts 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation, 2015, National Highway Safety Administration.

The Whopper

“The Whopper”, by Nate Beeler
A cartoon by Nate Beeler that shows the reasoning behind Burger King’s move to Canada.

“The Whopper” is a political cartoon drawn by Nate Beeler in 2014 for The Columbus Dispatch and It is about Burger King’s 2014 merger with Tim Horton’s, during which Burger King considered moving its headquarters to Canada. The main reason for the move, despite Burger King’s claims, was likely to significantly lower the amount of corporate taxes that Burger King would need to pay. Consequently, this cartoon is related to the Knott cartoon “Hunting Easter Eggs” and the Dallas Morning News editorial “Political Tax Bill”, since all of these portray corporate taxes as overly limiting for businesses. Specifically, in “The Whopper”, corporate taxes are shown through graphic symbolism as harmful and unreasonably high.

In August 2014, Burger King announced its intentions to buy Tim Horton’s, a large Canadian coffee chain. This deal would represent a merger that would, in addition to merging the two companies, move Burger King’s headquarters to Canada. (Hartley 1). This potential move was very significant, since the change in location would lead to Burger King paying taxes based on Canadian rates. The United States has some of the largest corporate tax rates in the world, while Canada has comparatively very low tax rates. According to The Washington Post, the move would have ended up saving Burger King 1.2 billion tax dollars over three years (Ferdman 1), in a highly disputed tax inversion.

A tax inversion is “a transaction used by a company whereby it becomes a subsidiary of a new parent company in another country for the purpose of falling under beneficial tax laws” (“Tax Inversions” 214). Tax inversions, along with other corporate actions that shelter companies from taxes, are very controversial. Tax sheltering schemes like tax inversions have effectively cost the U.S. Treasury billions of dollars over the years, which has escalated the federal deficit (Farell 63). Inversions have been so much of an issue that in early April 2016, due to concerns partially inspired by Burger King, President Barack Obama proposed new rules that would prevent U.S. companies from moving abroad to avoid taxes. “The measure appeared to end the proposed merger of U.S. pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer with Ireland’s Allergan Plc, which would have represented the largest tax inversion” (“Tax Inversions” 214) on record.

Such rules were not yet in place in 2014, so Burger King would have been legally allowed to carry out the merger. However, upon announcement of their intent to move to Canada, there was massive controversy, as expected from a tax inversion measure. Obama called companies like Burger King “corporate deserters who renounce their citizenship to shield profits” (Hartley 1), and both he and the Treasury Department began preparing bills and plans to prevent such inversions in the future, such as the aforementioned 2016 rules. In addition, consumers had historically responded unfavorably to previous corporate tax evasion. In 2013, “Starbucks saw its sales dip in the United Kingdom after the public learned the company was using complex accounting methods to pay less in taxes in the country” (Ferdman 1). Had the merger actually completely happened, it is likely a similar effect would have occurred in the United States.

Due to the massive backlash at their announcement, Burger King announced in late August that they would not move after all, and would simply share common ownership with Tim Horton’s. This was true to some extent-their headquarters did remain in Miami, the original location, but since the new parent company of both Burger King and Tim Horton’s, created by the merger, was still in Canada, Burger King still saved much tax money. Nevertheless, the maintaining of the headquarters’ location was enough to quell most of the controversy, and Burger King remains a very strong and successful company today, perhaps partially because of the money saved.

In “The Whopper”, Beeler illustrates his view of the Burger King controversy primarily through visual symbolism. Burger King’s intentions are directly shown by a Whopper, Burger King’s signature product, with a flag reading “Canada or bust!”  Meanwhile, the implied reason for the move, America’s corporate tax rate, is represented by a much larger burger, full of garbage, dangerous glass and poisons, and other disgusting objects. By using such a large and repulsive symbol for the tax rate, Beeler shows his opinion of the American tax rate, namely that it is far too high and very harmful to companies. In addition to the immediate meanings of the symbols, their juxtaposition adds more meaning to the cartoon. Most noticeably, the “Whopping American Corporate Tax Rate” (Beeler 1) contains a pun on Burger King’s signature Whopper that serves to enhance the humor of the cartoon and thus make it more accessible and entertaining for readers. More significantly, however, the burger representing the tax rate is significantly larger than the actual Whopper, which symbolizes the dominance of corporate taxation over Burger King and other corporations in general.

The entire situation, and the contemporary cartoon’s depiction of it, has some relation to the Knott cartoon “Hunting Easter Eggs” and its accompanying editorial, “Political Tax Bill”. Knott’s cartoon and the editorial both are critical of the Undistributed Profits Tax, which was a bill that charged massive corporate taxes on unspent reserve funds. Like the Knott cartoon and editorial, “The Whopper” also criticizes large corporate tax rates, even if the modern rates are general rather than for reserve funds specifically. All of the works seem to be in favor of the corporations, and show business taxes as a negative burden on businesses.

“The Whopper” provides an interesting glimpse into 2014’s business situation and the overall impact of corporate taxes on business. This cartoon is particularly of interest because of its unique viewpoint. As mentioned earlier, Burger King’s announcement was met with severe backlash, being heavily criticized by both ordinary Americans and powerful government officials. In the midst of this backlash, it is odd to see a cartoon that supports Burger King and depicts the move as a valid response to a greater issue, that issue being the massive corporate tax rates in the United States. Whether or not one agrees with this view of the controversy, it is still very useful to analyze, in order to further understand the attempted Burger King merger and the controversial general issue of corporate taxation in American. After all, taxation is an inevitable part of life in the United States, and it will always be a hotly debated issue. It is critical to have resources to understand it.

Works Cited:

Beeler, Nate. “The Whopper.” Cagle Cartoons, 27 Aug. 2014,{4B1BCF82-33A5-427F-97C7-308C2F888F39}.

“Tax Inversions.” American Law Yearbook 2016: A Guide to the Year’s Major Legal Cases and Developments, Gale, 2017, pp. 214-215. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 17 Nov. 2017.

Farrell, Keith C. “Corporate Tax Shelters.” Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues, edited by Michael Shally-Jensen, vol. 1: Business and Economy, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 59-67. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.

Hartley, Jon. “Burger King’s Tax Inversion and Canada’s Favorable Corporate Tax Rates.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Aug. 2014,

Ferdman, Roberto A. “We finally have an idea of how much money Burger King will save by moving to Canada.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 Dec. 2014,

Jacobson, Louis. “Burger King says it’s ‘not moving’ and ‘will continue to pay all’ of its taxes.” Edited by Angie Drobnic Holan, Politifact, 29 Aug. 2014, 5:29 pm,

Hunting Easter Eggs

“Hunting Easter Eggs”, by Knott
A Knott cartoon depicting Congress’s new tax bill taking the reserve funds of corporations.

John Knott was a prolific cartoonist who wrote cartoons for several decades in the early 1900s. His long career spanned over several historical events. One of these events, during which Knott was very active as a cartoonist, was the Great Depression, specifically when Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) was first starting the New Deal. In Knott’s political cartoon, “Hunting Easter Eggs”, published on April 9, 1936, Knott portrays the Undistributed Profits Bill, one of FDR‘s New Deal policies, as wrongly stealing reserve funds from corporations.

Knott’s cartoon, like the majority of his cartoons for the Dallas Morning News, appeared alongside an accompanying editorial, “Political Tax Bill”, where another writer for the Dallas Morning News describes in more explicit detail opposition to the tax bill. “Political Tax Bill” describes exactly what the bill entailed, that being “a levy on undivided corporation profits that otherwise might be retained as reserve funds” (“Political Tax Bill” 1). This policy would strongly discourage companies from saving their profits, since the saved profits would be subject to this levy. After the description, the editorial writer argues that such a policy would hurt businesses in the United States, since they would not be allowed to properly save their assets for troubling financial situations. This was a view shared by many government officials and business owners of the time.

Before the publication of the cartoon, the Great Depression had ravaged America. The Depression began with the crash of the stock market in 1929, and was followed by waves of bank crashes for the following three years. The subsequent complete failure of the economy happened for a variety of reasons, including falling prices in all economic sectors and people rushing to withdraw their savings, which caused even more economic contraction and further failure (Darity 368). In the wake of the ongoing crisis, FDR became president, based on a platform of promises to fix the economy. To accomplish these goals, he pushed for several new policy reforms, such as bank inspections and the establishment of the Social Security program (Darity 368-369). In addition to these and other assorted economic and public works changes, Roosevelt made several changes to the American tax system, such as the subject of Knott’s cartoon, the Undistributed Profits Tax.

Roosevelt’s Undistributed Profits Tax was a bold proposal. It changed the existing corporate taxes to levy a large tax on profits that were saved up and left undistributed to stockholders. The idea behind the change was that the undistributed corporate profits were much less beneficial to the United States economy than the taxable wealth of stockholders. In addition, some government officials considered the tax to be an effective way to force businesses to use surpluses for further economic growth through reinvestment. (Leff 966). However, the bill was received with mixed reactions from within the government, and was extremely unpopular among corporations. The corporations considered the new program far too limiting of their control over their own capital and their ability to carry out financial planning (Brownlee 58). This unfavorable corporate view of the bill can be seen in “Political Tax Bill”, where it is agreed that new taxes are necessary to reduce federal debt, but the Undistributed Profit Tax is the wrong way to go about it. The editorial claims that corporations “need to be allowed to save for a rainy day” (“Political Tax Bill” 1), in a claim that almost all businesses of the time would have agreed with. Both economists and the corporations also argued that forcing this kind of investment would actually hurt economic growth due to the control taken away from the corporations. Thanks to this outrage among businesses and the Department of the Treasury’s poor ability to argue in favor of the bill, the bill underwent several reforms after its passage, and was eventually removed completely.

The unpopularity of the bill that lead to its eventual removal is clearly illustrated in a variety of news sources from the time, in addition to Knott’s cartoon. For example, a 1936 issue of the New York Times describes initial disagreements in the Congress about the tax bill, stating that after the bill passed the House of Representatives, a majority in the Senate were opposed, with many arguments about alternative options and no action immediately being taken. (Catledge 1). However, none of the substitute plans were adopted, and eventually, as described in the preceding paragraph, the bill passed both houses of Congress in its original form and went into effect, much to the displeasure of the corporations. Some time later, a 1938 issue of the Los Angeles Times described ensuing conflicts about the bill, although at that time, the Republican attempt to completely repeal the bill actually failed, with only minor reforms going through (“Tax Measure Approved by House Commitee” 1). The bill was not fully repealed until 1939, but it faced several reforms and reductions before then, in attempts to satisfy the bill’s many detractors.

Knott’s cartoon illustrates the bill’s unpopularity, as well as the general style of the political humor of the time. To make his point, Knott uses a metaphor, portraying Congress as a farmer stealing reserve funds (portrayed as eggs) from a chicken, representing the corporations. The comparison is most useful for clearly portraying the power difference between the two entities: just like a farmer has all of the control over a chicken, the bill gives Congress all of the control over the companies and their finances. In addition, the reserve funds being represented as eggs adds another layer to the comparison, by implicitly comparing the funds to a “nest egg” that the corporations might want to “sit on” and not use. Knott uses this to cast further doubt on the bill, since the farmer and his tax bill will prevent this option. Aside from the overarching metaphor, Knott also uses some more subtle details to make his point about the bill’s negative effects, particularly, the contrasting facial expressions of the farmer and the chicken. The expressions further solidify Knott’s portrayed unfavorable opinion of the bill, with the farmer’s eager expression showing Congress as greedy for revenue (eggs) and the chicken’s mortified expression contributing to the portrayal of the corporations as victims.

“Political Tax Bill” is used to clarify the cartoon and put Knott’s message into more explicit terms. It uses its own metaphor of “the simple Pablo” (Political Tax Bill, 1) from the play “Russet Mantle”, who bemoans being told to spend all of his money instead of saving. Pablo’s plight is then shown to mirror the situation of the businesses, who are forced to spend and reinvest all of their profits by the bill instead of “saving them for a rainy day” (Political Tax Bill, 1) as reserve funds. In addition, it uses examples of large companies like AT&T using reserves to survive during the depression to show that the corporations need to be allowed to keep their reserves. While the editorial does concede that new taxes are necessary to help pay for New Deal programs, it argues that the tax bill is the wrong way to go about it. By blending this comparison with more grounded facts about the situation, the editorial writerr makes his criticisms of the Undistributed Profits Tax clear and understandable to the reader.

Knott’s cartoons all provide valuable glimpses into American history, with this particular cartoon representing an interesting look at the New Deal. What makes this cartoon particularly of note is that it shows a uniquely negative view of a New Deal policy. Currently, FDR is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents of all time for the New Deal and his handling of World War II, and so it is interesting to realize that at the time, his actions were not always so positively regarded. Indeed, despite the overall high regard that FDR’s policies have, some were largely unsuccessful. With this unique perspective combined with the cartoon’s use as an example of general culture during the 1930s, it becomes a great source of historical information.

Works Cited

Knott, John. “Hunting Easter Eggs.” Dallas Morning News, 9 Apr. 1936.

Leff, Mark H. “Taxation.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 963-967. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 15 Oct. 2017.

Brownlee, W. Elliot. “Taxation.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 54-59. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 15 Oct. 2017.

“Great Depression.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 367-371. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 15 Oct. 2017.

Catledge, Turner. Special to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. (1936, May 15). SENATORS FAIL TO AGREE ON A CORPORATE TAX BILL; FIGHT MAY GO TO FLOOR. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

TAX MEASURE APPROVED BY HOUSE COMMITTEE. (1938, Feb 27). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

Isolationism versus Freedom of the Seas

Debating Freedom of the Seas, Uncle Sam reminds Senator Hiram Johnson of the consequences of entering World War I by displaying a list of casualties and war debt accrued.
Debating Freedom of the Seas, Uncle Sam reminds Senator Hiram Johnson of the consequences of entering World War I by displaying a list of casualties and war debt accrued.

The political cartoon “What Price Freedom of the Seas” by John Knott illustrates the struggle between the general public and politicians in the United States (U.S.) during the years preceding World War II. Opposing interpretations of the ideology: Freedom of the Seas, caused much debate between people who were against the war, but for commerce, and people who were against both. In the U.S.’s best interest to stay out of the war, Neutrality Acts were passed which allowed U.S. ships to be neutral against belligerent nations, and continue trade with both allied and hostile nations alike under the ideology: Freedom of the Seas. Many of the people in the Senate were Isolationists (people who were against any foreign contact/conflict) including Hiram Johnson who also was an advocate for free trade. The accompanying editorial to the cartoon, “Senate Neutrality Bill” brings in the differing viewpoints on the issue of Freedom of the seas. People recognized that the ideology was crucial for trade and geo-political control over the seas for the U.S., but the continuation of embargos was highly disputed especially after WWI where hostile nations attacked neutral American ships aiding Britain. The editorial compared the leadership during 1937 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to a past president’s ideology with foreign nations: “Speak softly and carry a big stick” -Theodore Roosevelt. This ideology and later policy meant negotiating peacefully with foreign nations while simultaneously intimidating them with a big stick (military power).(Big Stick Diplomacy 132)  This comparison is critical of FDR’s decision to continue trade while intimidating opposing forces with a “big-stick” as “a more timorous leader would stop trade at once in order to avoid trouble-making incidents” (Dallas Morning News) The different interpretations of the ideology “Freedom of the Seas” led to contradictory actions, unsuccessful neutrality acts, and an eventual entrance into the war just four years after Knott’s cartoon was published.

Knott’s 1937 cartoon depicts only two characters: Hiram Johnson and Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam holds a piece of paper tallying the number of wounded and killed during World War I and the amount of debt accrued to the United States (U.S.) after the war ended. He has a disappointed expression on his face as he sadly puts his hand on Hiram Johnson’s shoulder who raises his fist and exclaims: “I believe that a nation’s commerce is its lifeblood and that we should insist upon our rights under International Law!” In Johnson’s hand he strongly holds onto a poster with the words “Freedom of the Seas” written on the side.

Hiram Johnson was a Republican U.S. senator in California from the years 1917 to 1945. Although Johnson took progressive positions in domestic affairs, he was an isolationist – strictly against getting involved in foreign affairs. He was against signing the Treaty of Versailles, and joining the League of Nations under Woodrow Wilson, but he helped endorse FDR’s New Deal. He was a big name and had a big voice in the isolationist movement. He was one of the few progressive republicans who was in favor of FDR, so when he chose to be in favor of the Neutrality Acts, he had much influence due to being favored by both Democrats and Republicans. FDR originally opposed the Neutrality legislation, but eventually approved the acts because of both parties agreeing, and his re-election on the horizon. Johnson tried to stay out of foreign conflict until the end of his career: “Although Johnson had been an outstanding Progressive governor, by the time of his death on Aug. 6, 1945, his views on foreign affairs made him part of an outdated isolationist minority in Congress.” (Hiram Warren Johnson 300) As a stylistic choice, Hiram Johnson was drawn heavier in the political cartoon. This portrayed the greediness of his statement in the cartoon to continue free trade while many citizens strongly predicted it would lead to war.

The U.S. firmly believed in having neutral waterways for commerce to continue, this protection in the seas is rooted in the ideology of “Freedom of the Seas.” In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, while many countries were being colonized, some nations also wanted control of the seas surrounding their land. They enforced their power with naval force and bases at canals. (Rappaport 111) However, many of these nations believed the seas to be free like air: “Queen Elizabeth I of England proclaimed: ‘The use of the sea and air is common to all; neither can any title to the ocean belong to any people or private nation fought for free water travel, beginning with Thomas Jefferson, who enacted the Jefferson Embargo Act of 1803 (mentioned in the editorial as a parallel to the need for free water travel and commerce in 1937). The Embargo Act prohibited U.S. ships from going into foreign ports. This was to compel French and English ships from interfering with American merchant ships while they were in the Napoleonic Wars (a war over French expansion). This act eventually backfired and negatively impacted the U.S. economy until it was repealed. (Embargo Act (1807) 379) Freedom of the Seas was declared by London in 1908 as an unofficial agreement with allied and enemy nations, but no belligerent nations ratified it thus not binding them to it during World War I. “Upon the outbreak of war the United States called for a de facto observation of the Declaration of London.” (Young) The ideology was never set in international law except for small treaties between allied nations. As years went on this ideology was disputed in many nations, the U.S. being extremely for it, especially Hiram Johnson who used this ideology to continue to trade while war went on. It’s very contradictory that he was an isolationist that wanted to continue foreign trade at the cost of inevitably entering war.

Uncle Sam holds a sign with the debt owed to the U.S. after World War I and the number of American soldiers killed or wounded during the war. (Schuker 542) The expression on Uncle Sam’s face symbolizes the disappointment much of the public had in the Senate’s interpretation of Freedom of the Seas. Many people in both the general public, and in political chairs wanted to avoid war at all costs, as the war only 20 years prior to this cartoon was World War I, which was detrimental to the U.S. as a whole. Although many politicians knew about how devastating the past war was, they continued to push for free trade, which many people disagreed with as that would most likely lead to war. Due to there being no international law for free trade, and America simply enforcing it with a “big-stick” initiative, it was only a matter of time before hostile nations attacked U.S. ships bringing resources to friendly nations. This violation of the ideology would most likely bring the U.S. into the war. Robert Lansing, (Legal Advisor to the State Department at the beginning of World War I and later the Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson) compared the neutrality of 1937 to the neutrality of 1915 (World War I) due to the U.S. establishing itself as a neutral power, but eventually being brought into both wars because of belligerent nation violation of free waterways. (Lansing)

After World War I, the need to stay out of war in 1937 expanded into the Isolationist viewpoint (originated in 1934 in the Nye Committee). The main idea of Isolationism was avoiding alliances and conflict with all foreign nations completely. In 1934, there was speculation that the entrance into the World War I was for profit instead of good ethics. Created by the U.S. Senate, this committee investigated business leaders who were suspected of manufacturing supplies and trading with belligerent nations. “Committee members found little hard evidence of an active conspiracy among arms makers, yet the panel’s reports did little to weaken the popular prejudice against “greedy munitions interests.” (Schlesinger) This viewpoint was driven by Hiram Johnson in 1937, however his drive for free trade with belligerent and allied nations contradicted part of the Isolationist viewpoint, confounding the original ideology.

The Neutrality Acts, passed between 1935 and 1939, were the main catalysts of the cartoon and editorial because they allowed trade to continue between the U.S. and hostile nations. Congress passed four acts that limited American involvement in the ongoing war on the Seas and in Europe (Delaney 66). “[The Neutrality Act of 1935] banned all arms and ammunition shipments to belligerent nations and placed America’s armaments industry under federal control for six months.” (Delaney 66) As the four acts came out they edited the previous acts, usually strengthening them. The 1937 act had a “cash-and-carry” provision, allowing the U.S. to supply belligerent countries resources if they paid in cash and guaranteed that the U.S. would not become 9 (the same year the U.S. declared war). The Neutrality Acts were passed to keep the U.S. out of the war, but the inclusion of enforcing free trade with these acts ultimately made them unsuccessful as belligerent nations infringed upon the notion of “Freedom of the Seas” and attacked vessels sent to friendly nations.

The editorial “Senate Neutrality Bill” expressed the differing viewpoints groups of people at the time. The two options debated by citizens were: to completely end trade “… a more timorous leader would stop trade at once to avoid trouble-making incidents.” (Senate Neutrality Bill) While the other option was to continue the embargos under the Neutrality Acts because commerce and geo-political control in the seas was the lifeblood of the nation. Citizens, knew that free trade was vital, but they predicted it would lead to conflict “Yet embargoes create an international antagonism that may form the prelude to conflict.” Isolationists wanted nothing to do with any foreign nation. Hiram Johnson wanted free trade under the pretext of Freedom of the Seas, but he did not want to enter a war. The ultimate decisions made by FDR and the Senate couldn’t satisfy all of these viewpoints and this angered many people. Articles were written by regular citizens calling out the acts for not giving the citizens a choice and calling the neutrality a “compound of ignorance, timidity, and ignorant isolationism.” (Peace act). Although many of these people interpreted Freedom of the Seas differently, the ideal outcome as stated in the editorial, would be peace.

“What Price Freedom of the Seas” by John Knott illustrates how Hiram Johnson believed that through the Ideology of Freedom of the Seas and the upkeep of its principles through force or a “big stick” America should’ve been allowed to continue free trade with any nation. This greed made him blind to the possibility of conflict happening due to this continued trade, as it had happened before in 1807. Many citizens and politicians recognized the problem of continuing trade especially after the tragedies of World War I “We have grown older: we have burnt our fingers in war: we would like to keep the peace.” (Senate Neutrality Bill) The actual decisions made in the Senate eventually led to the U.S. entrance into World War II. The idea of Freedom of the Seas has been debated since ships were able to travel across the oceans. Many regions around the globe have had treaties signed to ensure power over their portion of the ocean while other nations pushed for complete neutrality of the seas (U.S. being one of these nations). Today, 57 years after the cartoon was published, Freedom of the Seas is set in international law: Freedom of Navigation, but the differing interpretations still exist, which may lead to miscommunication and conflict.



Works Cited

“Big Stick Diplomacy.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 132-133. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Delaney, David G. “Neutrality Acts.” Major Acts of Congress, edited by Brian K. Landsberg, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 66-69. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

“Embargo Act (1807).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 379-381. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

“Hiram Warren Johnson.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 8, Gale, 2004, pp. 300-301. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Knott, John. “What Price Freedom of the Seas.” Dallas Morning News. 5 March 1937.

Lansing, Roberrt. (1937, Jan 31). NEUTRALITY: 1915 SHEDS LIGHT ON 1937. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

“Peace act,” 1937 model. (1937, Feb 23). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from

Rappaport, Armin, and William Earl Weeks. “Freedom of the Seas.” Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, edited by Richard Dean Burns, et al., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 111-122. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

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