Tag Archives: 1932


Texas Taxpayers Unite

John Knott was a cartoonist from Austria-Hungary, famous for his work illustrating American political cartoons.  For decades his works were published in the Dallas Morning News (John Knott Wikipedia).  In his 1932 piece, “Arousing the Countryside,” a man is depicted riding horseback, trying to spread the word for a cause he supports.  The man symbolizes the members of the State Taxpayers Association of Texas, an organization against income taxation that only consisted of 600 members (Taxpayers Complain).  The Association’s main goals at the time were to “exempt from taxation homesteads up to a certain assessed valuation” and to shift “the tax burden from… real estate to other forms of wealth through a State income tax (The Taxpayers Meet).”  Though many citizens of Texas favored a removal or lowering of the property tax, the Association struggled in rounding up support for the idea. In his illustration, John Knott used intense patriotism, through powerful imagery and strong wording, to display the State Taxpayers Association of Texas’s disgust for their state government’s spending of the people’s taxes, in order to encourage reform and try to save the worsening economic status of the poor.

The editorial, “Taxpayers Complain,” published in the Dallas Morning News on January 29, 1932, that goes along with the cartoon, seemed to have a bias toward the cause, discussed the Association’s recent rally in Fort Worth, Texas. A day earlier an editorial titled “Drive to Slash Levies Begun By Taxpayers,” went into more detail about the rally in Fort Worth and cited the President of the Association, D.M. Jones, saying that the rally was a success and that thousands of Texas citizens were exposed to the Associations demands. The Association was mostly composed of real estate owners who looked for relief from the heavy real estate tax that existed at the time (Taxpayers Complain).  According to Jones the members of his organization were considered “economic pioneers” of their time (Drive to Slash Levies Begun By Taxpayers). This helped open the minds of people who were willing to sacrifice their time and efforts to step forward and gain momentum for their movement. The State Taxpayers Association of Texas viewed Lone Star State spending as too lavish and not focused on what its citizens needed. Even though the poor tried to vote the burden of their taxes onto the rich, because the rich had all the power at the time, they ended up evading many of the taxation responsibilities they should have born (Taxpayers Complain).  

John Knott implemented many artistic devices into his cartoon to foster awareness among his readers.  He added powerful words like “war, waste, and extravagance” to display how important the issues were to people at the time.  These words serve as an example of soft propaganda that the State Taxpayers Association of Texas used to rally support for their cause.  The words produced emotions in readers, in order rally them to the cause.

In Knott’s cartoon a man is depicted on a strong horse, pointing ahead and shouting.  He represents the members of the Taxpayers Association and their hope for a future with better tax reform.  The Paul Revere-esque image of the man is designed to spark patriotism in the reader. He is depicted riding down the street spreading the word of the organization, similar to Revere’s ride around Boston warning of Britain’s attack at the start of The Revolutionary War.

Knott’s depiction of angry looking citizens further advances the cause of the Association, and demonstrates how they were practically ready to run into battle to support their beliefs.  The cartoon was intended to imbue the readers of the Dallas Morning News with a sense of patriotism by drawing a parallel between the ragtag militia and the Revolutionary War, when the citizens demanded a change.  Knott also added more concerned looking citizens peering down on the scene from a second story window. These people represent the many citizens who were unfairly taxed, but not yet apart of the cause.  The Association is self-described as militant, and were referred to as a powerful front that was not afraid to be vocal about their beliefs.

At the time of the cartoon’s publication, the rich thought that the only way the poor should escape their poverty was through hard work, common sense, and saving.  The poor, on the other hand, looked for relief through tax reform. The State Taxpayers Association of Texas existed to help combat the upper class’s ability to avoid as much taxation as possible (Taxpayers Complain).  The Association believed the correct way to go about this was to get rid of the high real estate taxes, and instead to pay income taxes which would target the rich.

The State Taxpayers Association of Texas was determined to help bridge dramatic differences in income between the rich and the poor that existed in 1932; however, the Association was unsuccessful because of the Great Depression.  Ironically a stronger support for the cause of tax reform could have lessened the effects of the Great Depression.


Works Cited

“Drive to Slash Levies Begun By Taxpayers.” Dallas Morning News, 28 January. 1932.  Editorial. Section 1, page 1.

“John F. Knott.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Knott.

Knott, John. “Arousing the Countryside.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News, 29 January. 1932: Section 2, page 2.

“The Taxpayers Meet.” Dallas Morning News, 28 April. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.

“Taxpayers Complain.” Dallas Morning News, 29 January. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.


Japan at Shanghai 1932

Having overstepped the Manchurian border, an imperial soldier breaks down the door to Shanghai and its boycott against Japan.
Having overstepped the Manchurian border, an imperial soldier breaks down the door to Shanghai and its boycott against Japan.

In the midst of its imperial conquest, Japan invaded and conquered Manchuria through the Mukden incident that took place in 1931 (Byas 2). Manchuria was a territory rich with valuable resources that was legally governed by China. After the establishment of the pseudo-government, “Manchukuo,” in Manchuria, Japan began to use excessive military force on Shanghai to suppress Chinese boycotts Japanese goods that arose out anti-Japanese resentment. In doing this, Japan hoped to occupy Shanghai in the process, gaining a foothold in another valuable area in order to spread its sphere of influence. Ultimately, these aggressive acts carried out by Japan not only violated its legal obligation to denunciate war as outlined by the League of Nations, but also further heightened tensions that was already enlisted between the two nations.

In John Knott’s political cartoon, Having Crushed the Chinese “Bandits,” (Knott) published in January of 1932, he illustrates imperial Japan’s aggressive stance upon China – particularly on the city of Shanghai. The cartoon depicts Japan as a burly soldier who is using the butt of his rifle to break down the door to a home that is labeled “Shanghai.” Additionally, a note is posted at the entry, reading “Boycott against Japan.” Japan is depicted as stepping over a river from Manchuria into Shanghai, essentially intruding and forcing his way into this territory. The accompanying editorial titled, “Japan at Shanghai,” (Dallas Morning News) further examines China’s helplessness in the wake of the aggrandizing force and presence of the Japanese military that was deployed to cease the boycott on Japanese goods– ultimately violating international law and abandoning its former policy of civil relations.

The context of the comic revolves around animosity that emerged between China and Japan after the Mukden Incident. After emerging victorious in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, Japan had been granted the lease and administration of the South Manchuria Railway through the Treaty of Portsmouth (“Russo-Japanese War”). With Japan’s interest to further expand its political and economic influence into Manchuria, military personnel devised a plan to deceive and attack China. On September 18, 1931, a miniscule bombing was staged near the South Manchuria Railway Zone neighboring Mukden. Even though the explosion was harmless, the imperial Japanese army blamed Chinese nationalists for the railway sabotage, initiating a full-scale invasion to retaliate and ultimately colonize Manchuria (Kingston 1). The occupation of this section of the Chinese Republic now enabled Japan to establish its puppet government of Manchukuo. It is believed that the incident was “contrived by the Japanese army, without authorization of the Japanese Government, to justify the Japanese invasion and occupation that followed” (Swift 10). Therefore, this act of aggression was accomplished in “utter and cynical disregard” (“Japanese Conquest of Manchuria”) of Japan’s duty to uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a multilateral agreement created for nearly all the world’s nations to renounce the use of war as a tool for national policy (“Kellogg-Briand Pact”).

The loss of northeastern China deeply humiliated the Chinese, accentuating the immense tension between two nations, and was followed by a mass anti-Japanese movement as well as a boycott of Japanese goods in Shanghai. Amidst the growing anti-Japanese sentiment in China, the Japanese military continued its mission to strengthen its political and economic spheres of influence throughout China – particularly into Shanghai where other Western Powers, such as Britain and France, have established their concessions and pseudo-governments (Dallas Morning News). In Knott’s cartoon, Japan’s decision to enter into Shanghai is denoted by the body language of the soldier who boldly steps over a boundary dividing Manchuria from Shanghai. This action not only directly references Japan’s aggressive military conquest into Shanghai, but also literally depicts Japan overstepping its boundaries in terms of its military power. Ultimately, Japan’s actions did not “fall within any definition of war,” (“Japanese Conquest of Manchuria”), and it essentially abandoned its legal obligations to follow the Kellogg- Briand Pact and denunciate war.

In order to justify greater military enforcements in China, the Japanese military wanted to investigate various anti-Japanese incidents; in this, the violent nature of these acts served as justification for Japan to reinforce its military presence in order to “protect” Japanese civilians living throughout Shanghai (“The Shanghai Incident and the Imperial Japanese Navy”). One significant event that catalyzed violent riots throughout China occurred on January 18, 1932, when five Japanese Buddhist monks were unjustly attacked and beaten near Shanghai’s Sanyou Factory by Chinese members of the Anti-Japanese Association. Three of the priests were seriously injured, and one died from his injuries a few days later. Tensions between Japan and China escalated quickly, leading to the burning of Shanghai’s Sanyou Factory. Enraged by these actions, the Japanese Consul-General presented four demands: 1) a formal apology from the Mayor; 2) arrest and punishment of the offenders; 3) paid medical expenses for those who were wounded; 4) disbandment of all anti-Japanese organizations (“The Shanghai Incident and the Imperial Japanese Navy). Furthermore, if the Chinese did not fulfill demands, Japan threatened to “take the necessary steps” to resolve the issue (“Shanghai Incident”).

This assertion of dominance and power resonates deeply with Knott’s characterization of Japan in his cartoon. Knott presents Japan as a massive and bulky military soldier. The immense size and strength portrayed by the illustration parallels with the image of a bully, directly corresponding to Japan’s militaristic demeanor. As the Japanese military attempted to achieve concessions and spheres of influence within Shanghai, it essentially did so by violating international law as well as bullying Chinese authorities.

Japan’s illegal and aggressive behavior was further amplified by Knott’s illustration of Japan’s behavior within his cartoon. The Japanese soldier is portrayed breaking down the door to the “home” of Shanghai where the boycott against Japanese goods was taking place. Humor is derived from the ironic comparison of the title of the cartoon, “Having Crushed the Chinese ‘Bandits,’” to the illustration of Shanghai’s fairly civil manner of displaying a composed note announcing its boycott against Japan. The depiction of Shanghai within the cartoon lacks the violence and chaos typically associated with the presence of “bandits.” Therefore, the disparity between Japan’s and Knott’s perspectives of Chinese anti-Japanese protesters serves to trivialize Japan’s use of excessive force to invade Shanghai to cease the boycotts on Japanese goods. Therefore, the contrast in the characterization of the two countries underscore Knott’s criticism towards Japan’s questionable diplomacies and military actions throughout its imperial conquest.

While Japan’s aggressive and unjust imperial behavior upon Shanghai received much criticism in the eyes of the world during 1932, the quest to dominate the geopolitical chessboard parallels events in the twenty-first century, such as Russia engaging in aggressive military actions and international crimes in order to occupy Ukraine for its valuable economic resources. It is essential to understand past scenarios in order to better interpret what is to come, not only within our present but also in our future.


Works Cited

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Kellogg-Briand Pact.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 July 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Kellogg-Briand-Pact.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Russo-Japanese War.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 Apr. 2018, www.britannica.com/event/Russo-Japanese-War.

HUGH BYAS Wireless to THE NEW,YORK TIMES. “JAPANESE SEIZE MUKDEN IN BATTLE WITH CHINESE; RUSH MORE TROOPS TO CITY.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Sep 19 1931, p. 1. ProQuest. Web. 10 May 2018 .

“Japan at Shanghai.” Dallas Morning News, 28 January. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page

JAPANESE CONQUEST OF MANCHURIA 1931-1932, www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/WorldWar2/manchuria.htm.

Kingston, Jeff. “Memories of 1931 Mukden Incident Remain Divisive.” The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/09/17/commentary/memories-1931-mukden-incident-remain-divisive/#.Wvc_U4gvxPY.

Knott, John. “Having Crushed the Chinese ‘Bandits’.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 January 1932. Newspaper. 18 April 2018.

“Shanghai, China.” Shanghai, China – New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Shanghai,_China.

Swift, John. “Mukden Incident.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 May 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Mukden-Incident.

The Shanghai Incident and the Imperial Japanese Navy. www.bing.com/cr?IG=AE2B022FEDD84A6EA47CE3C151AA0ED0&CID=0D02E1CFB1D8630C1AC0EA21B0776236&rd=1&h=NRjhA4BE0lryCR6CBnloBEH0TP-7MgY0XSsW_wRCul8&v=1&r=http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=moore&p=DevEx.LB.1,5578.1.




The Waking Giant

The Waking Giant
A giant is lying in slumber, while a man, who is smaller in comparison, is standing in wait of battle. John Knott illustrated the lack of unification of China and the conquest by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai

The Waking Giant

John  F. Knott – February 10, 1932

The political cartoon The Waking Giant, created by John Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on February 10, 1932, depicts a giant lying in slumber and a man, who is smaller in comparison, standing in wait of battle. The man wears a hat with the word “JAPAN” written across it. He is holding a sword upon which the words, “MOVE TO CUT UP CHINA” are written, symbolizing Japan’s efforts to break up China into sections of conquest (Knott). The cartoon conveys the lack of unification of China and imperial conquest by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai in 1932.

This era in global history was littered with tension between colonizing nations. The French Empire, Spanish Empire, British Empire, and other western nations were colonizing large swaths of the world. Among the nations seeking to expand their territory was Japan. In the early 1930’s, Japan, a heavy industrialized nation, was in financial distress and looked towards neighboring China for the necessary natural resources to keep Japan’s national economy afloat (“Japan Invades Manchuria 1931”). The giant, which represents China in Knott’s political cartoon, is wearing traditional Chinese clothing, tangzhuang, while the Japanese soldier is in more modern military attire. The difference between traditional and modern clothing is used to emphasize China’s lack of technological and industrial progress compared to Japan and also to suggest that if engaged in war, China would face an unfavorable battle with Japan.

Perhaps the most critical question that comes to mind is: Why did Knott, or anyone in America in the early 1930s, care about what happened to China? During this era of colonization, America stood by the idea that every nation should cease to expand their territory any further. America also had a political and diplomatic investment in China through Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-shek was the nationalist political and military leader at the time. He had support from many American political leaders and citizens (Whitman). Chiang Kai-shek started to lead unification of politically disarrayed China and opposed the colonization of China by Japan  (“Chiang Kai-shek: Internal and External Conflict In China”).

Similar to the Japanese soldier ready to strike before the giant fully awoke from his slumber in Knott’s political cartoon, Japan needed to find an excuse to act against China and gain their natural resource-filled territories. Japan found its self-justification to take up arms when the Chinese military “violated” Japan’s established boundaries within which the Chinese military was allowed to operate in Shanghai. In response, Japan sent a naval fleet to Shanghai. On January 28, 1932, Japan started bombarding the city, and fighting between the Chinese and Japanese military ensued with no end in sight (Chen).

Also appearing in the Dallas Morning News along with Knott’s political cartoon was the editorial A Stubborn Defense, which conveyed how the Chinese military was desperately attempting to face off against a nation with greater military might. The article depicted China as a tenacious nation that was willing to defend what was rightfully theirs until the end. The article also stated that, even though military forces were continuing to advance in Manchuria, the Japanese public was not completely invested in the cause of war. The editorial argued that if such a tenacious defense continued, the situation might lead to withdrawal of armed forces due to disapproval on the part of the Japanese public (Dallas Morning News Section 2 Page 4).

The fighting did on stop, however, until almost three months later, when the Shanghai Ceasefire Agreement was signed. In contrast to the hopes of the editorial, the result was not in China’s favor. Shanghai and the surrounding cities ended up under the control of Japan (Chen). The relationship between Japan and China after the battle remained tense and eventually gave away to the Second Sino-Japanese War. As for America, their political and diplomatic investment fell through when a civil war erupted in China between the nationalist party Kuo Min Tang and the Communist forces led by Mao Tse Tung. After the Communist Party took power, Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan (“Chiang Kai-shek: Internal and External Conflict In China”). America continued to support Chiang Kai-shek and also engraved its influence on defeated Japan after World War II (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”).

This historical incident holds relevance even today. Similar to the previous tensions surrounding Japan’s colonization of China, recently China has been in dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea. Juxtaposed to when America supported China under Chiang Kai-Shek, the U.S. now has a strong political and diplomatic investment in Japan. In keeping with formal U.S. treaty obligations negotiated after the Second World War, President Barack Obama has announced that America will support Japan with military power if tensions over the disputed islands were to turn violent (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”). The constant change is diplomatic alliances conveys the fact that, among other things, each nation is looking out for its own self-interest. This is neither a selfishly evil or a morally righteous act, but rather is something that everyone should be aware of as the world’s balance of power(s) continues to shift.

Works Cited

“A Stubborn Defense” Dallas Morning News 10 Feb. 1932: Section 2 Page 4. Print.

“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Asia for Educators. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Budge, Kent G. “Shanghai.” The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia:. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Chen, Peter. “First Battle of Shanghai.” WW2DB RSS. Lava Development, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“Chiang Kai-shek.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Japan Invades Manchuria 1931 – Inter-war Period: Causes of WWII.” Japan Invades Manchuria 1931 – Inter-war Period: Causes of WWII. Weebly.com, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Knott, John. “The Waking Giant” Dallas Morning News 10 Feb. 1932: Section 2 Page 4. Print.

“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine.” The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine – 1921–1936 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Whitman, Alden. “The Life of Chiang Kai-shek: A Leader Who Was Thrust Aside by Revolution.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 6 Apr. 1975. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.