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.
“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.