Tag Archives: 1933

Hatching Another One for the Ax?

FDR shields a New NRA egg, as the Supreme Court awaits for its inevitable denial.
FDR shields a New NRA plan in the form of an egg, as an old man representing the Supreme Court awaits with a ready ax for its inevitable demise.

“Hatching Another One for the Ax?” is a political cartoon published on March 4th, 1937 by John Knott, that exemplifies the unconstitutionality conflict between the contents of the National Recovery Administration(NRA) and the Supreme Court.  FDR hoped that the new NRA would revitalize the business industry, which was badly damaged by the severity of the Great Depression.  The Great Depression was historically considered one of the greatest economic disasters the United States has ever sustained, so understandably, its ripple effects are still in effect. Its magnitude was so noticeable, that it made sense for legislation to be introduced as quickly as possible.  It was desirable for legislation to be introduced because the U.S had never encountered such widespread economic disaster in its history.  As part of then president FDR’s first 99 days, he implemented the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) on June 16, 1933 (history.com).  He also established the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to enforce it. Unemployment rate was one contributing factor to the NRA’s creation, but others included minimum wages, shorter hours, the ability to join labor unions, better working conditions and greater regulation for competition between businesses.  The unemployment rate was up to nearly 25% by the time the NIRA was introduced, and by 1933 the economy had produced half as much money as it did only 4 years back ($57 million to $105 million)(history.com).

 Within John Knott’s political cartoon, Knott portrayed FDR, the Supreme Court(represented as an old man), and a chicken with a “New NRA” egg under it.  FDR appears to be attempting to hide the egg from the Supreme Court in the background, but based on the title of the cartoon, it appears inevitable that Supreme Court will terminate the New NRA as soon as they see it.  As expressed in the editorial, Haste Made Waste, the NRA attempted to basically do too much to o fast because of the urgency of the situation, but FDR would still not be given a pass when attempting to produce a new NRA.

The editorial touched on one of the main issues with the introduction of the NRA, which was the debate in the readiness of all the industries for its policies.  Roosevelt wanted to do what the steel industry had already done, with regulation over wage and hours.  The value of the NRA came into place with its regulation over a more widespread level of industries, thus impacting the economy in a more immediate and in depth fashion.  But again, the editorial discussed how difficult it was to put something like that in place, given the failure of the first NRA.  That previous failure, combined with the need for economic reinvigoration were the two butting heads in FDR attempting to pass a second NRA(along with the desire for it to be constitutional this time around).

When it first came into existence, the NRA was based on industrial codes that could change the formatting of how business was done.  One overarching example of this was the attempt to completely eliminate any chance of monopolies, or one company dominating an entire industry.  The NRA preached fair trade and fair competition between business, and went to the lengths of code implementation to reach their goal.  What perhaps was underestimated by FDR before he went ahead and installed this code system all across varying industries, was the fact that the regulation aspect of the NRA became exceedingly difficult to accomplish(Buchholz).  Bigger name industrialists didn’t like the regulations of the codes that forced minimum wages and shortened hours, so the leadership of the NRA was tested.  Companies began to alter codes in their favor, and essentially continued the path of unfair competition that the NRA had hoped to stop in the first place.  General Hugh Johnson was the man set in charge of overseeing the NRA, but his lack of awareness clearly forced the NRA downhill.  This sequence of events led to the legality conflict that is alluded to in the cartoon (Knott), with the Supreme Court being the only real opposing force in FDR getting away with the “New NRA.”

A couple of points were made by the Supreme Court to invalidate the NRA, but one of the major points revolved around the new law making power of FDR.  When the NIRA and NRA began, the codes that FDR basically forced on businesses came across as a power that should only be distributed to members of Congress(Buchholz).  That alone, violated a major cornerstone of the U.S. government, in the individual branches knowing their responsibilities and not crossing boundaries.  The other point of emphasis by the Supreme Court was Congress’ freedom that they gave to FDR in order to put his codes in place. FDR was essentially given lawmaking powers, which should only ever be in the hands of the legislative branch . Also, Congress had become too involved in interstate commerce, when in reality the states know best on how to regulate their pricing, wages and hours (brittanica.com).

The NRA was eliminated May 27th, 1935, but parts of its legislation continued in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 and Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which stood for the better parts of what the NRA represented, in labor unions, fair pricing, wages and hours.  Prior to any regulation, businesses weren’t forced in any way to have an hour limit for their workers, or a set wage.  Also, without any labor unions, workers couldn’t establish any control over any of those wage and hour issues they dealt with.  Even with these acts created to rectify an economy in bad condition, the long-term effect of something like the Fair Labor Standards Act can be for the worse in modern times(sites.gsu.edu).  The reason for this, is because the FLSA was, in short, an act put into place to install a minimum wage and bring more equality to workers through actions such as overtime compensation standards (brittanica.com). Minimum wage is seen as a beneficiary in allowing a certain amount of income to be received by those who are working jobs.  However, the ability for the minimum wage to be included in society, paved way for issues to arise in labor unions, like the common desire to raise minimum wages.  For example, smaller businesses of today will be forced to close down if the minimum wage is raised from a number like maybe $10 to $15.  That amount could be too much money for those individual small businesses to pay their employees, thus initiating a vicious cycle of firing workers and not being able to produce to a high enough level will ensue, hurting the economy.  This adjustment is one of the problems associated with how the NRA has left its legacy, but a balance in how workers are treated and how businesses can simultaneously be sustained is still a major goal for future economic growth.

Works Cited:

History.com Staff. “The Great Depression.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/great-depression.

Buchholz, Rogene A. “National Industrial Recovery Act.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 7 Feb. 2014, www.britannica.com/topic/National-Industrial-Recovery-Act.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).”Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 Feb. 2017, www.britannica.com/topic/National-Recovery-Administration.

“National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA).” Powered by Sites@Gsu – Blogs for Georgia State University, sites.gsu.edu/us-constipedia/national-industry-recovery-act-nira/.

Knott, John. “Hatching Another One for the Ax.” The Dallas Morning News, 4 March 1937.

 

What’s the Next Play Going to Be?

Cartoonist John Knott foreshadows the demise of the NRA regarding the opposition from some industries and companies.

Cartoonist John Knott foreshadows the demise of the NRA regarding the opposition from some industries and companies.

The political cartoon, “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott for the Dallas Morning News published October 28th, 1933, portrays a football team huddled together with “NRA” written on the back of their pants. The field goal in the back has a sign that reads, “’Nobody’s goin to tell us how to run our business,’” (Knott 2) and the opposing team is standing in front of the goal in tackling stances with angry looks on their faces. The men huddled in the group are slouched over as if they are defeated and don’t have a strategy to continue while the team in the back look ready to attack and finish the game. Knott’s cartoon demonstrates the opposition between businesses and the NRA, which was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 amongst his other New Deal propositions to cure the economy through industrial self-government.

The accompanying editorial, “A Test for the NRA,” provides context for the cartoon regarding Henry Ford and steel companies that oppose the National Recovery Administration. The steel companies wanted to run their own businesses, hence the sign hanging from the field goal, and to not be controlled by the government or by codification that moderated how the businesses ran. There were a select few Ford dealers who had accepted the blue eagle, but there were also others who opposed it, leaving the NRA at a predicament on whether to punish the steel companies or not. There was also a section of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a law passed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to authorize him to regulate production, that stated that companies must recognize work unions, but the steel companies did not recognize the United Mine Workers of America, a labor union. Although the strikers were not recognized, they still refused to go to work despite the President’s demands. Furthermore, the NRA was having difficulties being in charge and keeping industries in check due to the clashing temperaments within the steel companies, which foreshadowed its own demise.

In 1929, the stock market crashed due to a decline in consumer spending and increase in unsold goods during World War I, leading to the Great Depression. When Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1933, he enacted the New Deal in an attempt to hasten recovery from the Depression. The National Industrial Recovery Act was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program, and it authorized the President’s right to regulate production. The NIRA attempted to end the Depression through industrial self-government in which industries and businesses would draft codes of fair labor practices, such as set wages, maximum hours, and the right to withhold unions.

Along with the NIRA came the National Recovery Administration, which approved the codes of business. Hugh S. Johnson was in charge of the NRA, but he was not fit for the job due to his submissive character. He was afraid that the Supreme Court would rule out the NRA, so he depended on businesses to voluntarily cooperate with the codification and establish set wages and hours within their workplace. These codes meant change; unfortunately, prosperous companies, such as steel and automobile companies, were not happy with these conditions and refused to comply with them. They had their own successful methods and were not willing to change them as the NRA prompted to do so. Because the Depression was affecting the nation atrociously, production and jobs were necessary to keep the people alive, and the NRA allowed businesses to uphold restrictive policies that hindered the road to recovery. The NRA soon created a voluntary blanket code, in which set wages and hours were provided for businesses to expedite codification. Those who agreed to the blanket code were given a placard with a Blue Eagle, the symbol of the NRA, with the words “We Do Our Part,” that was to be placed on their windows, and consumers were only permitted to give their business to those who adhered to the blanket code.

The irony behind the cartoon lies within the players. Football is known to be in an intense sport in which the players put up a fight no matter the circumstance. However, the players huddled up in the center look worn out and ready to quit due to their inability to think of a “game plan” or solution. The “NRA” players aren’t living up to their expectations as football players; instead, they look like they do not belong in the game. Knott presents the NRA this way to portray the NRA’s weakness and inefficiency and to foreshadow the loss they were about to experience.  The NRA’s downfall began when Johnson became erratic and caused various conflicts with government officials and businessmen. Code compliance became a problem, and the NRA let bigger industries get away with code violations. The NRA became so unpopular that it was compared to fascism and was also called “No Recovery Allowed.” The ideas held by the NRA were naïve in that they believed society would look past their interests to work together and better the nation. Due to this, the Supreme Court shut down the NRA and declared that the NIRA was an unconstitutional assignment of power to the president.  

“What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott reflects the conflict between the NRA and steel companies during the 1930’s. Steel companies were independently successful and did not want interference from administrations that were forcing new workplace conditions down their throat. However, not all steel companies were unanimous in their decision to adhere to or decline the blanket code, stressing the NRA as depicted in the editorial. The NRA was unsure of what they’d do, for they feared hurting the business of those who adhered to the blanket code. Because of the NRA’s inability to resolve conflict and take charge, the “NRA” team depicted in the cartoon is slumped over and defeated just as they were in reality.

Citations:

Knott, John. “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec. 11: 2. Print

“A Test for NRA.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec 11:2. Print.

OHL, JOHN KENNEDY. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 683-688. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.

John D. Does a Mural for Radio City

John D. Rockefeller Jr. painting a mural representing prohibition
John D. Rockefeller Jr. painting a mural representing prohibition

John D. Does a Mural for Radio City

John Francis Knott, October 26, 1933

As the Roaring Twenties swung by with economic prosperity, cultural dynamisms, and progressivism, the law of the land prohibited the use or sale of alcohol. As Public Policy, However, Prohibition was a complete failure. Illustrating this on October 26, 1933, John Knott published John D. Does a Mural for Radio City, a complex, controversial political cartoon exemplifying the government’s condemnation of prohibition and the liquor problem.

The complexity of the drawing mirrors that of the Prohibition conundrum; Knott presents the problem – the 18th amendment – with a dry barrel and a vacant saloon (Findlaw). The said amendment was placed in effect to eliminate alcoholism and lower crime; however, it was “not free from bootlegging and liquor control evasions” (The Liquor Problem). Noticeably, Uncle Sam, whose face is stern and displeased, suggests the nation’s dissatisfaction with the 18th amendment – Prohibition generated major political controversies and conflicts of interest in the country. Additionally, complete abstinence of alcohol caused a decline in tax revenues, a greater consumption of alcohol in Speakeasies, and corruption (History.com). According to Uncle Sam, the country required a solution.

Dissecting the cartoon further, Uncle Sam stares displeased at Lady Temperance, who forces an olive branch of peace and abstinence to the government. Many political groups believed alcohol was to blame for many of society’s problems including health problems, destitution, crime, and the overall destruction of families (PBS). Uncle Sam’s expression, however is dissatisfied, exhibits aloof towards Lady Temperance’s teetotalism. He believes that Temperance has caused destruction upon the country.

In the forefront of this cartoon, Knott places John D. Rockefeller Jr. as the artist of the problematic mural. Although the Rockefeller family supported the anti-saloon league and the temperance movement, Rockefeller personally “rejects the old license system and bone dry State prohibition [and] leans toward a State dispensary”(The Liquor Problem, Rockefeller). Therefore, Rockefeller commissioned the Fosdick-Scott survey to notify those in favor of the alcohol regulation. It stated, “Integrity and intelligence are of far greater importance than the administrative device” and reminded readers, “No dispensary system can exist when politics and graft handle it” (The Liquor Problem). The survey was a devise used to inform the public—providing a template for alcohol control (Serendipity). This controversial stance and survey of Rockefeller follows his controversial actions he displayed while constructing Radio City Music Hall (NPR). Humorously, Knott cleverly interjects the inappropriate mural removed by Rockefeller due to dissimilar visions between Rockefeller and renowned artist, Diego Rivera (New York Herald).

In summary, Knott exemplifies the country’s controversial liquor problem by illustrating Rockefeller’s position: America declines in social and economic status for each day held in prohibition. Exploiting Rockefeller’s views enlightens the public of Prohibition’s effects on the country. Although as controversial was his decision to remove Rivera’s mural, Rockefeller still painted the scenery to permanently end prohibition.

Citations

“Destroyed By Rockefellers, Mural Trespassed On Political Vision.” NPR. NPR, 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2014/03/09/287745199/destroyed-by-rockefellers-mural-trespassed-on-political-vision>.

“Eighteenth Amendment – U.S. Constitution – FindLaw.” Findlaw. Thomson Reuters, n.d. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment18.html>.

“The New York Herald.” New York Herald Tribune May 10, 1933. THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 10 May 1933. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma04/hess/rockrivera/newspapers/NYHerald_05_10_1933.html>.

“Prohibition.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://www.history.com/topics/prohibition>.

“Prohibition.” PBS. PBS, 2011. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/roots-of-prohibition/>.

Rockefeller, John D., Jr. “Note.” Letter to Nicolas Murray Butler. 6 June 1932. Http://www.drugpolicy.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. <http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/RockefellerLetter1937.pdf>.

“Serendipity.” Serendipity. Merge Divide, 26 June 2007. Web. 05 Nov. 2015. <http://dgrim.blogspot.com/2007/06/great-scheme-alcohol-based-fuels-ford.html>.

“The Liquor Problem.” America’s Historical Newspapers. Dallas Morning News, 26 Oct. 1933. Web. 5 Nov. 2015. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?

 

 

It Was a Fool’s Paradise

A snake is wrapped around an apple tree labeled "tree of unlimited credit" the are many apple cores littering the ground and a couple in plain clothes are walking away from the tree holding their stomachs and looking sick
A snake is wrapped around an apple tree labeled “tree of unlimited credit” the are many apple cores littering the ground and a couple in plain clothes are walking away from the tree holding their stomachs and looking sick

In John Francis Knott’s 1933 cartoon “It Was a Fool’s Paradise,” we see a man and woman walking away from an apple tree labeled “tree of unlimited credit” (Knott). The snake wrapped around this tree makes the biblical allusion to Adam and Eve quite obvious. The couple is holding their stomachs with sick expressions on their faces. The obscene amount of apple cores found on ground tell the reader that this expression is likely caused by overindulgence. In the biblical tale of Adam and Eve the latter eats a piece of forbidden fruit and damns the rest of humanity to be compelled to sin. However when read with the accompanying article “We Just Thought We Had” it becomes obvious that Knott’s cartoon is not commentary on original sin, but rather on the frivolous spending of unsound credit in the United States a few years prior, and how it ultimately caused the Great Depression.

The humor of this cartoon is found in its incongruity with the original story. In the Bible Eve only took a single bite of an apple whereas this couple has eaten far too many to count. The innumerable apple cores littering the ground represent the greed and gluttony of 1920’s America, and Knott even goes so far as to imply that this is worse than original sin. This discrepancy also points blame at the American public and their careless spending,  as well as the tempting “unsound credit” mentioned in the accompanying article (“We Just Thought We Had”). Knott parallels the immense spending of credit to this couples binging. The couple in the cartoon are clearly not dressed in the fig leaves like the biblical Adam and Eve, but rather in the plain clothes of  1930’s middle class Americans. Not only does this set them apart from Adam and Eve, but it sets them apart from the upper class, who are not affected by the economic crash as greatly as the lower and middle class (“Everyday Life 1929-1941″).

In the accompanying article, “We Only Thought We Had,” the Dallas Morning News comments on the use of unstable credit in 1929. They claim that the use of credit in the 1920’s was taking business away from the early 1930’s . The article is highly critical of this credit and employs multiple rhetorical questions throughout the article in order to force the reader to think about what was really going on. By asking the reader “where is all the money we used to have?” or “where is all the business we used to do?” the author is implying that there is no money and business anymore (“We Just Thought We Had). These rhetorical questions lead the reader into thinking a in a similar way to the author.

The forbidden fruit depicted in Knott’s cartoon is the seemingly unlimited credit of the previous decade. During the 1920’s the American economy was booming, and playing the stock market was all the rage. This ‘game’ of stocks became so popular that investors began to buy them “with little or no money down”, and soon the American use of credit would cause the market to collapse (Woodard). The stock market had seemingly become an embodiment of the American dream, and it soon became flooded with “small scale investors” looking to go from rags to riches overnight (“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash”). The brokers who were handing out credit were playing a risky game, but as long as the market was growing they couldn’t lose (“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash”). However, as they always do, the stocks inevitably went down and “the great sell-off of 1929” brought the market, the brokers, the investors, and the entire American economy down with it (“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash”).

Knott’s cartoon compares the credit crisis of the early 1930’s to the story of Adam and Eve. The allure of the credit had been so strong to the American public, as well as the brokers, that in Knott’s cartoon unlimited credit is analogized with the proverbial apple that Eve ate. The most important aspect of this comparison is that of original sin. As the Dallas Morning News writes the economy of 1929 was conducting business that “legitimately belonged to 1933-35” just as Eve’s sin caused the downfall of human kind in the future, the gluttony of 1929 affected the future indefinitely (“We Just Thought We Had”).

Works Cited

“Everyday Life 1929-1941.” Historic Events for Students: The Great Depression. Ed. Richard C. Hanes and Sharon M. Hanes. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2002. 305-329. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John Francis. “It Was a Fool’s Paradis.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 29 Jan. 1933, sec. 3: 8. Print.

“Playing the Market: The Effects of the Great Crash.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 3: The 1920s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 372-375. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

“We Just Thought We Had.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 29 Jan. 1933, sec. 3: 8. Print.

Woodard, David E. “Stock Market Crashes.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed.      Thomas Woodard. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: St. James Press, 2013. 722-724. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Can’t You Spare a Nickel More

Can't You Spare a Nickel More
A cotton planter in tattered clothing is being given a measly ten cent loan by a much wealthier looking Uncle Sam. Knott emphasizes not only the strains placed on cotton farmers, but also the inadequacy of the payments received.

Can’t You Spare a Nickel More

John Francis Knott – October 20, 1933

The political cartoon, “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More,” was created by John Francis Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1933. It depicts the cotton planters of the United States with regards to the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the economic aspects that accompanied it. The cartoon reveals the economic issues faced by the United States and the twenty million cotton planters depicted in the image. Knott’s cartoon highlights the negative effects that the U.S. government and its New Deal policies – such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Commodity Credit Corporation – had on cotton planters nationwide. These negative effects included the acreage reduction’s failure to raise crop prices, the tenant farming system’s lack of productivity, the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931, and the overall economic incongruities which were created.

The Great Depression spanned from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. While the depression was most known for its negative effects on American society and the crash of the stock market, it was also associated with the sharp decline of profitable cotton prices; this was devastating due to the increased agriculture during that time period. Therefore, it was important for farmers and cotton planters to get back into business. In 1933, the U.S. government created a program that financially helped farmers for lowering cotton acreage, which reduced supply and thus created higher prices. The program, known as the New Deal, brought about interesting changes to the agricultural aspect of the nation – it constituted the Agricultural Adjustment Administration which called for a forty percent cotton acreage reduction and the Commodity Credit Corporation which provided a ten cent loan for each pound of cotton as long as planters promised to reduce its acreage in the following year (Golay 204).

“Can’t You Spare a Nickel More” depicts stress on the cotton planter’s face as well as Uncle Sam’s (Knott 2). These difficult times created a bleak outlook for the nation along with its twenty million cotton planters. Even after the Agricultural Adjustment Administration enforced an acreage reduction on cotton, thirteen million bales remained to sustain the world demand for the rest of the year. This countered the goal of raising the price of crops. In addition to this issue, the tenant farming system – a system in which tenant farmers contributed their own land and labor for capital resulted in wastefulness and inefficiency. It caused trouble for the South’s traditional cash crop and created conflicts between planters and tenants due to its many internal economic problems (Hawkins).

The accompanying article, “The Price of Cotton,” explains the cartoon’s exchange of ten cents profoundly; it questions the unfairness of lending of ten cents per pound of cotton rather than fifteen cents and explicitly states that the discrepancy is inadequate (“The Price of Cotton”). The Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 further emphasized the strains placed upon cotton farmers by requiring that the amount of cotton planted in 1932 and 1933 could not surpass thirty percent of that of the preceding year (Jasinski). The synthesis of these two sources develops the notion that the combination of reduced cotton acreage and lowered payment to cotton farmers only created an increasing lack of sustenance as well as an overall miserable lifestyle.

The humor in this cartoon is evident in the distinct contrast between the two parties depicted and their relation to the underlying meaning of the image. Despite the fact that the wealthier man is not explicitly labeled as Uncle Sam, it can be inferred based on the combination of the cartoon, the article, and knowledge of American popular culture. While the man representing the twenty million cotton planters of the U.S. is illustrated in tattered clothing with a grim expression, the man who appears to be Uncle Sam handing him the ten cent loan looks stern yet well dressed which emphasizes the economic gap as well as the issues which were created by the loans and cotton reduction (Knott 2). The prominent issue that Knott’s cartoon focuses on is the unfair loans given to the cotton planters by the government. The cartoon focuses attention on the twenty million cotton planters receiving a ten cent loan which insinuates that the planters are not receiving sufficient funds for their duties, thus creating a cycle of internal and external economic incongruities.

 

Works Cited

(1) “The Price of Cotton.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.

(2) Golay, Michael. America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal. New York: Free, 2013. Print.

(3) Hawkins, Van. “Cotton Industry.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

(4) Jasinski, Laurie E. “Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931-32.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015. 

(5) Knott, John. “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.

(6) Novak, James L., James W. Pease, and Larry D. Sanders. Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.

 

Caveat Emptor: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Political Corruption

Two men waiting in line for a handout from a government official while behind a fence around the Capitol
Two men waiting in line for a handout from a government official while behind a fence around the Capitol.

Economic turmoil created heavy doubt in civil servants in 1930’s Dallas. Political scandals didn’t help the federal government’s case when trying to win over the good hearted people of Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Morning News’ 1933 editorial “Civil Service Needed” is an outcry against the job buying problem in political machines. Knott’s political cartoon, “Caveat Emptor,” perfectly captures political bosses ripping off Congressmen in a back alley deal. Knott’s humorous insight and the Dallas Morning News sheds light on corruption at the federal level.There are many factors that prelude to the punchline in Knott’s cartoon. Political machines created problems long before 1933, such as the Tweed Ring of the late 19th century (Kennedy 473). Progressive legislation from the Theodore Roosevelt Administration simmered down political machines (Jackson); however, with FDR’s New Deals creating about three million empty jobs at the state and local levels (Kelber), the system began to pick up some more momentum. Traditionally with this form of corruption, people at the lower rung of the machine would give funds and votes to a certain candidate. A newly elected and corrupted official would then rig legislation to give jobs and contracts to contributors to his campaign, cutting out the poor souls who believed in hard work over money. Now with such a large increase in government owned jobs in Depression era America, who was to determine the allocations of these jobs? Enter newly surcharged political machines, ready to give out jobs to the highest bidder.

The good folks of Dallas, Texas weren’t so keen on government handouts made by the political machines. An November 3rd 1933 editorial in the Dallas Morning News titled, “Civil Service Needed” strongly urges, “the wider need of civil service in state employment” The editorial serves as a response to new revelations of campaign solicitation within the Treasury Department (Dallas Morning News 18), which slides perfectly into the definition of political machines. According to the Editorial, corruption can’t be eliminated until change has been brought at the highest level, a burning need for legislation that penalizes political machines higher and higher. It’s also pretty safe to say the, “evil revelation” of job buying is also shared by the mass majority of Americans, a time where nobody found new jobs in a broken economy.

Knott’s cartoon repeats this message against job solicitation, but allows the audience to laugh at the powerful individuals involved. The young man with his hand in his deep pocket portrays congress. His happy-go-lucky face clearly describes he has no idea what is going on. His counterpart to his left has a better idea of a bigger picture. The cigar, large gut, and authoritative demeanor of the man to the left makes him literally large-and-in-charge in the transaction. Cigar man can easily be related to the political bosses who ran the machines, holding a parchment titled state jobs. He’s not the only boss, the next guy behind him is expecting the same treatment and handout from congress on the right. The fence in the background makes the action in the foreground very wrong, like some back alley drug deal. So clearly Knott is saying political machines are shady, and this process is happening again and again. What’s humorous comes from the relationship between the two parties. In a political machine, the representative is meant to be seen as the guy in charge, as he is the one giving the jobs to the highest bidder. Though the other guys look more aware of what’s going on, after all, “the job buyer is no less guilty of political corruption than the job seller” (Dallas Morning News 18). Very much akin to the image of the communist spy in the war room in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; two parties who think they have the upper hand, but in the end are still the loser. Knott flips that around because the bosses are ripping off the corrupt congress, instead of politicians apparently selling to the highest bidder.

Can there be any benefits to job distribution? Or does Knott’s cartoon serve as the ultimate warning to corrupt politicians? The cartoon title, “Caveat Emptor” translates from Latin to “Let the buyer’s beware” Although, the machines weren’t so wary against they’re actions, they believed corruption was in the right. The political machines did manage to benefit those who were a part of it, and they were the only way to, “ultimately provide stable and reliable government,” in an already corrupt system (Ehrenhalt). Take Mayor Daley’s Chicago in the 1950s, where his political machine built many jobs in and around the city (Ehrenhalt). So to some Americans, and I guess some politicians, in order to move forward as a nation, jobs must be bought, and loyalty must be seized, and men must appear with big guts and cigars behind fences. There are definitely men such as Mayor Daley who oppose Knott’s opinions, saying he’s just Knott funny. According to machine supporters, if you corrupt an already corrupt system, then two wrongs can make a right.

Political Machines bought and sold jobs like hot commodities during the Great Depression. The desperate American people and general apathetic feelings toward government allowed corruption to spread. Nevertheless, the people at the Dallas Morning News weren’t afraid to show their true colors. Knott’s cartoon made politicians look like the fools that they are, creating humor in an otherwise dark subject.  The impact of the article at the time may have been small, but in today’s world of information, the archives help show how Americans thought in 1930s Texas. Knott was a forefather in political satire, a sign of not only more mistakes made by politicians, but great satirists such as Stanley Kubrick. Both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon make America’s voice heard in an otherwise silenced nation, crying against any form of political corruption, and making fun of those who do.

Sources:

Dallas Morning News, ed. “Civil Service Needed.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 3 Nov. 1933: 18. America’s Newspapers [NewsBank]. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Ehrenhalt, Alan. “Why Political Machines Were Good for Government.” Why Political Machines Were Good for Government. Governing, July 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/columns/assessments/gov-political-machines-positives.html>.

Kelber, Harry. “How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression.” How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression. The Labor Educator, 9 May 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.laboreducator.org/newdeal2.htm>.

Jackson, Bill. “Political Machines.” Political Machines. The Social Studies Help Center, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Kennedy, Robert C. “Nast, Thomas (1840–1902).” Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Ed. John D. Buenker and Joseph Buenker. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2013. 473-474. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

The Sunken Road

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Joseph Knott depicts the problems facing the French economy in 1933 amidst the Great depression in his cartoon, “The Sunken Road”.            

In 1933, a time plagued with fear and uncertainty amidst the deepest economic downturn in history, the Prime Minister of France, Albert Sarraut, believed that the French economic condition could be restored by cuts in administrative expenses, lowering taxes, and increasing shares of the gold standard. However, the French economy did not recover as expected placing a huge responsibility of the global Great Depression on France. In “The Sunken Road, ” a political cartoon by Joseph Knott, featured in The Dallas Morning News, a man on horseback leading France into an “Economic Waterloo” represents the potential economic degradation of France.

Sarraut is drawn on horseback, continuing to use the gold standard, and running into a field marked “Economic Waterloo.” The cartoon suggests that the use of the gold standard was pushing France into a horrible economic defeat. This is a reference to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 when France, lead by Napoleon, was defeated and thus ended Napoleon’s rule as emperor (Dodds). Knott’s illustration suggested that the French economy would soon be defeated as if they were in battle. Much of the humor found in the cartoon derives from the comparison to the Battle of Waterloo. In comparing the economic situation of France to a horrible French military defeat, the audience is able to find humor in the extreme comparison.

The inflated exaggeration is also shown through the startled expression on the horse’s face. The horse exemplified that the economic decisions and leadership of France were not in their best interest. France was still using the gold standard in 1933, an economic system in which the value of currency was defined in terms of gold. Most countries including the US and Britain abandoned the gold standard in the late 1920s through the early 1930s because it did not allow much economic stimulation to take place (Lars). Thus, during the Great Depression, governments were fairly powerless in the battle against the economic downturn because the gold standard was too restrictive of a grip. Despite this, France continued to use it and even increased their share of world reserves, further harming and limiting their control on the economy.

Ultimately, between 1927 and 1932 France increased its share of world gold reserves from 7% to 27%. In comparison, many other large countries were backing out of the gold standard (Irwin). France failed to monetize much of their new reserves. They placed extreme amounts of deflation on other countries and contributed a large part of why the world witnessed a period of economic downfall before World War II. This caused France to go down in history as one of the largest global contributors to the Great Depression (Lars).

The accompanying editorial that also appeared in the Dallas Morning News, “Too Many Factions,” explained that France was concerned with the possibility of one ruler taking over. Sarraut was quick to discourage this, but the public feared Sarraut’s economic ideas would not be well received, forcing the deputies to shut down the cabinet, leading to a period of economic uncertainty with a dictatorship (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]).

France feared “the man on horseback,” that one ruler, would take over like that of Hitler’s Nazi Germany (“Too Many Factions” [Page 2]). The analogy is humorous because of the political and historical truth behind it. France had a figurative fear that Knott depicted literally in his cartoon. Because of differing opinions in the French government about how to deal with the economic crisis and despite the fact that Prime Minister Sarraut was opposed to opening relations with Germany, France was forced to look at Germany with a small amount of envy for its political unity and strength, but with greater fear that a single dictatorial rule would suppress differing opinions and actions within their government (Weinburg [Page 32]). Knott’s cartoon shed light on the economic and diplomatic issues that challenged France in 1933. These issues ultimately impacted not only the French economy, but also the World economy.

Works Cited:

Christensen, Lars. “France Caused the Great Depression – Who Caused the Great Recession?” The Market Monetarist. 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Dodds, Lawrence. “The Battle of Waterloo, as It Happened on June 18, 1815.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Irwin, Douglas. “Did France Cause the Great Depression?” NBER (2010) Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “ The sinking road.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 18 Nov. 1933: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web.02 Nov.2015. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.

“Too Many Factions.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 18 Nov. 1933: 2. Print.

Weinburg, Gerhard L. Hitler’s Foreign Policy 1933-1939. New York: Enigma Books, 2005. Print.

“WHKMLA : History of France, The Economy 1929-1939.” WHKMLA : Historyof France, The Economy 1929-1939. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

 

Tea for Two

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Uncle Sam (America) and Stalin (Russia) are viewed having tea as if they are old friends having a casual chat.

John Francis Knott – November 20, 1933

The political cartoon as viewed above is a direct reference to the sudden change in decision by Russia to eagerly collaborate in diplomatic relations with America. In order to understand the humor within the image, one must be aware of the historical evidence of the October Revolution (also commonly known as Red October) of 1917.

Vladimir Lennon, Leon Trotsky, and other Bolshevik Party members let the October Revolution in hopes of creating what is now known as the basis of Soviet Russia (Trotsky).  Soon after the removal of Russia’s government and installation of the new, they refused to honor their debts to the United States as well as seize American property located in Russia (US Department of State).  For the subsequent 17 years, America, as well as other foreign countries refused to interact with or recognize Russia as a country until years later. America also became the last Western country to identify Russia as a country. Meanwhile, Russia continued what it had been doing before the new Soviet government took over which was continue trade relations and act as if nothing ever happened, after all, what happened in Russia was not a problem the United States had to handle.  In the early-mid 20th century, the United States was well-known to steer clear of intervening in the issues of other countries unless provoked by attack. Otherwise, The U.S. only focused on its own internal problems.

The political cartoon is accompanied with the article titled, “Normal Relations Resumed” which gives a semi-bias opinion of the situation.  While the information is presented in a factual and objective manner, the author uses some words that indicate favoritism in one direction. For example, Knott adds in a few adjectives such as “great” before “Nation” when describing the importance of Russia being on friendly terms with America.  Also, at points, the author bears his excitement through his choice of words: “renewed once again the friendly relations that had existed for so long between the United States and Russia” (Knott).

Throughout the article, there is an indication of opinion on how the author praises Roosevelt’s action for “recognizing Russia” (Knott). One can easily acknowledge the author’s support for Roosevelt who lists all the pros of becoming in good terms with Russia, but the risks are not mentioned.  The picture mirrors this idea through Uncle Sam and Joseph Stalin.

The humor found in the cartoon itself is a satirical reference to the situation on how both countries see each other once they decided to have diplomatic relations.  The two drinking tea is a symbolism for friendship as its common to invite someone over for a drink, lunch, dinner, etc., when the two are old friends or wanting to get to know one another.  The people displayed on the picture are not so much a reference to the historical figures, but how the people of both countries reacted in such a friendly way towards each other in the aftermath.

It is important to note their physical appearances and gestures such as the certainty in their direct eye contact with one another.  Uncle Sam is leaning forward smiling with his tea cup raised almost as if he is about to give a toast.  Stalin, however, is much more stiff and it is uncertain whether he is smiling. This reflects the author’s perspective where he places much emphasis on how Americans see the new relationship (optimistic), but he fails to mention how Russia feels about America. Thus in the art he is uncertain how to portray Stalin (again, representation of Russia) and thus gives him a stiff pose that can be perceived in different ways.

Overall the scene depicts the two countries in the form of men who are drawn as carefree characters considerate and compassionate to one another. It makes fun of the fact that the countries can seem to be oblivious of the past and willing to let bygones be bygones.

Works Cited:

BUDNITSKII, OLEG. “October Manifesto.” Encyclopedia of Russian History. Ed. James R. Millar. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 1087-1088. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John Francis. “Normal Relations Resumed.” Dallas Morning News[Dallas] 20 Nov. 1933: 2. Infoweb.newsbank. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

RABINOWITCH, ALEXANDER. “October Revolution.” Encyclopedia of Russian History. Ed. James R. Millar. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 1088-1096. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

RABINOWITCH, ALEXANDER. “October Revolution.” Encyclopedia of Russian History. Ed. James R. Millar. Vol. 3. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 1088-1096. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“Trotsky, Leon.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. David L. Sills. Vol. 16. New York: Macmillan, 1968. 155-158. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

United States. Government. Historian. Recognition of the Soviet Union, 1933 – 1921–1936 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.