Tag Archives: 1937

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, http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/326.html

“General Strike Threat.” Dallas Morning News. 23 Mar., 1937, http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=R5CW51LFMTUxMTMyNzczNi45NjUwMDk6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_docref=image%2Fv2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425AEFA0793BDD@2428616-10425AF05B18162F@17-10425AF4CA9CAABC

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, www.jstor.org/stable/27672271.

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 http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/304516286?accountid=7118

Smith, Sharon. “The sit-down strikes.” Socialistworker. 10 June, 2011, https://socialistworker.org/2011/06/10/the-sit-down-strikes




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, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX4020500019&it=r&asid=89be82520b2ea4e993b8c33628615967. 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, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3404500332&it=r&asid=8b076c129bf09ed7dd11d8f66aa8a344. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Stark, Louis. “Organizers Rally: ‘Encircling Movement.’” The New York Times, 04 Mar. 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/102301231?accountid=7118.

Ben, Adler. “Labor Unions and Lawmakers in California Agree on Minimum Wage Increase.” All Things Considered (NPR), 28 Mar. 2016. EBSCOhost. ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=6XN201603282119&site=ehost-live.

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. http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T003&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&currentPosition=3&docId=GALE%7CCX3401804038&docType=Topic+overview&sort=RELEVANCE&contentSegment=&prodId=GVRL&contentSet=GALE%7CCX3401804038&searchId=R1&userGroupName=txshracd2598&inPS=true

Speaking of Raising Taxes

Speaking of Raising Taxes
Uncle Sam and Marriner S. Eccles discussing their conflicting views on taxes and economic policy

According to the business cycle, economic activity is in a cycle that is both necessary and inevitable. The business cycle consists of expansion which is defined by increased output, employment, and profit, followed by contraction which includes decreased input, growing unemployment, and profit losses (Sherman, 2014). It is commonly accepted that this cycle contributes to the progression of a capitalist economy. Another key characteristic of the cycle is the belief that in a free market economy the government should limit its intervention and just let the cycle play out naturally. However, the Great Depression was a severe and unprecedented contraction period that lasted longer than expected, and the absence of the natural forces that led toward recovery called for government intervention in the form of expansionary fiscal policies (May, 2004).

The Great Depression started in 1929 for the United States, leaving devastating effects around the globe lasting throughout the 1930’s. When  Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933 he immediately took action implementing the New Deal, which involved several federal programs that stimulated financial reforms and regulations. Although the New Deal’s purpose was to ignite the economy, many of the programs and reforms proposed never came to fruition due to the conflicting views in Congress. Those conflicting views were a commonality during the Great Depression and often were expressed through political cartoons.

On March 18, 1937, John Knott’s Speaking of Raising Taxes was published in the Dallas Morning News; during that time the United States was still consumed with the Great Depression and its ramifications.  Depicted in the cartoon, Marriner S. Eccles was appointed as the head of the Federal Reserve Board,  under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. The supplemental editorial Eccles Explains, provided context for the cartoon. It stated that Eccles intended to balance the budget through an increase in taxes (“Eccles Explains”, 1937). This new tax proposal was part of a contractionary policy that would make it possible to balance the budget, which was at a deficit of 26.4 billion dollars (“1937 United States Budget”), at the cost of allowing the recession to continue. An alternative to this proposal was an expansionary policy that called for deficit spending and tax cuts in order to boost the economy onto a path towards recovery from the recession.

Speaking of Raising Taxes, depicted Eccles saying, “This is no money at all. Uncle.” in addition to holding a paper in his hand that reads “higher taxes to balance budget”. Sitting in front of him is Uncle Sam who’s saying, “Why not cut expenses and stop borrowing?” while clutching one of the many stacks of money lying around him labeled “record income tax returns.” Knott’s cartoon illustrates Eccles, the chairman of the federal reserve board, in a quandary with the Uncle Sam in trying to figure out the best means for restructuring the country in recovery from the Great Depression.

Before being appointed as chairman of the Fed, Eccles was assistant to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. Prior to going into politics, Eccles made his own conclusions as to what caused the Great Depression. His suggestions revolved around the concept that to keep a sound economy there must be constant movement of money. By this, he meant that instead of having money just sitting under large corporations and the rich, that money should be distributed among the lower income groups. This concept was similar to the idea of famous economist John Maynard Keynes and what is now known as Keynesian Economics. Keynesian Economics calls for expansionary policy in times of recession. (May, 2004) Keynesianism generally recommends countercyclical policies. For example, in order to suppress inflation, the government can increase taxes or reduce outlays.

Within the cartoon, Knott illustrates opposing views through a discussion between Eccles and Uncle Sam. In this case, Uncle Sam represents both the national government and the American people. Eccles stating, “This is no money at all. Uncle ” justified his proposal of higher taxes. The stacks of money lying around Uncle Sam labeled, “record income tax returns” represented what the outcome of what Uncle Sam said. With taxes being cut from such high rates the returns would be massive, revealing why Uncle Sam is clutching a stack of money. Taxpayers would then be able to spend their new disposable income and boost growth in the economy. The recurrence of the dilemma on whether to choose an expansionary policy or contractionary policy is inevitable as the economy is constantly changing.  



Works Cited

“1937 United States Budget.” Rate Limited, federal-budget.insidegov.com/l/39/1937.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Deficit Spending Is Out of Control. Here’s Why.” The Balance, 2 May 2017, www.thebalance.com/deficit-spending-causes-why-it-s-out-of-control-3306289.

“Eccles Explains.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 March 1937.

MAY, DEAN L. “Keynesian Economics.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 539-541. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3404500304&asid=55eeb9551783fd782464aa2fc29212f7. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.

“Marriner Stoddard Eccles.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 22, Gale, 2004, pp. 160-162. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3404708008&asid=2c560e98f0e4272451e86080b7aa4db2. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.

Sherman, Howard J. The Business Cycle. Growth and Crisis under Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. Web. Retrieved 9 Nov. 2017, from https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/452516


Rules to the road

A school authority teaches a child safe driving practices from a book labeled “The Safe Way.”
A school authority teaches a child safe driving practices from a book labeled “The Safe Way.”

In the John Knott political cartoon, “Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go,” which accompanies the editorial “Traffic Schooling” in the Dallas Morning News, the implementation of driver’s education in schools is depicted. There are two prominent figures in the cartoon: one is a woman labelled “School authorities” sitting in a chair and holding a book titled “The Safe Way” while pointing. The other figure is a small boy around elementary school age that the woman is talking to. In the background are two informative posters, one reading “Traffic Rules” with a block of implied text and the other visually showing instructions on how to turn. Knott uses his cartoon to take a critical stance on the implementation of driver’s education, portraying it as excessive or overzealous.

This cartoon depicts the implementation of driver’s education in schools. When automobiles first rose to popularity from 1900 to the 1930s, there was very little regulation due to the novelty of the technology. At first, there were no “stop signs, warning signs, traffic lights, traffic cops, driver’s education, lane lines, street lighting, brake lights, driver’s licenses or posted speed limits” (Loomis), and due to that there were innumerable car accidents. By 1923 alone, there were 100,000 traffic-related deaths and car accidents were the fifth leading cause of death in 1926 (McShane). Over time, safety precautions were added, but up until the 1930s, the death toll was still too high due to the lack of education about driving.

The general public began to pressure lawmakers and school officials into implementing a driving education program for students approaching driving age. Herbert J. Stack, director of the New York University Safety Center, spoke about the need to add driver’s education to the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers. (School Aid Urged). School officials eventually succumbed to the public pressure, and by the time the Knott cartoon and its accompanying editorial were posted in 1937, there were already 3,000 schools across the nation that had some sort of driver’s education program.

The accompanying editorial itself covers the importance of formal education when teaching adolescents how to drive and proposes ways to incorporate driving classes into high school curriculums, particularly in Texas. The author restates and supports a recommendation by the State Board of Education to provide all students with a textbook outlining the rules of the road and safe driving practices. At the time, driving in Texas was very accessible; the Texas Department of Public safety began to issue free licenses in 1935 (Automobile), so cost was not an issue for anyone seeking to obtain a license. Due to this easy access, it is understandable that citizens would also want new drivers to have easy access to education.

The main indicator of Knott’s critical stance in the cartoon is the age of the child being taught. The boy is obviously not of driving age, not even the range of 14 and 15 where children started driving in rural communities. The reaction intended is to think that it is unnecessary to start teaching children about driving so early. The driver’s education programs did not actually start teaching that early, so the portrayal is a criticism of the programs being excessive. Another indicator of Knott’s criticism is the word choice of the title. “Train” often has a negative connotation as opposed to teach. “Child” is used instead of a more accurate descriptor such as teen or adolescent, which further emphasizes the point about the young age of the child depicted. While Knott’s criticisms may seem unfounded now, it is important to take into consideration what the people of that time period were accustomed to as far as driving regulations went. To suddenly have an onslaught of new rules added where there were none before would be jarring.

The teacher figure in the cartoon is used to represent school authorities, as the label on her jacket tells us. It is notable that Knott felt it necessary to make the distinction between school authority and regular teacher. This was done because it was the school authorities in particular who were pressured to add driver’s education courses by various advocacy groups and societal clubs (Tebeau). The woman appears stern and serious, sitting in a chair while the student is standing and pointing a finger. Her instruction of the boy looks similar to scolding, which is perhaps Knott’s way of scolding those who made driver’s education courses necessary by practicing unsafe driving. The book she is holding is entitled “the Safe Way,” which further emphasises the way that people had been driving up until that point, implied to be the ‘unsafe way’.

The place in the comic where the most similarity can be found with modern driver’s education are the posters in the background. The “Traffic Rules” poster is shown to have a large block of text accompanying it. To the modern viewer, the norm when learning to drive is learning the various traffic that accompany driving. When driver’s education was first being introduced however, the jump from not having to learn any sort of traffic rule to having to learn a huge block of them would have seemed excessive. The things that were taught in driver’s education when it was first introduced were “recognize the pedestrian’s right of way when walking at a cross-walk or at a green light: and all other traffic rules,” (Wentworth) which seems a very obvious and second nature to the modern driver. The use of the word ‘rules’ instead of the modern ‘laws’ shows how much more regulated and enforced modern driving has become.

The diagram next to the “Traffic Rules” poster shows a seemingly simple instruction on how to properly turn. The simplicity suggests that the drivers of that time were so incompetent that they didn’t know how to turn onto another street correctly and needed detailed instructions to accomplish this. It is likely that this is a subtle criticism by Knott about the incompetence of the drivers of the time.

The unsafe driving practices of the early 20th century culminated with societal pressures to the addition of driver’s education courses in schools. The buildup and public outraged shown is similar to the phenomenon of texting and driving in modern times. The amount of accidents and public pressure has built up to where states are now passing legislature with very strict stances on texting and driving.


Works Cited:

McShane, Clay. “1899 Automobile Fatalities.” Disasters, Accidents, and Crises in American History: A Reference Guide to the Nation’s Most Catastrophic Events, by Ballard C. Campbell, Facts on File, 2008, pp. 180-182. Facts on File Library of American History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX4085100098&asid=16e2c60dac4d7f6141d76c9dfcc03ec5. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

Tebeau, Mark. “Accidents.” Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society, edited by Paula S. Fass, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 12-14. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3402800018&asid=e56694d5a48fa15aa193ecd1e2e3d77e. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

Loomis, Bill. “1900-1930: The years of driving dangerously.” Detroit News, 26 Apr. 2015, www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan-history/2015/04/26/auto-traffic-history-detroit/26312107/.

By E T STRONG, General Sales Manager, Buick Motor,Company. “Efficient Driving Developed as Art Requiring Expertness.” The Washington Post (1923-1954), May 27, 1923, pp. 68, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/149348020?accountid=7118.

“SCHOOL AID URGED IN TRAFFIC SAFETY.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Oct 04, 1939, pp. 34, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/103073062?accountid=7118.

By Howard F Wentworth (Winner of first prize in the Nation-wide CIT Safety Contest with his 1936 series appearing in,The Post. “Traffic Experts Begin Classes in Motor Safety at G.W.U.” The Washington Post (1923-1954), Mar 10, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/150958398?accountid=7118.

“Fast Facts: The 113-Year History of the Driver’s License.” Automobile, Feb. 20, 2012 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/fast-facts-the-113-year-history-of-the-drivers-license-110875/

Knott, John.  “Train Up a Child in the Way He Should Go.” Dallas Morning News, 28 Feb. 1937.

“Traffic Schooling” Dallas Morning News, 28 Feb. 1937.  Dallas Morning News Newspaper Archive, http://infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive?p_theme=ahnp&p_product=EANX&p_nbid=S66F5DGRMTUxMTIyMjg5Ny4yNDU5MTM6MToxMzoxMjguNjIuMzguMTk2&p_action=keyword&f_pubBrowse=0F99DDB671832188

There’s an Idea

A steel worker and the steel corporations contemplate an agreement over the Chrysler sit-down strike in 1937.
A steel worker and the steel corporations contemplate an agreement over the Chrysler sit-down strike in 1937.

Published on March 19, 1937 in The Dallas Morning News newspaper, the cartoon titled “There’s an idea” by John Knott illustrates the measures that the industrial unions took during the 1930s to attain better working conditions, higher wages and improved job security through the depiction of the Chrysler sit-down strike of 1937. In his cartoon, one man, labeled ‘STEEL WORKER,’ is sitting on top of a factory which is specified as ‘CHRYSLER CORP.’ With his hands clutching the two edges of the roof, the worker uses the building as a bench. Alongside the worker stands a man representing ‘STEEL CORP.’ as he holds a document which states ‘Injunction’ as well as having on a fancy suit and top hat. Both the men look off in the distance at themselves signing a contract for an ‘AGREEMENT TO AVOID STRIKES FOR ONE YEAR.’ The signing takes place atop a different structured factory while the men use the building as a table.

Sit-down strikes throughout 1936 and 1937, towards the end of the great depression, were important components in the social movements at this time that gave the Committee of Industrial Organization (CIO) power to unionize many workers in this era’s industries. In late December of 1936, a sit-down strike was held in Flint, Michigan against General Motors (GM). The strike was unplanned and pretty spontaneous. This 44 day strike eventually proved to be an extremely influential event during this time period. Initially, shop radicals, communists, and socialists had led the way but soon were replaced, as commanders, by the United Automobile Workers (UAW) and the CIO. Even though the proportion of who participated in the strike was outnumbered by the rest of the occupants in the factory, the whole ceased production. The ultimate goal of the protest was to urge and require management to obey and enforce labor law. A resolution was achieved on February 11, 1937, between General Motors and UAW. The Company recognized that the union is the consolidated voice of its workers and agreed to work with the UAW on a multi-plant basis. As a result, thousands of unsure auto workers beforehand, now joined the UAW. The chain reaction began with “47 sit-down strikes in March, 170 in April, and 52 in May.” (“Sit-Down Strikes” 2003) While many outside perspectives acknowledged that the act of sit-down striking legally violated corporate property rights, the worker viewed the act as an ethical response to the management’s misstep of not abiding by the law.

After the sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, around 60,000 workers sat down in all 6 Chrysler plants in Detroit and completely halted production on March 8, 1937. The workers demanded higher wages, better working conditions, and stronger job security. The author of the editorial, titled In the Chrysler Plant, and John Knott were definitely in agreement that the labor workers in the Chrysler plant organized there protest in the wrong way. The author of the editorial wrote, “The sit-down strike is not collective bargaining. It is organized hijacking.” It is evident that the author had strong feelings on the subject. Indisputably, he felt that the workers were in the wrong and should not have handled their dilemma the way they did, as they broke the law during their course of action. On the other hand, Knott titled his cartoon ‘There’s an Idea,’ as if to indicate the solution to the protest is obvious. Knott seems to feel that the decision the workers made, to do a sit-down strike, was ridiculous, that they should have just proposed there demands formally. When the strikes started, supervisors were given the boot, entrances and exits were blocked off and secured by workers, and security guards were replaced by union men. Because, in the plants the workers had established many communities and committees. Similar to the strike in Flint, the workers had committees such as publicity, security, and entertainment. Each committee had a job to perform respectively. For example, the entertainment were to keep the workers entertained.

As a result of this strike being in the midst of plenty of strikes during this period, the protesters had precedented expectations. The workers continued their sit-down strike for 17 days in the Chrysler plants. On March 24, the workers made an agreement to evacuate the plants in return for nothing other than continued negotiations. A week later they signed a contract that did not agree to a single one of the workers’ wants and gave Chrysler a no-strike pledge. However, the contract also recognized the UAW and showed the strength of the workers, potentially when they are united. The workers considered this a major victory. They may not have been able to get everything they wanted at once, but they continued to show their dedication. All the way through World War II, pushing past the next three decades they continued to make gains in their progression as a community because the workers were ready to strike at any time.

Even though the workers had, what they thought of as, success, they also had some missed opportunities to strengthen their act of protesting. For example, with all the committees the workers had set up, they failed to assign a committee responsible for monitoring the officials of the strike who could replace the officials that went against their demands. Instead they had overwhelming power over the protest: what they said went. Although the ones appointed to be officials were mostly well-respected workers and held high status’ with the workers, if any corruption was to go on, they should have had a group of people in charge of impeachment. Another missed opportunity they may have prolonged the protest and could have possibly prolonged the protest for more better benefits in the contract, was assigning a committee responsible for conducting hands-on activities and not just entertainment performances that were only visual.

Over the next many decades the UAW continued to grow and gain respect. People and the government began to take the UAW serious after these events. Around the 1970s was when Japanese and German auto companies opened plants in the US. The workers that worked at those plants were not part of unions. Soon, around the late 1970s, is when the peak membership of the UAW occurred and began declining at the point. By 2010, almost ⅔ of its members were retired and covered under pension and medical care plans.

Work Cited:

“Little Steel Strike of 1937.” Little Steel Strike of 1937 – Ohio History Central, www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Little_Steel_Strike_of_1937.

“Minewar.org » Archive » Sit-Down In Wilsonville.” Minewar.org RSS, www.minewar.org/?p=643.

“Sit-Down Strikes.” Edited by The Gale Group Inc., Dictionary of American History, Encyclopedia.com, 2003, www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/us-history/sit-down-strikes.

“The Chrysler Sit-down of 1937: The Workers Organize.” The Chrysler Sit-down of 1937: The Workers Organize – The Spark #796, The Spark, 16 Apr. 2007, www.the-spark.net/np796401.html.

Ending Income Tax Exemptions

An income taxpayer struggles to carry the expenses of government by himself while a public job holder, not bearing and tax burden, looks on while smirking blithely
An income taxpayer struggles to carry the expenses of government by himself while a public job holder, not bearing and tax burden, looks on while smirking blithely

Clearly stated in Article I, Section VIII, Clause I of the Constitution of the United States of America is the power of Congress to levy taxes to raise funds for the nation. The sixteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1913, gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration” (“The Constitution”). Starting that year, U.S. citizens had to pay income taxes in addition to the income tax in their own state if any were levied (“The Constitution”). A national controversy arose after the passage of the 16th amendment; government employees at both state and federal levels were not required to pay income taxes like the rest of the American public. Income tax exemptions for federal employees was a precedent set from the Mccullough vs. Maryland case in 1819 in which the Supreme Court decided that taxing of the federal government (or in this case its employees) might inhibit its ability to “exercise federal powers” (Patch). The controversy over federal income tax exemptions for governmental employees eventually caused President Roosevelt and Congress to take action after the Supreme Court made an unsatisfactory case decision in 1937.

In John Knott’s political cartoon titled “How About Sharing the Load?” published April of 1937, Knott compares the overburdened American public to a relaxed public job holder. In this cartoon, a skinny man with the tag “income taxpayer” on his shirt struggles to walk down the road while carrying an enormous bundle on his back labeled “expenses of government.” A carefree public job holder walks along side him, carrying an “income tax exemption”. The income taxpayer holds his hand out toward the public job holder as if to ask for help to carry the obviously heavy and overbearing load while the latter smokes his cigar with a grin on his face (Knott). The Dallas Morning News published Knott’s cartoon and the accompanying editorial titled “Income Tax Exemption” on April 10, 1937. The editorial supports ending the exemptions by stating that government employees “should be the last to object to contributing to the support of the public services” (“Income Tax Exemption”).

The national controversy over income tax exemptions arose as a consequence from the Whitlock vs. Foster Wheeler LLC Supreme Court decision in early 1937. The Federal government attempted to withhold tax funds from the salary of William Whitlock Brush, the chief engineer of New York City’s water supply system. The Court determined that the federal government could not require state employees to pay federal income taxes. This decision allowed over 200,000 public jobholders to qualify for an income tax exemption (“Supreme Court Ends Income Tax”). Allowing public jobholders to have the exemption placed great financial burden on the American public that was still struggling due to the immense economic downturn of the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The dissent from the public pushed the exemptions to become a national controversy.

The issue of exemptions eventually became such a big problem that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt intervened. In April of 1938, FDR submitted a letter to Congress in which he expressed his disappointment in the Court’s decision to not end income taxes in the 1937 Whitlock decision (“Text of the President’s Tax Message”). FDR encouraged Congress to pass legislation to end the exemptions, but many legislators favored the idea of passing an amendment to the constitution. For example, Senator William King of Utah expressed that ending the exemptions could only “be accomplished by a constitutional amendment”. FDR believed that an amendment would be a “cumbersome and… unnecessary”. (“President Aims at Wealth”). The Supreme Court, responsible for interpreting the law, determined in their 1937 ruling that Congress did not have the power to levy income taxes against public jobholders except under a constitutional amendment (“Supreme Court Ends Income Tax”). This created confusion for Congress in deciding how to actually put an end to the exemptions. This debate further delayed the ending of the exemptions; however, FDR’s interest ensured that the exemptions would remain a leading issue on the national agenda.

On February 8, 1939, the Dallas Morning News released a poll that showed much support from the American public for the ending of the exemptions. When asked if people who work for the government should pay income taxes, eighty-seven percent of respondents answered “yes” (Gallup). This sentiment reflects the depiction of the disgruntled “income tax payer” in Knott’s cartoon. The accompanying editorial to Knott’s cartoon points out the “psychological advantages” of ending the exemptions. According to the editorial, ending exemptions would not only address and resolve the grievances of the overburdened public, but also make public jobholders tax conscious (“Income Tax Exemption”). The Dallas Morning News also reported that while public jobholders opposed ending the exemptions, many of them understood the public’s desire for the exemptions to end (“Plugging Tax Loopholes”). Knott’s cartoon does not reflect this sentiment through its grinning and smug “public jobholder” figure.

Support for ending the exemptions from both FDR and the public encouraged other governmental officials to take action. In August of 1938, Treasury officials produced a report for the Secretary of the Treasury at the time Henry Morgenthau. The report supported FDR’s request of action through Congressional legislation to end exemptions (“Treasury Asks State”). In January of 1939, four Federal officials appeared before the Senate Committee and requested a statute be made to end exemptions. This took place a few days before FDR submitted another request to Congress which reiterated his support for ending exemptions (“Tax Exemption Elimination”). These actions by officials ensured that the government would address the public’s grievances; however, the Supreme Court actually took action before Congress could enact new legislation to end the exemptions.

In March of 1939, the Supreme Court ruled that states could withhold taxes from governmental employee salaries. This decision opposed the previous precedent that the court set with their ruling to extend exemptions to more public jobholders in 1937 (“Text of The Supreme Court’s Decision”). Because of increasing pressure from the public, the president, and the likelihood of a statute by Congress, the Supreme Court decided to end exemptions by breaking its previously established precedent. This resolved the national dilemma of exemptions and ensured that the public would no longer struggle to pay the expenses of government on its own.

John Knott’s “How About Sharing the Load?” humorously depicts how average Americans felt that they alone were being forced to carry the expenses of the federal government. Knott’s cartoon and the editorial that accompanied it in The Dallas Morning News in 1937 exemplify how publicized the issue of exemptions became. Repealing the exemptions on federal taxes for public job holders would have been much more difficult without regular Americans voicing their dissatisfaction over the exemptions. In 21st century America, however, public dissatisfaction is sometimes not enough to cause change in policy because the federal government has grown significantly in its power since the late 1930’s.

Works Cited:

“The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution

Patch, W. B. “Exemptions from Income Taxation.” CQ Researcher by CQ Press, library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre1937061700.

Knott, John. “How About Sharing The Load?” Dallas Morning News 10 April 1937, sec 2: 2. Print.

“Income Tax Exemption.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 10 April 1937, sec 2: 2. Print.

“Supreme Court Ends Income Tax on Salaries of More City Officials.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Mar 16, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times

“Text of the President’s Tax Message.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Apr 26, 1938, pp. 2, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times

“President Aims at Wealth Now Tax-Free.” Dallas Morning News, City ed., 26 Apr. 1938, p. 1.

George Gallup. “Wages Favored in Poll.” Dallas Morning News, 8 Feb. 1939, p. 4.

“Plugging Tax Loopholes.” Dallas Morning News, 7 Sept. 1938, p. 2.

“Treasury Asks State, Federal Salary Taxes.” Dallas Morning News, 8 Sept. 1938, p. 2.

“Tax Exemption Elimination Wins Support.” Dallas Morning News, 19 Jan. 1939, p. 9.

“Text of the Supreme Court’s Decision Permitting a State to Tax Federal Pay.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Mar 28, 1939, pp. 16, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times


To Tax, or Not To Tax?

A small legislator is attempting to hang a “Sales Tax Token” on “Old Man Texas,” representing Texas’s 1937 debate regarding taxation of natural resource industries.


In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Texas’s natural resource industries were booming. Texas oil industries had been slowly on the rise since the late nineteenth century, and were super-charged on January 10, 1901, when the Spindletop oil field was discovered (Wooster, “Spindletop Oil Field”). The discovery of Spindletop completely revolutionized Texas industry, producing around 100,000 barrels of oil a day (Wooster)! This caused Texas industry to explode and begin to focus on petroleum and mining in 1937, however, backdropped by the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal programs, sales taxes on natural resources were being created and increased – sometimes even doubling – to tax industry and create government revenues to fund new ventures for the Texas government.

John Knott’s political cartoon “Legislator With the Sales Tax Complex,” published on March 24, 1937, depicts a small legislator holding a weight labeled “Sales Tax Token” which he is attempting to hang on a much larger man labeled “Texas.” The old man was a popular political cartoon character of Knott’s, known as “Old Man Texas:” a hardy old man created in 1906 that “[symbolized] rural Texas, [its] honesty in government, [its] low taxes, and [its] property ownership” (“Knott, John Francis”). In the cartoon, “Old Man Texas” is walking out of the frame, and the legislator is closely following him – tiptoeing in an attempt not to be noticed – trying to hang the weight on “Old Man Texas,” who shouts, “Don’t you hang that thing on me!” when he realizes what the legislator is attempting to do (Knott). In the editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, “Taxing Natural Resources,” a new sales tax on sulfur is described, which would provide the Texas government with increased revenues for new ventures. This new sales tax, however, would drastically increase production costs in the sulfur industry and significantly damage its ability to produce profits (“Taxing Natural Resources”). The cartoon and its accompanying editorial express that increasing sales taxes on industries’ natural resources will benefit the state in the short-term, but harm its long-term development.

Much like petroleum drilling, sulfur mining had slowly been on the rise in the late 1800s, thanks to new mining methods like the Frasch process, where superheated water was pumped into previously drilled wells, melting the sulfur and forcing molten sulfur to the surface. Unfortunately, the Frasch process proved to be impractical and very expensive, which led to its eventual discontinuation (Kleiner, “Sulfur Industry”). Sulfur was (and still is) a valuable natural resource in the production of matches, gunpowder, insecticides, skin treatments, and glass (“Sulfur Mining & Processing”), and during the mid to late 1930s its demand was rising (Wasson, “Solons Rap Business…”). Fortunately, the discovery of Spindletop not only ignited a new oil and gas industry in Texas, but breathed new life into the sulfur industry as well. The expensive, inefficient Frasch Process was replaced with a much more cost-effective method: using the newly affordable, abundant oil supply in the state as fuel for extracting sulfur from the ground. Additionally, sulfur deposits were being found more frequently, due to the growing oil and gas industry, because sulfur deposits were typically located in the same salt domes that miners explored for oil (Kleiner). These changes led to Texas producing around eighty percent of the United States’ sulfur supply (Kleiner).

Around 1937, Texas’s industries were booming; however, many industries related to natural resources were becoming the subjects of increasingly expensive sales taxes on natural resources. These taxes were being levied to help generate government revenue for Texas to fund health care reforms for those with disabilities such as deafness and blindness, expand schooling and educational systems within the state, and other governmental obligations (“Legislature Told By Allred…”). Since the early 1920s, the sulfur industry had been the target of increasing taxes, and until the mid-1930s, the taxes had been causing increased revenue for the state government. In 1923, taxes on the sulfur industry produced $73,900 of government revenue; in 1924, they produced $244,796; in 1929, they produced $901,125; and in 1931, they produced $1,237,701. Moving into the mid-1930s, however, the government tripled the sales tax on sulfur, which led to a decrease of almost half a million dollars in government revenue, providing only $764,532 in 1932 (Wasson, “Solons Rap Business…”). This sudden decrease in revenue was due to the increasing sulfur tax hindering sulfur industries to the point that they could no longer generate as high a profit as they used to, on account of higher operating costs. This led to a net decrease in tax revenue.

The editorial accompanying the cartoon uses the sulfur industry as a lens through which to shed light on the effect of these increasing taxes on natural resource production, arguing that setting the sales tax on sulfur at $1.28 per ton – an increase of almost seventy-five cents from past rates (Wasson) – the government is “[gouging] for revenue” rather than “[encouraging] development” of industry (“Taxing Natural Resources”). In doing so, the editorial argues that while it may seem a conservative adjustment in the sulfur tax, the increased government revenue isn’t really needed, and the state is too focused on its own short-term benefit to consider long-term growth of Texas industry – which will provide much more for the state in the long run. The editorial also argues that conservative policy in regards to taxing industry would be wise, as it would allow industries to grow and continue to support Texas more in the long run – moving towards an “era of industrial development,” rather than “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” (“Taxing Natural Resources”).

The aforementioned ideas are all embedded in Knott’s “Legislator with the Sales Tax Complex” cartoon: Texas and its industries being represented by “Old Man Texas,” the increasing sales taxes on those industries being represented by the “Sales Tax Token,” and the Texas government being represented in the small and impish legislator (Knott). In the cartoon, “Old Man Texas” is pictured walking out of frame. He is twice as tall as the legislator, towering over him with his massive fist clenched, yelling “Don’t you hang that thing on me!” “Old Man Texas” represents Texas and its industries, not only because of how massive, powerful and willing to fight for their development they were, but also because he is walking out of frame, towards an “era of industrial development” which Texas industries were progressing towards (“Taxing Natural Resources”). The “Sales Tax Token” in the cartoon is a heavy weight plate, which, if hung on “Old Man Texas,” would impede his progress towards his “era of industrial development.” The legislator is described as having a “sales tax complex,” because he is obsessed with hanging the “Sales Tax Token” on “Old Man Texas,” a metaphor for Texas government being fixated on taxing natural resource industries in the late 1930s. This is why he is portrayed as small and impish, because he is selfish, on account of only being focused on the short-term benefits of hanging the weight on “Old Man Texas,” or taxing industries; rather than the long-term gains of allowing “Old Man Texas” to move toward his goal, and allowing Texas industries to grow.

In 1935, the Connally Hot Oil Act was created in to combat independent oil distributors from driving industries’ profits down. The act was scheduled to expire on June 15, 1937; however, on January 14, 1937, the act was extended and written into permanent law (Goodwin, “Connally Bill Gets Approval for Extension”). The Connally Act and other legislation continued to support industrial growth in in the late 1930s, showing that in the end, industrial development was prioritized by the government, as advocated in the cartoon and accompanying editorial. Even in today’s society, the debate of prioritizing governmental revenue versus prioritizing industrial development still rages on, shown by the Australian Mining Tax controversy. This tax was introduced in 2012 and would take thirty percent of Australian mining profits, for government revenue. Much like the Texas government of the late 1930s, the Australian government also supported industrial development, later repealing the mining tax in 2014 (“Australia’s Mining Tax Repealed”). As they say: history truly does repeat itself.

Works Cited:

“Australia’s Mining Tax Repealed.” BBC News, BBC, 2 Sept. 2014, www.bbc.com/news/business-29009479. Goodwin, Mark L.

“Connally Bill Gets Approval For Extension.” Dallas Morning News, 15 Jan. 1937, p. 9., phw02.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_010162017_2314_26789_194.pdf. Web. 15 Oct. 2017.

Kleiner, Diana J. “Sulfur Industry” Texas State Historical Association, 14 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dks04. Web. 9 Oct. 2017.

Knott, John F. “Legislator With the Sales Tax Complex.” Dallas Morning News, 24 Mar. 1937, p. 2. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

“Knott, John Francis.” Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010, shaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkn05.

“Legislature Told By Allred to Halt Its Tax Remission” Dallas Morning News, 25 Mar. 1937, p. 2., http://phw01.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_010162017_2121_48289_672.pdf. Web. 13 Oct. 2017.

“Sulfur Mining & Processing: What to Know.” General Kinematics, 17 Sept. 2014, www.generalkinematics.com/blog/sulfur-mining-processing-know/. Web. 10 Oct. 2017.

“Taxing Natural Resources.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News, 24 Mar. 1937, p. 2. Web. 26 Sept. 2017.

Wasson, Dean. “Solons Rap Business With One Hand, Then Invite It With Other” Dallas Morning News, 25 Mar. 1937, p. 3., http://phw01.newsbank.com/cache/ean/fullsize/pl_010102017_0211_29652_4.pdf. Web. 9 Oct. 2017.

Wooster, Robert, and Christine Moor Sanders. “Spindletop Oil Field.” Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dos03. Web. 15 Oct. 2017.


Chasing the New Deal

1940 Fantasy--Could He Resist? By John Knott
Franklin D. Roosevelt is being pushed towards a third term as President.


The March 2nd 1937 issue of the Dallas Morning news included a John Knott cartoon titled “1940 Fantasy—Could He Resist?” and an editorial titled “Third Term Issue”, which combined, commented on the efforts of FDR to secure the momentum of his legislative reforms into totalitarianism through the manipulation of electoral procedures and court procedure. Nominating additional Supreme Court members was similar to the threat of a third term as president; in both, FDR would be able to expand his power indefinitely to ensure his own legislative agenda.

The newly inaugurated FDR had lofty ambitions for the United States in 1933. The country was in the midst of The Great Depression, and FDR’s predecessor, President Herbert Hoover, had failed to ease the uncertainty felt by the American people. Instead, Americans hoped that federal contributions would stimulate the economy (Venturini 260). FDR was elected, and with the support of a legislative branch desperate for solutions, he passed 15 bills within his first 100 days in office that would become the foundations for his New Deal.

In the wake of post-Civil War industrialization, the Supreme Court increasingly supported limited regulation on business, preventing the Federal government from acting as a regulatory agency (Barnum). By the 1920s, the number of Supreme Court decisions striking down laws, particularly those aimed to be regulatory, as unconstitutional “was almost double the number… in the preceding decade,” (McCloskey 106).

The Supreme Court had successfully established a reputation as a guardian of state and corporate rights. Despite this, many people believed the urgency of the economic crisis would garner Supreme Court sympathy.

This made it shocking when “the Court struck down no fewer than a dozen pieces of New Deal legislation, including some of Roosevelt’s most important and cherished programs” (Lasser 111) during the second half of Roosevelt’s first term.

The opposition in the courts to FDR’s expansion of executive power motivated the “Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937,” a proposal by Roosevelt to grant him the power to appoint a justice for every sitting member of the Supreme Court above 70 years of age. Roosevelt justified the proposal in a fireside chat on March 9th, 1937 by saying “the majority of the Court [had] been assuming the power to pass on the wisdom of these acts of the Congress—and to approve or disapprove the public policy written into these laws.” It appeared to many, however, that FDR was blatantly attacking the separation of powers, which allowed for the relationship between presidential and court power to enter the public dialogue.

Accusations of breach of executive power and long-term intentions were ultimately addressed in FDR’s February 28, 1937 interview with New York Times reporter Arthur Krock, in which FDR announced that he had no third term ambitions for presidency. Krock published that Roosevelt was not undermining democracy or attempting to unreasonably expand his executive power. In fact, he was protecting democracy from the dangers of “judicial supremacy” (Krock).

In general, the public and the media were not immediately convinced by this announcement that the “Judicial Procedure’s Reform Bill” was meant to bring efficiency to the court. On March 2, 1937, a Dallas Morning News editorial, titled, “Third Term Issue,” sympathized with the sentiment that democracy ought to be protected. However, the editorial dismissed the president’s intentions, likening FDR to a leader who is trying “to effectuate [his] plans for totalitarian States” (“Third Term Issue”). Though the proposal for judicial reform had not yet been rejected, as it eventually would be, the public was expressing their distaste with the plan. In a series of 12 Gallup polls, the public frequently sided with the Supreme Court powers. Though the President and his reform policies were popular, the sensation of the conflict between FDR and the Supreme Court brought a certain loss of confidence in the president (Caldeira).

In the same March 2nd issue of Dallas Morning News, Knott published a cartoon which would illustrate the appearance of Roosevelt’s struggle to maintain the political momentum to get his New Deal legislation approved. Entitled “1940 Fantasy—Could He Resist?”, it depicted FDR being pushed to the White House. Two men dressed in farm attire, labeled Maine and Vermont, are pushing FDR, saying, “We want Roosevelt,” while a group of men labeled “Prosperous Nation” are pulling him with a rope around his waist, saying “We want Roosevelt” and holding a sign saying “Draft Roosevelt”. Roosevelt is being pulled towards a White House with Third Term written across the top, and he is dragging his feet in front of him, as though he is resisting. However, FDR looks to the viewer with a smile on his face. The cartoon illustrates that Maine, Vermont and a Prosperous Nation are dragging Roosevelt to his third term as President.

The “Fantasy” being alluded to in the title is that of FDR. The cartoon suggests that Roosevelt has a fantasy to be re-elected by unanimous support, from even Maine and Vermont, which were the only two states to not vote for him in an otherwise landslide victory. The cartoon hyperbolizes an impossible delusion believed to be held by FDR: that his legislation and political action would always be supported by the American people, so much so that that he could be re-elected with even the support of the two states which did not vote for him before. However, the support of the Supreme Court from the media and public proved that this support was a fantasy.

The editorial and the cartoon both reflected a similar loss in confidence in the President. Though FDR stated in the Krock interview that he would not be running for a third term and that he encouraged the American people to support his restructuring of the Supreme Court, history shows that the opposite happened in both cases. The fact that he ended up running for and winning a third term gives credit to the John Knott cartoon and accompanying editorial for predicting the implications of his proposition to restructure the Supreme Court.

Works Cited

Barnum, David G. “New Deal: The Supreme Court Vs. President Roosevelt.” Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ed. David Spinoza. Tanenhaus. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. 384-87. Print.

Caldeira, Gregory A. “Public Opinion and The U.S. Supreme Court: FDR’s Court-Packing Plan.” 81.4 (1987): 1139-153. Web. 18 Oct. 2017.

Cowley, Robert, and Robert J. Allison. “”FDR’s Supreme Court: How Did the Supreme Court Weather the Attempt by Franklin D. Roosevelt to Increase the Number of Justices in Response to Its Rescinding New Deal Legislation?” History in Dispute. Vol. 3. N.p.: St. James, 2000. 24-31. Print.

Krock, Arthur. “The President Discusses His Political Philosophy.” The New York Times 28 Feb. 1937, Late City Edition ed., sec. 1: n. pag. Print.

Lasser, William. The Limits of Judicial Power: The Supreme Court in American Politics. N.p.: North Carolina UP, 1989. Print.

McCloskey, Robert G. The American Supreme Court. 2nd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1994. Print.

“Third Term Issue .” Dallas Morning News , 2 Mar. 1937, p. 4.

Venturini, Vincent J. “The New Deal (United States).” Encyclopedia of Social Welfare History in North America. Ed. John Middlemist Herrick and Paul H. Stuart. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005. 259-62. Print.


Politicians Prolonging Pardon and Parole Process

Legislator's indecisiveness prohibits the passage of Pardon and Parole Bills
Legislator’s indecisiveness prohibits the passage of Pardon and Parole Bills, frustrating the citizens of Texas.

In 1937, eight years after the United States stock market crash and approximately five years before America’s entrance into World War II, the United States made several federal and state reforms in response to the hardships of the era (Marlin). Texas, for example, under the direction of Governor James V. Allred passed many new laws in order to improve the state’s prison system (Lucko). In the early 1930’s, “Texas was ranked sixth in crime according to population” (Marlin). “In 1933 the average number of the seven major crimes committed in the United States per million population was 16,326. The average number of crimes in Texas for the same period was 27,535, which happened to be three times the numbers in New York” (Marlin). So, during Allred’s term as governor, a state constitutional amendment was devised that shifted the power away from the governor and placed it in the hands of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. This transfer of power was finalized when the state constitution was amended in 1936, giving the Board of Pardons and Paroles the ability to execute new parole laws.  The board began operations in 1937 with the hope of improving the Texas prison system; however, disagreements between the state legislators and governor would make it difficult for the board to pass new reform bills (Lucko).

John Knott’s 1937 cartoon, “Put Yourself in My Place, Senator” emphasizes the Texas citizens’ frustration with the state legislature for prohibiting the Board of Pardons and Paroles from effectively using their new power. Knott’s cartoon depicts a man labeled “legislature” walking away from a criminal. The prisoner is behind bars and wears a sad, sullen face. In one hand, he holds a paper labeled “Application for Parole” while the other reaches out towards the politician, who is a plump man wearing a suit and smoking a cigar. The legislator glances over his shoulder as he briskly walks away, almost showing his eagerness to ignore the prisoner pleading from his cell (Knott). The accompanying editorial titled “Pardon Deadlock,” published on April 8, 1937, in the Dallas Morning News, discusses the Texas Senate’s refusal of the Pardon and Parole Bill over the choice between Austin and Huntsville as the Board’s headquarters (“New Fuss Over…”). This inaction by the legislature meant the new power given to the Board of Pardons and Paroles would remain ineffective until one of their proposed bills was passed.

Citizens believed the revision of the state constitution was necessary in order to reform the state’s prison system. Texas’s awful statistics could be attributed to the growing rate of crime, the state’s lack of efficiency when convicting those on trial, and the ease with which criminals could achieve pardon or parole (Marlin). Another major contributor to these numbers was the absence of supervision after a criminal was placed on parole, which is a process that gives designated officials the discretion to grant certain prisoners freedom to serve their sentences outside of prison (Marlin). The Board of Pardon and Paroles, before the 1936 amendment, released prisoners and suggested clemency decisions to the governor. The majority of the power thus remained in the hands of the governor, who often used this for personal gain or overlooked these issues because others were more precedent. The lack of attention given to the prisoners and the Texas prison system called for reform.

Governor Allred answered that call with his 1935 campaign that took steps to improve the performance of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The board, made up of a three-person party to advise the governor, had little to no power. During the early twentieth century, Texas was one of the only states that granted near absolute control of pardon powers to its governor (Marlin). Governor Allred wanted to change this by giving his power to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. This system would require a majority vote by all three members who made up the Board. The new board would be made up of “a member appointed by the Governor, a member appointed by the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and a member appointed by the President Judge of the Texas Court of Criminals Appeal” (Lucko). Under the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Allred created a system of voluntary boards which were formed to help solve one of the systems’ major problems: the supervision of parolees. By helping released inmates find employment and adapt to the society around them, the voluntary boards hoped to address the supervision problem. They were made up of representatives from different civic organizations and charged with the duty of reporting any parolee violations to both the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the governor (Lucko). All these reforms gave the Texas citizens hope for an improved prison system.

The new board began operations by the beginning of 1937; however, actions by the board proved to be slow. This could be attributed to many disagreements between the state legislators and governor when trying to approve the board’s bills. Many of these disputes between the different branches of state government stemmed from trying to establish the systematics of the new Board of Pardons and Paroles (Brooks). These bills, submitted early in 1937, pertained to the location of the board’s headquarters, the salaries of the board members, and the amount of time mandatory for the board to be on prison property (“Errors found in Pardon Bill”). These decisions, deadlocked for the first couple months of the new year, irritated many Texans who were hoping the new board would be able to make a difference. The blame was placed on the state legislation and the governor for causing inaction through their “petty quarrels” (“Pardon Deadlock”). John Knott represents this inaction in his cartoon and demonstrates how these disagreements directly affected prisoners who were entitled to pardon or parole. The prisoner in the Knott cartoon looks harmless a man who would likely qualify for parole. However, the indifference shown by the legislative figure inhibits the inmate from obtaining that which he deserves.

Eventually, the Texas government worked through their disagreements and the Board of Pardons and Paroles was able to operate fully under the 1936 state constitutional amendment. However, the Texas prison system still needs improvement today. Both the Federal and State prison systems have recently faced the problem of recidivism and other parole issues. The Knott cartoon is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1937 for today’s citizens are calling for reform. This present-day cry for reform echoes the sentiments in Knott’s cartoon and reminds us that our country must continue to look and question how to better itself for all citizens, including the incarcerated.

Works Cited

Brooks, Raymond. “Texas Topics.” The Austin Statesman (1921-1973), Apr 05, 1937, pp. 4, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American-Statesman, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1563313729?accountid=7118

“ERRORS FOUND IN PARDON BILL.” The Austin Statesman (1921-1973), Mar 23, 1937, pp. 11, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American-Statesman, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1563289936?accountid=7118.

Horwitz, Sari, and Wesley Lowery. “Obama’s Crusade against a Criminal Justice System Devoid   of ‘Second Chances’.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Apr. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/obama-legacy/racial-profiling-criminal-justice-reform.html

Knott, John Francis. “Put Yourself in My Place, Senator.” The Dallas Morning News 8 April 1937, p. 2.

Lucko, Paul M. “Boards of Pardons and Paroles.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 12 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mdbjq.

Marlin,Robert Ossian,,IV. Governor James V. Allred, Hispanics, and the Rule of Law in New Deal Texas, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Ann Arbor, 2003, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/250162180?accountid=7118.

“New Fuss Over Pardon, Parole Looms for Week.” The Austin American (1914-1973), Mar 21, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American-Statesman, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1611461320?accountid=7118.

“Pardons Deadlock .” Dallas Morning News, 8 Apr. 1937, Dallas Morning News Newspaper Archive Database, Readex, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_productpp. 2–2.

“2 PARDON BOARD BILLS REPORTED FAVORABLY.” The Austin Statesman (1921-1973), Jan 29, 1937, pp. 3, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American-Statesman, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1610331315?accountid=7118.



1937: Social Security Taxes Come to Life

Caught in the Web
American man tangled in a “web of taxes” imposed by several levels of government.

Almost a decade after the start of the United States Great Depression, income tax rates in 1937 rose to a record high 79% for the top-earning bracket (“1937”). The head of the economy at the time was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), our 32nd President of the United States. When FDR took office in 1933, the economy was coming out of the Great Depression. However, people don’t realize the economy took another downturn in that decade, obviously not as severe, between late 1936 and early 1937. In the 1937 state of the union address, FDR declared a tax crisis (Roosevelt). At the time, income tax rates, corporate tax rates, and capital gain taxes all skyrocketed. Not only were regular taxes high, but direct “use” taxes on gasoline, alcohol, tobacco also soared with the government fiending for extra money to put towards social security (Roosevelt). Social security was one of the most pressing issues of the time, as funds were not enough to support retirees to the end of their lives. To change this, local, state, and national government taxed American citizens. Americans began to feel tangled in a ‘web’ of continuous taxes from every direction.

On tax day (April 15) in 1937, John Knott’s political cartoon, “Caught In The Web,” was published in the Dallas Morning News. In the cartoon, a working-class American is depicted being tangled up in what appears to be a spider web. Within the web is written “FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL TAXES.” The web has a very complex structure.

The web was supposed to represent the series of taxes imposed on citizens at the time, especially on tax day, by all levels of government. There was a clear meshing of federal, state and local governments, which represents the lack of strong federalism at the time. The man in the web conveyed the message that Americans had no way of escaping the ‘web’ of taxes they were entrenched in. Also, the man was extremely small in comparison to the web, again showing that Americans were overpowered by taxation. However, there’s irony here in that some of these taxes paid by the Americans caught in the web were going towards their own government-made retirement fund: social security. In other words, they were being forced to shrink themselves in a way. In addition, the fact that the web was so intricate and complex also suggests that the tax system at the time was extremely complicated, making it even more difficult for taxpayers to evade the system. Although paying taxes was a fact of life and a necessity for the survival of the nation, the 1930s tax collection system was inefficient. FDR was the first to suggest a consolidation in the tax system to reduce payments for hard-working people but still get the most out of the money collected.

In 1937, personal income tax rates reached an all-time high of 79% for the most wealthy Americans (those earning more than $750,000 per year). For reference, those earning more than $420,000 per year today (the top tax bracket) pay 39% (“1937”). To display the difference between these two rates, a person earning $1,000,000 today would pay $390,000 in taxes versus someone earning that same million dollars in 1937 paying $790,000! In 1913, the top-income tax rates were 7% (“1937”). A 66% rise in taxes occurred in just over 20 years to 1937. Something needed to be changed in the tax system.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to call for a government-wide tax consolidation effort. This would mean one level of government, federal, state, or local, would take charge of their respective tax categories like health care for the federal government or education for the states. This idea would avoid overpayment of taxes by citizens. Federalism, the division of power between the national government and the states, played a major role in this process. Although this system does bring in less tax revenue, it is actually more effective on the economy because decreased taxes increases buyers’ demand for luxury goods. Unfortunately, Roosevelt could never get the consolidation effort moving during his time in office, so therefore tax consolidation had to wait to be taken care of in the future.

As tough as high taxes were for American citizens, they were collected in large part due to insufficient social security funds. The inadequate social security system was described in the Dallas Morning News editorial alongside Knott’s cartoon. At the time, when income rates in specific were sky-high, many taxpayers tried to evade taxes, which was a federal offense. However, because of the huge amount of perpetrators of tax evasion at the time, it was almost impossible to enforce. This caused a problem for social security because the program depended on taxpayers’ money to fund retirement for older working people (Albright).

Social security was a seemingly perfect system. Young people pay towards others’ retirement and they get their retirement paid towards by the future generation of young workers. With tax evaders reducing tax revenue, social security suffered due to its low priority among government programs. Social security was an integral part of the American economy, and without it, people were forced to work longer, hurting business and housing markets that benefit from retirees. Overall, without full social security benefits for citizens, the entire economy began to collapse. To make up for this loss in revenue, many states began to increase already exorbitant income and property tax, but also add sales taxes, “use” taxes, and even additional taxes on gasoline, tobacco, and liquor, all very commonly used products at the time (Roosevelt).

President Roosevelt eventually steered the economy out of the doldrums after several years of frustrating tax levels. Income taxes lowered to standard, pre-Depression levels, and social security returned in full to the federal government. FDR was in charge of the economy when this mini economic depression took place. Due to its proximity to the Great Depression, it is often overlooked in American history. Social security and America’s complex tax system are the main issues displayed in John Knott’s cartoon “Caught in the Web.” Both of these issues remain contested to this day.


Works Cited

Admin. “US Inflation Calculator.” US Inflation Calculator, www.usinflationcalculator.com/.

Albright, Robert C. “‘Little Man’ Income Tax Threat Spurs Relief Slash.” The Washington Post (1923-1954),

Apr 16, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/150926167?accountid=7118.

Knott, John. “Tangled Tax System.” Dallas Morning News, 15 Apr. 1937.

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,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3404500507&it=r&asid=cbba5683633e9fbba863222b15ab9ecc. Accessed 18 Oct. 2017.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. “President Roosevelt Proclaims the End of Prohibition.” Prohibition, edited by Sylvia Engdahl, Greenhaven Press, 2013, pp. 73-78. Perspectives on Modern World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2073900016&it=r&asid=9f5464026dea42d48de293eca499b11a. Accessed 18 Oct. 2017.

“1937 Federal Tax Rates.” Rate Limited, federal-tax-rates.insidegov.com/l/22/1937.