Tag Archives: Dallas Morning News

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

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.

Social Security: An Unsupported Support System

American baby boomer nearing retirement, jumping into an empty pool of social security benefits.

Eighty years after the tax crisis of 1937, insufficient social security funds remains a huge issue in society. The real problem lies in that the fact that social security fees and taxes have continued to increase, but the funds raised are not enough to provide sufficient retirement funds for the mass amount of retirees in the coming years. Since 2002, the maximum taxable amount on citizens for social security has risen $20,000 from $85,000 to about $105,000, and it is continuing to incrementally increase (“Social”). Since 2011 and continuing through the next decade, baby boomers (spike in population born between 1946 and 1965) will be retiring. To support the proper age of 66 for retirement, social security capital will need to increase greatly, but it’s impossible to put all that burden on American citizens, otherwise you’d be looking at a similar situation to John Knott’s 1937 cartoon depicting Americans tangled up in taxes. Over the last decade, social security taxes have been steadily rising, yet the benefits to match those increased fees are nowhere to be found. Social security is on the lower end of the totem pole when it comes to governmental programs, and it is leaving retirees across the nation out to ‘dry.’

One of the main problems with the social security system is a lack of funds to pay out retirees for as long as they live. Back in 1940, right after the initial social security concerns began, the life expectancy of a 65-year-old was only 14 more years. Today–20 years. In the last few years, there has been a movement of the retirement age back to 67 for the next generation of workers (Shoffner). This is a necessary tactic because it forces working citizens to pay an extra year of social security taxes but decreases the amount of time they get the benefits for, being that they have to work an extra year before the benefits kick in. However, this extra year of paying benefits does not allow the government to collect enough money to make up for the extra years that people are living nowadays. Not only are people living longer, but there’s more of them. According to the United States Social Security Administration (SSA), by 2035, the number of Americans 65 and older will increase from about 50 million today to almost 80 million (“Fact”). Without an improvement in the social security system in the near future, the United States will not have enough money to provide retirees with the benefits they are entitled to through the end of their lives.

A second major problem with the social security system is the extreme dependency the future retired generation has on the program. There will be a steep increase in retirees over the next 20 years, putting more strain on the social security system. Currently, social security accounts for over one third of the income received by elderly; and of those that receive social security benefits, about half of them depend on these benefits for more than half their income (“Fact”). Because of the widespread need for social security benefits, workers are having to give up a larger portion of their income to pay retirees. The payments made by today’s working class citizens are not enough to cover the benefits for those that require them. For example, in 2017, the SSA estimates that about 62 million Americans will be paid out just under 1 trillion dollars in social security benefits. However, based on the current tax rates on the working class, only about $925 billion will be raised this year (“Fact”). The government does have some existing capital for the Social Security program, meaning they can buy some time until the program will turn into a deficit in 2022 (Davidson).

Today’s situation in the social security world is similar to that of the 1937 tax crisis. Back then, social security taxes were not actually going towards the social security program, therefore leaving retirees without full benefits, eventually leading to a partial economic collapse and severely increased tax rates for United States citizens, as shown by Knott’s cartoon. Without a movement to change the American social security system, especially by 2022, we could be looking at another economic downturn; one that would not only force people to retire at a later age, but also possibly create a tangled system like that described in the accompanying editorial to Knott’s cartoon in The Dallas Morning News.

In conclusion, it is clear that the priority of social security needs to be higher within the government programs. It is unfair that the age at which people retire depends on the government’s wealth, something that they have no control over. It is only right that with increased fees come increased benefits for all.

Works Cited

Davidson, Paul. “Social Security beneficiaries may get biggest raise in 6 years.” Usatoday.com, 13 July 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/retirement/2017/07/13/social-security-2018-benefits-rise-28-monthly/476968001/.

“Fact Sheet: Social Security.” Ssa.gov, www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/basicfact-alt.pdf.

Shoffner, Kevin Whitman and Dave. “Social Security Administration.” The United States Social Security Administration, 1 Sept. 2011, www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/policybriefs/pb2011-02.html.

“Social Security.” Social Security Administration: How is Social Security financed?, www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/HowAreSocialSecurity.htm.

Wright, Larry. “Social Security!” Cable.com, 2 Mar. 2004, www.cagle.com/news/socialsecurity/.

Do Something!

Do-nothing Congress gets ready to jump into vacation and crush the remaining issues.
Do-nothing Congress gets ready to jump into vacation and crush the remaining issues

In the winter of 1931, only a few years after a debilitating Stock Market crash and in the midst of the Great Depression, unemployment was at a staggering sixteen percent and the holiday season was approaching rapidly (Darity, Shmoop). Nearly eighty years later in 2007, the housing bubble popped and the stock market came crashing down once again (Ferrara). In these times of economic calamity, Congress is placed in the spotlight. The pressure was on to pass legislation to help the country’s suffering citizens (“The Hungry Years”). In a cartoon illustrated by John Knott and accompanying article published on December 19, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News, Knott established just how hard Congress had worked to pass relief efforts before the holiday season. However in the midst of the more recent economic problem, this wasn’t the case. In 2012, an article by Amanda Turkel of the Huffington Post described just how unproductive the 112th Congress was. Many, such as John Darkow, a cartoonist for the Columbia Daily Tribune poked fun at Congress for being so lazy and useless. Congress has gone through cycles of productivity, but throughout history one thing has stayed the same: the American people always want them to do more.

The editorial in the Dallas Morning News in 1931 titled “A Disposition to Work” gave an optimistic view of the work congress had done during the Depression. The author clearly held a very optimistic view on how much work Congress had done. Knott’s cartoon reflected the views of the article, illustrating a very productive and obedient Congress. However in the editorial, the author hinted that others were not quite as pleased about Congress. “The notion that Congressmen are numbskulls and scalawags has its humorous possibilities”, hints that even in 1931, people did not trust congress nor the member within it. This is still an ongoing problem, as of October of this year only thirteen percent of citizen trusted Congress to actually do its job (Gallup).

In 1948, President Harry Truman coined the term “do nothing congress” when he bashed the work done by the 80th Congress (“Truman”). While Truman saw the Congress as being slow to act, they still managed to pass 906 bills into law during the session (“Truman”, Terkel). In the 1960’s, in the midst of civil rights activism and the beginning of the Vietnam War, Congress was passing around 1500 bills each session (“Vital”, Baughman). In the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan pledged to cut down big government and passed legislation that often cut funds to government programs (Valelly). Congress passed around 900 bills each session during Regan’s time and public approval for congress hovered around thirty five percent (“Vital”, Gallup).

In 2012, with only a week left until the end of the session, the 112th Congress had only managed to pass 219 bills. This put the congress on track to be one of the least productive sessions of Congress in US history (Terkel). And although there were a multitude of issues during the time which could have used some Congressional intervention, Terkel of the Huffington Post argued that a number of the bills that were passed have not been of particular importance. With “at least 40 bills… [that] concern[ed] the renaming of…public buildings [and] another six [that] dealt with commemorative coins”, it is no wonder that congressional approval ratings dropped below twenty percent (Terkel).

An enduring theme over the decades has been a negative attitude about Congress. Journalists and comedians find humor in the futile Congress, many poking fun at the members being lazy and stubborn. In August of 2012, John Darkow published a cartoon about the 112th congress in the Columbia Daily Tribune. It depicts a robust man labeled “Do-Nothing Congress” with his clothes and briefcase in a pile behind him, jumping into the shallow end of a swimming pool. He is shouting “Five weeks of summer recess! Boy do I need this! fussin’ an’a feudin’ can cause a lot of stress!” “Congress” is about to land on a frightened man in an intertube labeled “issues”. Darkow paints congress in a negative light by portraying him as a heavy man, implying that the US Congress is lazy. The physical size of “Congress” compared to the size of the “issues” makes it clear that “Congress” is about to destroy all of the issues that are important and floating right on the surface. The quote from “Congress” is humorous because it implies sarcasm. Congress has no reason to be stressed, since he has done nothing. “Congress” also uses an unexpected dialect when saying “fussin’ an’a feudin’” which makes him seem undereducated. This pokes fun at the fact that congressmen and elected officials in government are supposed to be elite and educated. Darkow makes it clear that he disapproves of the little work the 112th Congress did by humorously rendering Congress lazy, unintelligent, stubborn, and unable to tend to the issues at hand.

In 1931, some citizens of the US may have seen Congress as “numbskulls and scalawags”, but in the end, they were able to pass bills involving important issues at the time (“A Disposition”). In 1948, Harry Truman may have believed Congress was “do nothing”, but they did manage to pass over 900 bills (Terkel). In the 1960s and 1980s Congress was a little more productive but was still overall disliked by the public. In 2012, the historically disapproving attitude toward Congress became more justified when the 112th Congress had passed less than 300 bills right before the end of the session (Terkel). And although there was a lot of work to be done in the US, many people, like John Darkow, turned to humorously judging Congress. And with approval ratings so low, it is clear that the rest of America was laughing along.




Work Cited

“A Disposition to Work.” Dallas Morning News 19 Dec. 1931: 2. Dallas Morning News Historical Archive [NewsBank]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

Baughman, Judith S. “The 1960s: Government and Politics: Overview.” American Decades. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Darity, William A. “Great Depression.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Refence USA, 2008. 367-71. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Darkow, John. Columbia Daily Tribune 11 Aug. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Ferrara, Miranda H., and Michele P. LaMeau. “U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s.” Corporate Disasters: What Went Wrong and Why. N.p.: n.p., 2012. 339-42. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.

“Congress and the Public.” Gallup.com. Gallup Polls, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “Just Before Christmas”. 19 December 1931. Folder 2, Box 3L317, John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Great Depression Statistics.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Terkel, Amanda. “112th Congress Set To Become Most Unproductive Since 1940s.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

“The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America.” Choice Reviews Online 37.06 (2000): n. pag. BRT Projects. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“Truman Brands Session ‘Do Nothing’ Congress.” Los Angeles Times 13 Aug. 1948: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Valelly, Richard M. “Ronald Reagan.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Vol. 7. Washington, DC: CQ, 2010. 320-25. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

“Vital Statistics on Congress.” Brookings Institute, n.d. Web.


How Much Wood Would Congress Chop if Congress Could Chop Wood

A hard-working Congress asks Uncle Sam if there is more work for him to do.
A hard-working Congress asks Uncle Sam if there is more work for him to do.

In the midst of a cold winter, a fast approaching holiday season, a sixteen percent unemployment rate, and the Great Depression; December of 1931 was a troubling time for a lot of people (“Unemployment”). On November 19, 1931 John Knott illustrated to humorously interpret what was occurring at that time in history in Dallas, Texas. The political cartoon accompanied an article published on the same page of the paper titled “A Disposition to Work.” The cartoon depicts Uncle Sam facing a young boy with “Congress” on his shirt, . Knott used the cartoon to educate people about current events and also to poke fun at politics.

On October 24, 1929, Wall Street saw disaster strike. The Stock Market came down, and brought thousands of people’s investments down with it. The initial crash set the course for the next several years, which would be filled with hardship and suffering for citizens all over the country (“The Sock Market”). Within the next year, twelve million people would lose their jobs and fifty million would fall into poverty. It became clear that government action was necessary to relieve these dire circumstances (“The Hungry Years”). It was in the middle of these trying times – accurately coined the “Great Depression”- that Knott worked at the Dallas Morning News illustrating cartoons paired with editorials about the current events of the time.

In 1931 Congress had their work set out for them. As the cartoon illustrates, immense pressure to pass relief efforts was placed on Congress by the citizens of the US. This is depicted by the Uncle Sam figure (the American public) looking at the little boy (Congress).The President at the time, Herbert Hoover, believed that relief efforts should be the responsibility of individuals and the states; however, many people believed the national government should play a role (“Financing”).

In Knott’s cartoon the boy has obviously been chopping wood, and working hard at it. Amongst the chopped wood are the words “moratorium” and “relief measures”, clearly suggesting that these things were also a product of Congress’ work. The moratorium referred to was proposed by Hoover to postpone paying debts for a year to encourage economic growth (Kennedy). By December 1931, the moratorium had gained support and was ready to be debated on the floor, one step closer to being passed (“A Disposition”). The boy asks Uncle Sam, “Is there any more wood you would like me to split, Paw?” Knott clearly believed that Congress had been hard at work for the country and was willing to do even more.

Knott was not alone in his optimistic view of the work Congress had done in the winter of 1931. Accompanying with his political cartoon, a separate editorial titled “A Disposition to Work” was published on page two section two of the Dallas Morning News. The opinion piece defended Congress and explained how the moratorium and relief efforts were important in order to move the country in the direction it wanted to go. At the time, President Hoover believed that the government should not be involved in relief efforts, however the author of editorial makes it clear that Congress was expected ones to lead the effort to relieve poverty, hunger and unemployment, and they had successfully done their job The article took an optimistic view that the members of Congress were willing to fight and work hard to bring relief to their fellow countrymen. It claimed that “patriotism is not dead under the dome of the capitol” (“A Disposition”).

Knott used his illustration to promote humor during the political battle between Hoover and Congress involving relief efforts. The wood acted as a simile for the work done by the legislature; this is made clear by the words strewn about in the logs. As its title suggests, the cartoon was appeared “just before Christmas” when it was cold out. Many people, especially those who were impoverished and without adequate shelter, had to split wood in order to have fire to keep them warm throughout the night. Because Congress would not be in session during the holidays, they needed to get their work done before it was time to go home; and at that time there was a lot of work to be done so that their suffering constituents could make it through those difficult times.. The moratorium and relief efforts were the wood that would keep everyone warm throughout the break. The immense size of the woodpile was Knott’s way of humorously exaggerating how much work Congress had to do, and just how large America’s problems were.

Knott’s ability to take the grim state of the country and turn it into a funny and optimistic cartoon is something truly exceptional. Both the editorial and the cartoon used their media outlet to focus on positives in a time of overwhelming negatives. Knott took serious daily concerns, such as the upcoming holiday and the struggle to stay warm, and highlighted their connection to politics. It is important that individuals stay in touch with current events no matter their social status or situation. Knott made it easier for people to get in touch with what was going on by making it relatable and light hearted. This still rings true today. Many people keep up with current events through comedic outlets. While the Great Depression was inarguably one of the most traumatic times in America’s History, Knott kept his spirits high, and worked to put a smile on the faces of those who needed it most.




Works Cited

“A Disposition to Work.” Dallas Morning News 19 Dec. 1931: 2. Dallas Morning News Historical Archive [NewsBank]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

“Financing Relief Efforts.” 1931 – Herbert Hoover. Texas A&M University, Texarkana. 26 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: the American People in Depression and War. New York: Oxford University Press. 1999.

Knott, John F. “Just Before Christmas”. 19 December 1931. Folder 2, Box 3L317, John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Kutler, Stanley I. “Hoover Moratorium.” Dictionary of American History. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.

“The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America.” Choice Reviews Online 37.06 (2000): n. pag. BRT Projects. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“The Stock Market: Crash.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 3: 1920-1929. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

“Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression.” Unemployment Statistics during the Great Depression. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.

Nice Work!

The United States’ economy took a hard strike in 1929. Since that devastating moment in history and throughout the time frame of economic struggle, the active presidents did what they could, in their opinion, to help the economy from self destructing. The Dallas Morning News’ November 25, 1933 editorial visits one of the methods used to succor the nation in times of hardship. In addition, John Knott’s political cartoon accompanies the editorial depicting Lewis Douglas, the director of the Bureau of Budget and Planning during Fredrick D. Roosevelt’s term in office, trying to cut down the national budget to save the economy. The Bureau of Budget and Planning director primarily inspects government activities, coordinate fiscal estimates, and generally control expenditures. The editorial and political cartoon render an illustration of the vigorous attempt to rescue the United States from its state of penury.

On October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, the United States fell into the worst economic period of the twentieth century when the American stock market crashed. Due to the Great Depression, banks failed, the nation’s money supply diminished, companies went bankrupt causing them to fire their workers in flocks. President Herbert Hoover urged patience and self reliance and claimed that it was not the government’s job to try and resolve the issue. Thus, 1932 was  the blackest year of the Great Depression with one-fourth of the work force unemployed. Once Franklin D. Roosevelt became the nation’s thirty-second president, he acted swiftly to try and stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief to those suffering. As it turns out, Roosevelt actually created more problems for the government in his attempt to help and by creating the New Deal. Although, not in the beginning. At first, when Lewis Douglas was chosen as the Director of the Bureau of Budget, the nation was contempt with his plans. Douglas was an advocate of balanced budgets and limited government expenditures.

The $2,600,000,000 Budget editorial that is paired with the cartoon voices Lewis Douglas’ plan for the nation. He set a goal of two billion six hundred million dollars for normal annual expenditure by the government. This plan cuts off twenty-five percent in the figure for the fiscal year. The article also mentions how the budget director would have to deal with Congress. Since Douglas’ budget was undoubtedly astray from the normal budget, congress decided to proceed with caution as far as permitting this plan. In contrast, the article articulates that the nation’s taxpayers would love Douglas, for the budget required drastic reductions in pension programs and also economy in all offices. The budget director would not be popular in Washington, but would be worshipped by the tax-bearing citizens.

The political cartoon, Nice Work! by John Knott, a rather rugged man is shown chopping off a portion of a tree log, while another more comfortable looking man is shown sitting on the opposite end of the log. The tree log laid out on the ground is labeled ‘National Budget’ and is already partially cut through. The man holding the ax in the air getting ready to continue chopping the log is Lewis Douglas. His arm is labeled ‘Douglas’ and he is not wearing a coat and has his sleeves rolled up. Douglas is illustrated with a sweaty, frustrated, yet determined face. This portrays how Douglas was hard at work to cut down the national budget. The taxpayer sitting on the end of the log has his hand up and his mouth open as if he is alarmed by what Douglas is doing. Although the taxpayer is not showing any sign of stopping him. Taxpayers are alarmed by this proclamation that the director of budgetary is suggesting because the nation has never seen this done and they are not sure if this will necessarily help their current economy’s issues. The cartoon is ironic since the taxpayer should actually be cheering Douglas on for cutting down their taxes, rather than what Roosevelt has in store for them. The government is the one who should be worrying about this new plan when their salary will be cut down just like the tree log.

In the long run, Lewis Douglas was only awarded with a short term in the spotlight. Roosevelt later downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. A month after signing the Economy Act on March 20, 1933 to fulfill Douglas’s expectations, Roosevelt restricted gold imports, signaling his turn toward inflationary measures. Given Roosevelt’s new change in direction for the economy, the government needed more funding than what was available so they increased taxes. The monetary extraction from hardworking America prolonged the depression. Lewis Douglas resigned which magnified the increasing divergence between what Frederick D. Roosevelt had promised during a 1932 presidential campaign and what played out to be even more problems for the economy.

Works Cited

Dickinson, Matthew J. “The BoB and Other Institutional Staff Agencies.”Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 59-62. Print.

Hazlitt, Henry. “Lewis Douglas Dissects The New Deal: The Former Director of the Budget Thinks We Are Heading Toward Collectivism.”The New York Times 28 July 1935, The Liberal Tradition sec.: BR4. Print.

Patton, Mike. “A Brief History Of The Individual And Corporate Income Tax.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

History.com Staff. “New Deal.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “Nice Job!” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed. Print.

“$2,600,000,000 Budget” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 1933, 2nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

There Ain’t No Such Animal

Uncle Sam as he passes by the "Germanese Twins"
Uncle Sam as he passes by the “Germanese Twins”

There Ain’t  No Such Animal

John Knott ~ December 28, 1931

World War I was an enormous global conflict that completely altered the geopolitical landscape and changed the way the world thought about war. Many societies, including the United States, were astonished by the unprecedented death toll that occurred due to advances in weapons, machines, and trench warfare. The introduction of tanks, the automatic gun, and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, led to horrors that had never been seen before. With a generation of young men killed and injured due to the Great War, society was left changed, and the United States’s view of the contributing factors and aftermath of this war were broadcast throughout the nation in newspapers. In the political cartoon There Aint No Such Animal, by John Knott from the December 28, 1931 issue of the Dallas Morning News, we see a satirical and politically biting interpretation of the controversial war reparations brought upon Germany by the Allied powers.

Following World War I, at the Paris Peace conferences, the Allied powers had to decide what punishments to divvy out to the Central powers. The Allied powers decided to force the defeated Central powers to pay reparations. However, the other Central powers could not pay reparations because many countries were bankrupt and their governments had broken apart, such as the dissolution of Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Germany was forced to take sole responsibility for World War I and for the reparations. Many countries recognized there were other contributing factors to World War I and believed the reparations would be too harsh, which would lead to geo-political and economic consequences in the future (Webb, 786). However, France believed Germany deserved to pay all these reparations due to France’s destruction at the hands of German troops. The debate over reparations was a point of contention throughout the Paris peace conferences. Germany had to pay thirty-three billion US dollars to the Allied powers in 1931, which is the equivalent of five hundred and sixteen billion dollars in 2015 (Webb, 793-4). The Allied powers should have had the foresight to see that these penalties were too harsh and would ultimately lead to further tragedy, such as World War II.

In the political cartoon, There Aint No Such Animal, we see Uncle Sam passing a store front acknowledging, yet walking away from the ‘Germanese twins’.  The title of the cartoon alludes to the idea that this colossal amount of debt and reparations had never been seen before because no war resolution had ever resulted in such large reparations directed at one country. As we see Uncle Sam peering into a window, in shock at the two fat twins, and he is trying to wave at them. Yet, the twins look back angrily through the window. Germany was angry because America was one of the countries that contributed to the reparations, and the German people believed the reparations were unfair and humiliating to their country. The twin’s size illustrates that Germany had a large war debt. Uncle Sam’s facial reaction alludes to the American people’s guilt of Germany’s financial situation. The ‘Germanese twins’ represent the massive war debts and the one hundred and thirty-two billion gold marks of war reparations that Germany had to pay (Taussig, 37-8). Knott employs the use of humor through his characterizations of the two global superpowers. The emblem of Uncle Sam is supposed to demonstrate American military heroism, yet here Uncle Sam shies away from his own actions. The large size of the twins and their angry expressions are literal in demonstrating Germany’s large debts and reparations and their anger about said debts and reparations, and Knott illustrates the humiliation and reduction of Germany as a country by placing the twins behind a glass window. The glass window allows others to ignore their plight and their accountability.

The Basel Report opinion article that is paired with the cartoon explains the economic consequences of Germany’s war debts and reparations. The article states that economists in over eleven nations believed that Germany was unable to pay these reparations due to their “declining business, departures from the gold standard, tariff bars, and heavy interest charges on loans and credits” (The Basel Report).  Another issue set forth in the article is that taxes could not be raised to pay the reparations. There was growing fear that Germany’s economic crisis could start a global economic decline. In the cartoon, we see Uncle Sam shying away from the twins, but also staring at them in fear of what troubles they could bring. The issue that the war debts and reparations were part of the same issue and could not be separated is demonstrated in the cartoon by representing them as twins. Basel asks, “If war debts due us cannot be met in full, they should be reduced. Why worry over the loss of driblets, when billions of dollars are being lost annually through the continuance of hard times and unemployment?” (The Basel Report). Clearly the reparations were not the answer to global economic repair, and many people found the reparations to be ridiculous and humiliating, as the cartoon illustrates.

Ultimately, these reparations were unjust and shortsighted because they forced Germany into a financial crisis from which they could not recover. As world renowned economist John Keynes said this was a ‘Carthinagian’ solution that ultimately led to the complete destruction of Germany’s economy and political system. The economic collapse and degradation of the ineffective Weimar Republic led to poor quality of life, rampant poverty, and desperation in Germany that ultimately led the German people to alternatives like the Nazi party to save the country from total disaster.

Works Cited

Bradley, Megan. “Reparations.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. George Thomas          Kurian. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. 1459-1460. Gale Virtual Reference              Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John. “There Ain’t No Such Animal.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed. Print.

Taussig, F. W.. “Germany’s Reparation Payments”. The American Economic Review 10.1 (1920): 33–49.

“The Basel Report.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed., sec. 1: 4. Print.

Webb, Steven B.. “Fiscal News and Inflationary Expectations in Germany After World War I”. The Journal of Economic History 46.3 (1986): 769–794.


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.


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.

Come Down and Be Organized


At first glance we see a worker sitting a top a tower in what looks to be an oil field.  He is eating a sandwich and he looks pretty happy and content with his current situation.  At the bottom of the picture we have a more powerful man that looks as if he is angry with the worker.  The powerful man could be possibly yelling at the worker.  When we read the text given in the picture we see “East Texas Oil Fields” posted on the tower.  So we know that our location of this cartoon is most likely in East Texas.  Right next to the sandwich in the worker’s left hand says, “Liberal Wage” which could possibly mean that the workers are only getting paid enough to eat.  There is a bucket of food sitting next to the worker on the tower and the text next to that says, “Harmonious relationship with employers.”  As we look at the man at the bottom he is holding a paper that says “John L. Lewis” at the bottom and “C.I.O.” on the top.  We can assume that this man is in fact John L. Lewis.  The cartoonist John Knot does a wonderful job in this piece by simplifying what is going on and still creating a brilliant cartoon.

Let’s start with who John L. Lewis is.  John L. Lewis was considered to be one of the most powerful men in the U.S. during his time.  He was described as something of a maverick because he made sure that the CIO ignored sex, color, and race when it came to employing workers.  This persuaded women, immigrants, and blacks to join his new organization.  The CIO stands for the Committee for Industrial Organization.  This is an organization that helped changed our country in a great way.  This was somewhat a start to equality though at the time, equality was far for from being true.

The article that goes along with cartoon comes from The Dallas Morning News on April 4th, 1937.  The article entitled “Oil and the C.I.O.” states that it is the beginning of John L. Lewis’s committee’s plan to unionize a great East Texas oil field.  The writer expresses the worry of East Texas and Dallas workers that unionization or any attempt to unionize might prolong ongoing labor problems in the oil industry.  In the past, attempt to unionize has failed.  East Texas is a section of the C.I.O.’s plan to bring together 1,000,000 workers in its efforts to produce, transport, refining, and distributing petroleum.  The C.I.O. looks to be a good organization in creating jobs for East Texas residents.  There was no attempt made to match John L. Lewis’s competition by other companies.  The consequence, working with a field that has not been touched or worked on, and having inexperienced workers in the work force from the East Texas area.  The writer expresses his opinion on the possible hazard that workers would neglect and be late on signing up and paying their union dues.  The article in all shows that there are mixed feeling on whether East Texas oil fields should follow the path of unionization. In the grand scheme of things, John L. Lewis is attempting to make things more organized in East Texas.

As we can see from the article and the cartoon itself,  John L. Lewis has an agenda.  The cartoon is funny because it shows that John L. Lewis is growing impatient while East Texas workers just go about there day as if there is no need to be rushed or organized.  The cartoon’s depiction of John L. Lewis represents the C.I.O., John L. Lewis and his determination to execute the plans on his agenda.  The depiction of the man atop the tower in the field represents the East Texas community.  The community is not making it exactly easy for the C.I.O. to go about their plans.  When I look solely at the cartoon, I see a simple, uneducated looking man sitting atop an oil rig getting yelled at by an angry, powerful man.  It is just a funny site to see because it looks like a father yelling at his innocent child to get out of a tree.

The cartoon is entitled “Come Down and Be Organized.”  This is basically saying  that John L. Lewis wants East Texas to change and become unionized.  The C.I.O. believes that unionization is organization in a sense.  A big part of Lewis’s plan was to helping non-skilled workers through collective bargaining.  Some of these non-skilled workers were the people of East Texas.

Work Cited:

“The CIO and the Triumph of Unionization.” American Decades. Ed. Judith S. Baughman, et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“The Cio, 1936–1938.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 4: The 1930s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 196-216. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

“Oil and The C. I. O.” Dallas Morning News 4 Apr. 1937. NewsBank/Readex, Database: America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=S53J5EFRMTQxNzQ3MTk1MS42NjgyMTQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425511E33C878E@2428628-10425511EEFC6D5F@0&toc=true&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425511E33C878E@2428628-104255127303FD76@21-10425517179ED9FB>.