Tag Archives: Herbert Hoover


“And the Echo Answers: Where!”

The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929 proved to be detrimental to the American agricultural industry. While the bill began with good intentions to help farmers, abuse soon became rampant and the U.S. Federal Government, specifically the Federal Farm Board, couldn’t keep up with increasing crop production. The 1929 law soon proved to be too much for the Government to handle when it came to subsidizing farmers across the United States.

This cartoon, titled “And Echo Answers: ‘Where!’”, by cartoonist John Knott, first appeared in the Dallas Morning Newson June 26, 1930. The cartoon, which was published during the early months of the infamous Great Depression, was in response to the Federal Farm Board. The Board, which was within the Herbert Hoover administration, was unable to rectify the declining markets for cotton and wheat. The two crops had fallen to a 7-year low just one year after enacting the Farm Bill. When Black Tuesday hit in 1929, the falling stock in cotton and wheat excelled at a rapid pace.

In the cartoon, we see a drowning farmer with “wheat” and “cotton” being “flooded” by low prices. It is raining heavily, signaling that the prices will seemingly decrease and the product demand will suffer even more. The farmer is asking where the relief for farms is because President Hoover, Congress and the Farm Board were largely unable to help them.

That is not to say, however, that President Hoover and Washington DC didn’t try. Several months before the market crashed, Hoover signed the “Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929.” The law was meant to address falling prices by allowing the Federal Government to purchase, sell and store excess crops from farmers and lend money to farmers in need. The revolving money allocated, approximately $150,000,000 , was intended to be loaned to farmers for buying seed, food and livestock to help maintain their livelihood should they fall on hard times (Joy).

Hoover didn’t necessarily intend to lend the money to farmers directly as he feared this would create dependence on the government. Instead, the Federal Farm Board lent money to co-operatives. Co-Operatives were established to be groups of farmers who pooled their resources together (Sibley 453).

The law, however, had a large loophole. When stocks were being dumped at alarming rates at the end of 1929 and beginning of 1930, the Federal Farm Board was unable to keep up with production (Sibley 454). Farmers were aware that the law never put in place a stipulation on how much the government would be forced to buy from them. Therefore, with no production limit, farmers overproduced to ensure that they would be paid. Farmers across the country, who still needed to provide for themselves, knew if they couldn’t see their crops privately, the government would still cut them a check. The law was designed specifically for a prosperous economy, not a failing one (Sibley 456).

Foreign trade was also declining across the globe due to the effects of the 1929 Stock Market crash. The government had to deal with the excess production issue domestically. While the government did have the right to sell the crops that they had bought, consumer spending in the United States was also in a steep decline. As well, wheat likely suffered due to Prohibition, the ban on manufacturing and sale of recreational alcohol. Eventually, the Farm Board ran out of money and the program had to be abolished.

One of the other contributing factors to economic decline was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, enacted in 1930. The legislation put forward was an attempt to keep American farmers afloat and decrease foreign trade competitors during the agricultural issues during the end of the 1920’s (Riggs 1219). This tariff raised import taxes by approximately 20 percent and spiraled into an international trade war. This trade war was considered to be one of the leading factors that spiraled America into the Great Depression, all while decreasing trade by 66 percent within a five year period of its enactment (Riggs 1219).

Along with a declining import market, this also lead to declining export from the US agricultural industry. When Smoot-Hawley was actually signed into law, Great Britain, Canada and France – among others – immediately reduced exports. This subsequently negated anticipated gains, sales, revenues and in the end, profits (Beaudreau 300).

The Dust Bowl, which occurred during the mid-late 1930s, was also a problem that came later. It is believed to have been caused by years of low rainfall and unusually high temperatures (Schubert 1856). The combination of the poor farm conditions prior to the Agricultural Marketing Act, the onset of the great depression and the lack of trade caused by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act led to an unimaginable crisis. Farmers likely didn’t expect agricultural economy to get worse than it was in 1929, but it did within less than a decade (Schubert 1856).

The humor element in Knott’s cartoon is evoked using “Where’s farm relief?” which is asked by the farmer who is drowning. As well, the title draws attention for its use of an “echo answer.” An echo answer is when the verb in a question is restated, or echoed, in the response. The Depression era farmers were consistently asking “Where is farm relief?”. For most, there were no answer and the farmers echoed their anger as if to say “Yeah! WHERE is farm relief?”

While farmers were aware of the passage of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929, they were seemingly unaware at the massive failure occurring. As recently as 2008, agriculture continues to be a flaw in Government regulation due to overproduction and falling trade. The 16 farm bills that have been passed between 1929 and 2008 are a continued cyclical of an ongoing agricultural problem.

By: David Rubin

Works Cited

Beaudreau, B.C. Int Adv Econ Res (2017) 23: 295. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11294-017-9642-z

Joy, Mark S. “Agricultural Marketing Act of 1929.” The 1920s in America, edited by Carl Rollyson, Salem, 2012. Salem Online.

Knott, John. “And Echo Answers: ‘Where!”.” Dallas Morning News, 29 June 1930.

McElvaine, Robert S. Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Gale, Cengage Learning, 2004. Gale Virtual Reference Library. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=100381&site=ehost-live.

Schubert, Siegfried D., et al. “On the Cause of the 1930s Dust Bowl.” Science, vol. 303, no. 5665, 2004, pp. 1855–1859. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3836515.

Sibley, Katherine A. S. “The Worsening of the Great Depression.” John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ, 2014.

“Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (1930).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Gale, 2015, p. 1219. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3611000828/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=117ab699. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Tariffs Weaken more than Trade

Right in the Middle of his Speech

In this cartoon titled Right in the Middle of His Speech (Knott) we see a man identified as President Herbert Hoover falling through a stage labeled “G.O.P. Platform”. One of the planks, titled “Tariff Plank” has given snapped in two. Hoover is holding a sheaf of papers titled “Blessings of High Tariff”. From the title of the cartoon it is evident that Hoover was delivering his speech from these papers. At the bottom of the panel a sketched crowd of people are sitting on the ground, smiling at his plight. The cartoon is dated October 15, 1932 and the associated editorial is titled Tariffs Come Home to Roost (“Tariffs Come Home to Roost” 2). The unnamed author of the editorial lists the ways that the “Blessings of High Tariff” harmed the economy of the United States and Hoover’s chances of reelection.

Although the tariffs are not named anywhere in the comic or the editorial, there is only one tariff that was infamous enough to be the tariff on everyone’s mind: the Tariff Act of 1930, commonly known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff or Smoot-Hawley. It was passed into law over two years before this cartoon was published, but the tariff was still very much on the minds of citizens and voters.

In 1932 people were blaming President Hoover for the Great Depression. Even today economists debate whether the Smoot-Hawley Tariff turned what might have been a global economic downturn into The Great Depression (“Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act”). At the time of its inception, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was protested by bankers, economists, and editorial writers across the nation. Over a thousand economists signed a petition to protest the Smoot-Hawley Tariff (“The Battle of Smoot-Hawley”). In 1930 the tariff on dutiable imports was 6% on average. However, at the time Knott published this cartoon in 1932 the forces of deflation raised the effective rate of tariff costs on dutiable imports by 59.1%. (“The Battle of Smoot-Hawley”).

Before Smoot-Hawley was signed into law the stock market had seen some notable recovery from its infamous 1929 crash, but the market took another nosedive as soon as it became clear that Smoot-Hawley would pass. Other nations responded quickly with tariffs of their own. For example, the editorial Tariffs Come Home to Roost mentions the Ottawa tariff, in which Canada raised the duties on American goods and lowered the duties on British goods. The results of this trade war was a significant decrease in trade globally and the movement of factories from the United States to Canada (Tariffs Come Home to Roost).

In 1932 Hoover was running for re-election. He was an extremely unpopular candidate as many people blamed him personally for the Great Depression. Despite this, the Republican party was continuing to run on a platform of economic protectionism and supported the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. The Democrats countered with a platform of lowering tariffs and “…[the Democrat’s] candidate, Franklin D Roosevelt, hammered Hoover during the campaign for signing the Smoot-Hawley bill” (Gordon).

This topic of election platforms moves directly into an analysis of Knott’s cartoon.  A political platform is the set of goals and policies for a political party. Individual portions of the platform are often called “planks”. Knott uses these terms to form a visual pun. The GOP platform here is literally unable to support Hoover as he tries to woo voters. Notably the plank that is the weakest and responsible for this disaster is called the “tariff plank”.  The implication is that it does not matter how solid the rest of the platform is, this one issue is enough to bring Hoover down.

Hoover’s literal downfall is not a private disaster either. There is a crowd gathered around, and the disaster is very apparent to the people who are watching it. The gathered crowd is dressed in casual clothing and sitting on the ground; they are not peers of the suit-wearing Herbert Hoover. The people are smiling as they watch Hoover fall. They seem amused that Hoover is finally seen suffering repercussions for the tariff that impacted them. On the stage there is a microphone, perhaps representing the rest of the country who might listen to such a speech over the radio. The entire nation is aware of what is happening.

Interestingly, it is not Hoover himself who is the cause of the failure. This is perhaps reflective of the fact that although he signed Smoot-Hawley into law, he objected to what it became after special interest groups and Congress finished drafting it. He went so far as to denounce the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, and only signed it into law under pressure from his party (Gordon). In the comic, Hoover is not failing the G.O.P. Platform of economic protectionism, the platform is failing his reelection efforts. The author of the editorial suggests that if Hoover were to “…confess in open meeting that he committed a great sin when he signed the tariff act against his better judgement” (“Tariffs Come Home to Roost” 2) it would be very successful with voters.

The wrong tariff at the wrong time can result in a trade war with global repercussions. The “Blessings of High Tariff” in the cartoon were enumerated in the accompanying editorial as “…poor business, low wages, and great unemployment” (“Tariffs Come Home to Roost” 2). Tariffs were and are a powerful tool for improving a national economy, but their deployment must be judicious. Knott chose to focus this particular cartoon on the personal, political repercussions of the tariff.


Works Cited

“The Battle of Smoot-Hawley.” The Economist, 18 Dec. 2008, www.economist.com/node/12798595. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.

Gordon, John Steele. “Smoot-Hawley Tariff: A Bad Law, Badly Timed.” Barrons, 21 Apr. 2017, www.barrons.com/articles/smoot-hawley-tariff-a-bad-law-badly-timed-1492833567. Accessed 26 Mar. 2018.

“Herbert Clark Hoover.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 7, Gale, 2004, pp. 483-485. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3404703059/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=71e4ab99. Accessed 22 Feb. 2018.

Knott, John Francis. Right in the Middle of his Speech. 15 Oct. 1932. America’s Historical Newspapers, infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=L63Q49PFMTUyMjMzMzk1Mi42MTE4MzI6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_action=doc&s_lastnonissuequeryname=4&d_viewref=search&p_queryname=4&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10483D9233E8A080@2426996-10483D92A9E93CD3@17-10483D94E2A30003@.

“Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Carson and Mary Bonk, vol. 2, Gale, 2000, p. 933. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3406400866/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=370b678b. Accessed 22 Feb. 2018.

“Tariffs Come Home to Roost.” Dallas Morning News, 15 Oct. 1932, p. 2. America’s Historical Newspapers, http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=T58A4FEJMTUyNjM1MTgwMy42MjQ1MjI6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_action=doc&d_viewref=search&s_lastnonissuequeryname=9&p_queryname=9&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10483D9233E8A080@2426996-10483D92A9E93CD3@17-10483D94EA6FB419@Tariffs%20Come%20Home%20to%20Roost

What This Congress Needs

Hoover; appropriations; balance budget
President Herbert Hoover forces Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner, to work on government expenses, the budget, and appropriations.

March 4, 1929: That was the day Herbert Hoover was elected President of the United States. It was also just seven short months before the start of the Great Depression. As unexpected as the Great Depression was, President Hoover thought he knew exactly what needed to happen. He was “confident that the economy would recover quickest without tampering with the Federal Government” (Kennedy). He believed in the traditional American values of individualism, free enterprise, and a decentralized government. Hoover was trying to kill two birds with one stone: cut taxes while also doubling spending for public works programs. Yet while Hoover was President, the country went into the deepest bankruptcy ever experienced. Critics said “he simply could not overcome his fiscal conservatism,” and that, “federal relief programs would undercut core American values with irretrievable negative consequences” (Kennedy).  Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner, attempted to help Hoover by releasing a bill of his own, which caused outrage with President Hoover. Hoover placed tariffs, started corporations, signed bills, and raised the budget significantly but it was not enough to avoid the worst economic downturn in American history.

Right after the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, Hoover asked Congress for a $160 million tax cut while also doubling spending for the construction of public buildings, dams, highways, and harbors (Kennedy). Initially, he was praised for his efforts because they seemed to be working. While citizens were pleased with the efforts made by their President, unemployment was at its highest record levels. Ironically, Hoover was criticized for his efforts on public work projects which were formed to create jobs, but instead it caused more unemployment.

As the Depression worsened, “Hoover failed to recognize the severity of the situation or leverage the power of the federal government to squarely address it” (History). People accused Hoover of being insensitive toward the suffering of millions of Americans who had nothing. He vetoed many bills that some believe would have brought the country out of its hole. During his presidency, he “vetoed thirty-seven bills, of which twenty-one were regular vetoes and sixteen were pocket vetoes” (Senate).

In 1930, Hoover infamously signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff which “virtually closed the [US] borders to foreign goods and ignited a vicious international trade war,” all while the Great Depression was just beginning (Reed). The Smoot-Hawley Tariff was known as President Hoover’s crowning folly during his presidency. One of Hoover’s governing philosophies was limitation of the federal government. When the Great Depression worsened, America was desperately calling for the intervention of the federal government, but Hoover refused, claiming it would be “steps towards socialism” (Hoover). Hoover believed that what the American people wanted from the federal government would help in the short-term but not long-term. Hoover’s way of running a failing nation irritated Democrats and even some in his own political party. He was under great scrutiny to keep this nation above water, but instead it was just sinking deeper and deeper.

At this point, the Dust Bowl was also occurring, a 10-year drought that caused Hoover to recommend large appropriations for loans to rehabilitate agriculture. A large number of farmers were planting crops, to top, which led soil to become too dry with aridity and erosion, which made great swaths of land unsustainable for crops. Hoover was cutting money from other government agencies in order to fulfill the agriculture loss. During this desperate time, if land would had been more sustainable for crops, farmers would have had more jobs.

Although Hoover’s efforts were noted by the general public, many viewed these actions as too little and too late. His plans for saving money failed miserably. When Hoover “took office, the federal budget was $3.1 billion” (The Washington Post). In order to balance the budget, Hoover signed the Revenue Act of 1932 which “increased American taxes greatly” and “further discourage[d] spending” (Romer and Pells). With the hope that the Revenue Act of 1932 would make a difference, the federal government continued to run a budget deficit. Hoover’s “last budget, Fiscal 1933, was $4.6 billion” which was drastic increase in just four years (The Washington Post).

Hoover’s political rival, Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner, had a different approach to balancing the budget. His plan was to enforce a national sales tax, which was not on President Hoover’s agenda. Citizens were getting so fed up with the amount of money the US had lost that they created the “Hoover flag,” which was an empty pocket turned inside out, representing citizens lack of money (Phelps).

President Hoover was a Republican while Speaker John Nance Garner was a Democrat, which automatically caused tension between the two. In the beginning of his term as Democratic Speaker of the House, Garner was known for his more “conservative and independent view of major economic questions” (Kennedy). However, as he grew into his position, he became supportive of federal intervention in economic affairs. In his first few months as Speaker, he tried to cooperate with President Hoover’s economic programs such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Glass-Steagall banking bills.
In order to bring confidence back to businesses, Hoover formed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. It loaned public money directly to businesses that were struggling, with most of the funds allocated to banks, insurance companies, and railroads. The Glass-Steagall banking bill was an act that separated investment and commercial banking activities (Romer and Pells).

By 1932, however, Garner lost his patience with the lack of change that Hoover had made and he was determined to “repudiate Hoover’s programs” (Senate). Considering Garner’s conservative characteristics as Speaker, Garner became more assertive and offered a federal relief spending bill of his own. “Given his reluctance to offer his own proposals and his long record of opposition to increased government spending,” Garner went against Hoover, whom he had respected his whole professional career (Senate). Hoover immediately vetoed the bill calling it “the most gigantic pork barrel raid ever proposed to an American Congress!” (The Washington Post). After Garner’s efforts to increase government spending, the relationship between Hoover and Garner would never be the same. People were losing money fast and the United States was falling more and more into bankruptcy.

During this time, many cartoons and editorials were being printed in all newspapers regarding the Great Depression and President Hoover. For example, the author of an editorial regarding Hoover and his presidency, “Mr. Hoover Reproves,” in the Dallas Morning News, somewhat favored the efforts of President Hoover and agreed with the lengths to which he had gone for the US (“Mr. Hoover Reproves”). However, the editorial also had a tone of reprimanding the House of Representatives for fiscal irresponsibility: “the House of Representatives [left] undone the things which it ought to have done and in doing things which it ought not to have done” (“Mr. Hoover Reproves”) The editorial mentions the Goldsborough Bill, which initially, “Mr. Hoover paid his respects to” (“Mr. Hoover Reproves”). The Bill stated, “that the average purchasing power” as established by the Department of Labor in the wholesale markets, “shall be restored and maintained by the control of the volume of credit and currency” (Time). Once Hoover learned more about the Goldsborough Bill, however, he responded back to Congress and told them if the measures were to reach him again, he would veto it right away. The editorial primed the reader for understanding current events that were happening when the cartoon, “What This Congress Needs” by John Knott, was published (Knott).

Knott’s illustration depicts President Hoover standing over and holding onto the collar of an obviously distressed looking man who is John Nance Garner. Garner is portrayed writing on three different government papers with the titles “Reduce Government Expenses,” “Balance Budget,” and “Cut Appropriations” (Knott). Those were Hoover’s three main goals during his presidency. President Hoover is saying, “Do the job right, or else—” with a stern look on his face (Knott). He is depicted as a tall and large man compared to the small, timid Garner sitting at the table. Garner represented the House of Representatives as a whole, which explains why Hoover said, “Do the job right, or else—” because the President had lost trust in the Speaker after he a proposed a bill opposing what Hoover believed (Knott).

President Hoover is seen holding a large bottle of castor oil. During the Great Depression many citizens used castor oil as a home remedy for stomach aches. However, people avoided it at all costs because castor oil’s taste was so foul. President Hoover said, “Do the job right, or else,” because no one wanted to drink the oil, so he was threatening Garner (Knott). If Garner did not “do the job right”, according to Hoover, then he was going to make Garner drink the castor oil medicine.

Hoover’s presidency was not what he expected when coming into office. He tried fixing an economically unstable nation by raising the budget, cutting appropriations, placing tariffs, and starting financial aid programs/corporations in the hope of restoring America back to its financial stability and prosperity. Speaker Garner attempted to help the nation on his own, but that was not possible without the support of the President. The cartoon “What This Congress Needs,” and the accompanying editorial helped readers interpret the current events during Hoover’s presidency (Knott). Little did America know that nearly eighty years later, the US would experience another financial crisis, the 2008 Great Recession.

Works Cited:

History.com Staff. “Herbert Hoover.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/herbert-hoover.

Hoover, Herbert. “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Herbert Hoover on the Great Depression and New Deal, 19931-1993. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/herbert-hoover-great-depression-and-new-deal-1931%E2%80%931933

Knott, John. What This Congress Needs. 7 May. 1932, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin. Section 2, page 2.

Kennedy, Susan Estabrook. “Hoover, Herbert.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, New York, 2004, pp. 458–465. Gale Virtual Reference Library, link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404500265/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=6e1f97f5. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.

“Mr. Hoover Reproves.” Dallas Morning News, 7 May. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.

Phelps, Shirelle, and Jeffrey Lehman, editors. “Hoover, Herbert Clark.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd ed., vol. 5, Gale, Detroit, 2005, pp. 287–289.Gale Virtual Reference Library, link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3437702155/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=fe1a1eff. Accessed 27 Mar. 2018.

Reed, Lawrence. “The Greatest Spending Administration in All of History.” Mackinac, 1 Jan. 1998, www.mackinac.org/4026.

Romer, Christina D., and Richard H. Pells. “Great Depression.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 Feb. 2018, www.britannica.com/event/Great-Depression/Sources-of-recovery#ref802198.

Senate. “John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President (1933-1942). U.S. Senate: John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President (1933-1941), 12 Jan. 2017, https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/VP_John_Garner.htm

Senate. “Vetoes.” U.S. Senate: Vetoes, United States Senate, 5 Apr. 2018, www.senate.gov/reference/Legislation/Vetoes/vetoCounts.htm.

Time. “National Affairs: Goldsborough Bill.” Time, Time Inc., 16 May 1932, content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,846980,00.html.

The Washington Post. “Hoover’s ‘Austerity’ Program.” Washington Post, the, Jan. 0003. EBSCOhost,ezproxy.lib.utexas.edy/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nfh&AN=wapo.c424e6e0-8108-11e2-a671-0307392de8de&site=ehost-live

We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms

Two business men wade through waist high water, "old-timer" is written across the man who is speaking. He says "Call this a bad storm? Why I kin remember back in 1873, and 1893--". Lightning outlines depression in the background.
Cartoonist John Knott mocks the depression and challenges Texans to persevere in the early years of The Great Depression.

The political cartoon We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms by John Francis Knott shows the optimism that older generations had in the early years of the Great Depression. In The cartoon there are two men in business attire, one of whom has old-timer written across his belly and the other is a younger man with a worried look. They are having a conversation while wading in waist deep water and avoiding floating debris. In the background there are fallen telephone polls and flooded houses, and depression is written in the thundercloud outlined by two lightning bolts. The old-timer is telling the younger gentlemen “Call this a bad storm? Why I kin remember back in 1873, and 1893–”, he is referring to The Panic of 1873 and The Depression of 1893 (Knott, 2).

The accompanying editorial titled “Survival of the Fit” emphasizes the strength that is needed to survive the depression. It comments on not doing as bad in the depression as other states due to it’s mainly rural population, and the drive of Texas men finding pleasure in a challenge (Editorial Team, 2). Although there are no ships in the cartoon the Editorial refers to the oncoming depression as an “Economic storm”, and makes many nautical references, comparing a ship to a business and it’s crew to businessmen.

The Panic of 1873 was a major depression in the U.S. caused by the Legal Tinder Acts. The Legal Tender Acts authorized the influx of over one billion in paper currency, or Greenbacks (Blanke). These Greenbacks were no longer founded on the gold standard, which was an idea that all paper money could be exchanged for gold. Since they were off the gold standard the actual value of the Greenback went down and the amount of Greenbacks needed to purchase something went up, also known as inflation. At this time a man named Jay Cooke who was a prominent investment banker decided to purchase the Northern Pacific Railroad (Encyclopedia.com). The land that the Railroad was built on was a sixty million dollar land grant from the government. In an effort to make a profit, Cooke sold the land around the railroad to the public for farming. The problem arose when Cooke found the land surrounding the railroad could not be used for farming. As prices for further construction and repairs for the railroad continued to rise, Cooke faced with a tough decision, lied to the public about the value of the land. When Cooke was found out the investors pulled out and with no source of income and no way to pay back investors Cooke sent the U.S. into a depression that lasted six years. However the U.S. beat the depression with the continued growth of the railroad and the influx of immigrant workers.

The Depression of 1893 was again caused by inflation and the reliance on the gold standard. The economy was booming with the massive growth of the railroads, but they were using borrowed money to do it. At this time Europe was invested heavily in American companies, but when the British banking firm, Baring and Brothers, went bankrupt it scared a lot of people, and Europeans began to redeem their stocks for gold. Coincidentally the price of silver began to drop, and since gold was the preferred worldwide currency, people in the U.S. also began to redeem their cash for gold (Sioux City Museum). These things caused the major loaning companies to go bankrupt spiraling the U.S. into a 3 yearlong depression. But the U.S. beat this depression as well by borrowing sixty five million from J.P. Morgan and the Rothschild banking family of England, to get back on the gold standard.

The Great Depression came about because of the rapid growth of the economy, and people investing in the stock market with borrowed money (Procter). Knott uses the depression as an analogy to a storm in the cartoon because like a storm The Great Depression came about quickly and people were not prepared for it. It started on October 24th, known as Black Thursday, it continued into the next week with Black Monday and then to the worst day in Wall Street history, Black Tuesday (Silver). Within one week the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is a “price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange” fell more than twenty percent (Silver). With unemployment exceeding ten percent across the country the president at the time, Herbert Hoover predicted numerous times that the depression would be over soon, that the storm would pass, but it did not (Whitten). Not until the Second World War, which started in 1939, would the economy begin to look up as the U.S. began trading arms.

Knott is using his cartoon to instill optimism in his readers through the old-timer. The old-timer is saying that the storm will pass eventually, and he has been through worse even though he had not. By having the two men wading through water and debris, Knott is making light of the situation, as if to taunt the “storm” further. By referencing the Panic of 1873 and The Depression of 1893 Knott is showing that the old man is at least fifty-eight at this point, and yet, he is out in the storm giving advice to his younger friend. Knott uses this age difference in the men to show if an old man can make it through both of those depressions and still be ok then why can’t the young business man.

We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms was created to show readers that the U.S. has been through depressions before and they have survived all of them. The editorial provides words of encouragement and challenges Texans and Americans alike to face the depression head on. Knott mocks the depression with the old-timer, and the cartoon serves as a political commentary on not only the strength of Texas but the nation as a whole.

Works Cited

Blanke, David. “Teaching History.org, Home of the National History Education Clearinghouse.” Panic of 1873 | Teachinghistory.org. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Editorial Team. “Survival of the Fit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 28 May 1931, sec. 2: 4. Print.

Knott, John Francis. “We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 28 May 1931, sec. 2: 4. Print.

“Panic of 1873.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Nov. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Procter, Ben H. “GREAT DEPRESSION.” Texas State Historical Association. TSHA, 15 June 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Silver, Caleb. “Stock Market Crash Of 1929.” Investopedia. Investopedia, 10 Oct. 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Sioux City Museum. “Financial Panic of 1893.” Financial Panic of 1893. Sioux City Museum, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Whitten, David O. “The Depression of 1893.” EHnet. Economic Historical Association, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

The Texas Miracle

Rick perry dressed as Jesus appears to walk on water. He is actually being held up by people below the water with education cuts, uninsured, and minimum-wage workers on their shirts.
Cartoonist John Cole mocks Rick Perry’s attempts to keep Texas afloat.

The Texas Miracle, by John Cole is a political cartoon mocking Texas Governor Rick Perry for his comments on the well being of Texas and his presidential candidacy. It shows a man wearing a white robe and sandals with the word Perry on his robe. He appears to be walking on water, but directly under the surface are children and men holding him up. The people underneath Perry have “education cuts”, “uninsured”, and “Minimum wage workers” written on their shirts (Cole). The cartoon implies that Gov. Perry is not performing any miracles; he is both physically and metaphorically stepping on the groups of people underneath him. The Texas Miracle is similar to the John Knott cartoon, We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, in that the subjects in the people depicted are in water, and this water is oppressing them. The “storm” that Knott used as an analogy for The Great Depression could also be parallel to the flood that Noah and his family escaped in the bible. However in The Texas Miracle the population was unable to escape the flood because of an ignorant deity.

The accompanying editorial, Walking on Water talks about Perry’s recent presidential candidacy, and why he appeals to the “mad-as-heck right-wing base”. The authors also talk about the not-so-miraculous Texas miracle (Editorial Team). The miracle that Perry claims to have caused is just Texas continuing to profit off of a new way to drill for oil called fracking, which harvests the oil through horizontal fractures and drilling (Krauss). The editorial also comments on how well the housing district is doing, again emphasizing that this was not Perry’s doing, “Much of what Perry lays claim to is not the result of his governance, but existed well before he took office.”

You may recognize the Phrase “Texas miracle” from President George W. Bush’s two thousand presidential campaign and his “No child Left Behind” education reform act (Leung). The act was plan to make teachers accountable for their students’ grades, and required standardized testing for all students, while attempting to lower drop out rates in Houston especially. The program had great success in the first year but it was too good to be true. A vice principal at Sharpstown High School, found there were no drop-outs in the two thousand one two thousand two school year, when in fact there were four hundred and sixty two drop outs. The system had made a code for when a student dropped out it was programmed as a transfer or other acceptable reasons, so the miracle was just a lie. Just like Bush, Perry took advantage of the natural strength of Texas and used it for his own benefit. “According to The American Statesman, almost half of the state’s job growth came in the education, health care, and government sectors”, but when the state was faced with a twenty seven million dollar deficit Perry took four billion from K-12 schools. Already suffering as one of the least educated states, Perry stepped on education so that Texas would have less debt, and Texas suffered for it.

Texas’ population was been growing more rapidly than any other state from nineteen ninety to two thousand eleven this is in part due to the oil boom, but Perry found a way to make this benefit him (Plumer). Perry brags that Texas has a low unemployment rate but in fact at the time it was just a tenth lower than the national average, and the majority of those workers are working for minimum wage, which means that they have little or no insurance from their job (Meyerson). To add onto that Perry Doesn’t would prefer the states control of minimum wage and opposes the increase of minimum wage, claiming to be protecting the small businesses (Selby). At this time Texas was also the most uninsured state in the country, with twenty six percent of the population uninsured, Rick Perry still resisted universal healthcare. Perry said “They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance”, which may be the case, but this works well with Perry’s views on minimum wage and his refusal to increase the Medicaid (Benen). You see if Texans make less than four thousand five hundred dollars a year they can apply for Medicaid, but if they make less than eleven thousand six hundred dollars a year they are too poor to buy insurance for themselves (Damico). This is called the Medicaid expansion gap, and Rick Perry walked all over the people in this gap just to make the state more profitable.

A few parallels can be made between The Texas miracle and We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, the major one being the water. In both cartoons the water is rising, because Rick Perry has no intention of changing his policies and will continue to take money from education. The water is also rising on the two business men while they converse in the storm, which was also brought on by the government’s inflation during the twenties. We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms could also have a religious aspect to it, where Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for The Great Depression, could be seen as an ignorant deity. As he told the public over and over that the depression would pass, doing little or nothing to help the floundering public, while the floodwaters continue to rise leaving the population without an ark. In both cartoons the public is the victim of the governments poor choices and both cartoonists depict their suffering through water.

The Texas Miracle by John Cole is mocking Rick Perry’s foolish attempts to take credit for the relative low amount of debt that Texas is in. The cartoon and editorial both ridicule him for refusing to help those beneath him, calling him a lone star blustering bible thumper. The Texas Miracle illustrates just how unlike Jesus Rick Perry truly is, and what lengths he is willing to go to in order to make a profit for the great state of Texas.

Works Cited

Benen, Steve. “Perry Boasts about Texas’ Uninsured Rate.” MSNBC. NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Cole, John. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Time Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Damico, Oct 19 2016 | Rachel Garfield and Anthony. “The Coverage Gap: Uninsured Poor Adults in States That Do Not Expand Medicaid.” Kaiser Family Foundation – Health Policy Research, Analysis, Polling, Facts, Data and Journalism. WordPress.com, 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Editorial Team. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Times Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Krauss, Clifford. “Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 May 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Leung, Rebecca. “The ‘Texas Miracle'” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 6 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Meyerson, Harold. “The Sad Facts behind Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

New World Encyclopedia. “Texas.” Texas – New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Pallardy, Richard. “Rick Perry.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Plumer, Brian. “Breaking down Rick Perry’s ‘Texas Miracle'” The Washington Post. WP Company, 15 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Selby, W. Gardner. “In 2014, Rick Perry Saying He Opposes Federal Government Setting Minimum Wage.” @politifact. Politifact.com, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.


If They Would Exchange Presents

Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.
Cartoonist John Knott ridicules the post World War I predicament of U.S. and European relations in regards to the stalemate between war debt revision and disarmament.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott mocking the predicament of U.S. and European relations post-World War I. It depicts “Europe” giving the gift of disarmament to the U.S., represented by Uncle Sam, in exchange for war debt revisions. The cartoon implies that Europe would disarm if the U.S. would revise, or essentially decrease, European war debt; likewise, the cartoon suggests that the U.S. would gladly decrease European war debt if Europe were to disarm first (Knott 2). The accompanying editorial titled “The Reparations Problem” summarizes the context of the cartoon. It explains that by the end of 1931, the U.S. Congress finally gave approval for a one-year postponement of German reparations, acknowledging a proposal made in the previous year by then President Herbert Hoover. The U.S. Congress did not want to cancel war repayments, as it strongly indicated to the International Committee on Reparations, but instead wanted to suspend payments. The reason for Germany’s inability to pay was that it could only pay from borrowed money that it was no longer able to obtain or from money made off of exports that were heavily tariffed (“The Reparations Problem” 2).

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Serbian nationalists in 1914 catapulted Europe into the First World War. The assassination set off a domino effect, causing country after country to get involved in the escalating conflict that eventually developed into World War I. What ensued after the war was the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, a meeting that established the terms of peace after the war, and during this conference the Treaty of Versailles was established (Cochran). The reparation clauses of the Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany was to take responsibility for the damages caused by World War I and that it must adhere to a payment schedule to pay back the cost of those damages. The mindset of the United States and its allies was that they were essentially dragged into the war out of obligation, and therefore should be repaid for everything lost in the war. However, it was known that Germany could not pay the entire costs of the war and that it was nearly impossible to create a realistic repayment schedule in 1919, the year that the treaty was signed. The Treaty of Versailles did not have a definitive reparation settlement (Merriman and Winter 2207). Therefore, naturally, Germany wanted debt revisions. Germany, however, wasn’t the only European country in debt. For example, in 1934, Britain still owed the US $4.4 billion of World War I debt (Rohrer). For this reason, Knott’s cartoon depicts “Europe” in need of war debt revision and not just Germany.

The disarmament portion of the cartoon pertains to the U.S.’s insistence on worldwide disarmament, highlighted in President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal that said, “All countries should reduce their armed forces to the lowest possible levels (Multilateral disarmament.)” (Fuller). The Treaty of Versailles initiated the notion of disarmament by targeting Germany in particular, forcing them to take full blame for World War I and to disarm. “The German army was to be limited to 100,000 men and conscription proscribed; the treaty restricted the Navy to vessels under 100,000 tons, with a ban on the acquisition or maintenance of a submarine fleet. Moreover, Germany was forbidden to maintain an air force” (“Treaty of Versailles, 1919″).  The Treaty’s main concern was the disarmament of Germany. Politicians, journalists, and academics argued at the time that the naval race for arms was one of the major causes of the war. Based on this idea, the victors of the war decided to force Germany to disarm due to its previous invasion attempts toward France. It was thought that by forcing its disarmament, Germany was being stripped of its power to wage war (Merriman and Winter 856). Soon, this philosophy was expanded to include all European nations. “Following the atrocities of World War I, both nations [the U.S. and Great Britain] hoped to avoid any future conflicts, and both faced difficult economic times that restricted military spending. As a consequence, the two governments were willing to consider serious limits on offensive weapons” (World History Encyclopedia 593).

Reduction of conflict, however, wasn’t the only motivation behind disarmament. The Great Depression diverted attention from the issue of disarmament to debt and unemployment. In 1932, everyone owed America money, but because of the depression, few countries could repay their loans. The U.S. decided that if nations didn’t spend money on arms, they would be able to repay the United States; therefore, the U.S. called for worldwide disarmament (Bradley 38).

Knott’s cartoon represents a very circular predicament. The two entities were at a stalemate. The U.S. was the world’s major creditor nation, and in order to get paid back, it insisted on worldwide disarmament so that funds could be redirected to debt repayment. Europe, however, would only disarm if war debts were lowered and revised first. It was as though this political stalemate could only be resolved by some miracle.

That is exactly the point Knott wants to impress upon his audience. The illustration of the Christmas tree, along with the fact that the cartoon was being published on Christmas Eve, gives the cartoon an air of Christmas spirit. The term “Christmas Miracle” is typically used to emphasize how unlikely an event is to occur, and that seems to be what Knott is implying as the only solution to this conflict – a Christmas Miracle – given how unlikely a compromise seemed in 1931.  What is also humorous is how nonchalant the gift exchange is, almost trivializing the damages and lives lost in the war. It is as if there is no rivalry or conflict of interest between the two parties; it’s not as aggressive, or desperate, or even as somber as one would expect. It is definitely not a gift exchange of good will either; Christmas is regarded as a time of selfless generosity and community, a time of giving rather than receiving without the expectation of anything in return. However this is a very self-interested exchange, defying the traditional, selfless ideals of Christmas. These contradictions serve as indirect attacks on the U.S. and Europe’s inability to reach an agreement.

If They Would Exchange Presents is a political cartoon by John Knott that focused attention on and mocked the diplomatic gridlock between the U.S. and Europe. It uses the setting and themes of Christmas to criticize the two sides’ uncompromising stances toward disarmament and war debt revisions, comparing the successful exchange of “presents” to a Christmas Miracle. The cartoon serves as political commentary on post-World War I negotiations and ranks as one of Knott’s many politically motivated cartoons.

Works Cited

Bradley, F. J. He Gave the Order: The Life and Times of Admiral Osami Nagano. Bennington: Merriam Press, 2014. Google Books. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Cochran, Philip. Austin Community College. Austin, Texas. 27 Oct. 2015. Lecture.

Fuller, Richard. “The Treaty of Versailles – 28th June 1919.” rpfuller. rpfuller, 3 June 2010. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Knott, John. “If They Would Exchange Presents.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, sec. 2: 10. Print.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Disarmament.” Child Care to Futurism. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 855. Print. Vol. 2 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

Merriman, John, and Jay Winter. “Reparations.” Nagy to Switzerland. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006. 2206. Print. Vol. 4 of Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction.

“The Reparations Problem.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 24 Dec. 1931, 85th ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Rohrer, Finlo. “What’s a Little Debt between Friends?” BBC News. BBC News Magazine, 10 May 2006. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

“Treaty of Versailles, 1919.” Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 18 Aug. 2015. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

Slavery Must Be Abolished

farmer labeled "The South" standing in a barren field chaned to a bail of cotton.
Cartoon by John Knott depicts farmer in a barren field, chained to a bale of cotton.


Slavery Must Be Abolished

John F. Knott- August 27, 1931

This cartoon published in August of 1931, is a raw depiction of a typical southern cotton farmer’s situation during the Great Depression. During the Great Depression era, before President FDR or his New Deal, little was being done to help cotton farmers handle the struggling market. The constant production of cotton at high rates caused the cost of the crop to drastically drop when the Great Depression hit, as consumer demand for these products fell. Farmers were left with copious amounts of unwanted crop that they could not get rid of. At the time, Southern leaders agreed the solution was to diminish cotton acreage, as to reduce the ample supply and therefore raise the market value of the crop. Texas proposed the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 (TCACL) as the remedy to the cotton problem, and as an example for other Southern states. However, unlike President Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), passed in 1933, the TCACL did not directly offer subsidies to the farmers. Rather, it fined them if they overproduced under the provisions of the law (Jasinski). Knott compares these issues for farmers to the issues slaves had seventy years before with through his cartoon, “Slavery Must Be Abolished.”

The article that accompanies this cartoon, “He Owes Too Much Now,” explains the situation and relationship between the banks and the farmers of this cotton issue as well as sharing the author’s issues with the proposed solution. The article highlights that banks in Texas were not able to finance the large scale reduction of crop production for farms. Big banks were trying to keep a large supply of money in depositories in case of emergencies, and small banks had loaned out far too much to “take on a heavy line of credit” with the cotton industry (“He Owes Too Much Now”). After not receiving financial help from the government and being unable to borrow any more money from private investors such as banks, farmers were forced to sell their farms and lay off workers, including their tenants. Herbert Hoover, the president at the time, attempted to help with the issue by establishing the Federal Farm Board to “supervise agricultural cutbacks and levy a special tax” (Kentleton).  Despite Hoover’s endeavors, many felt he was not doing enough to affect much change in the market, typical of his laissez-faire approach to economics (Baughman).

The humor in this cartoon comes from the comparison of the struggles of 1930’s southern farmers with cotton, to the plight of African slaves to their slave owners in America up to the Civil War. The cartoon depicts an elderly man who is identified as “The South” by the writing on his shoulder. It is easy to surmise that he is a farmer by the hoe in his hands, the clothes he is wearing and the barren field he is standing in, specific characteristics of agricultural life during that time period. Knott uses the old man to represent southern farmers and the barren field he is in represents the mandated curtailing of cotton production to reduce the surplus that has slashed the market value. He also shows the farmer chained by the ankle to a bail of cotton, illustrating a metaphor for the fiscal issues southern farms faced with the surplus of their crop. The strongest factor of the humor of the cartoon is easily the title, where Knott points out the ironic parallel between the relationships of Great Depression farmers to their cotton, and pre-Civil War slaves to farmers/plantation owners. The fact that these farmers who are now slaves of their crops were generally the same people that participated in slave culture some seventy-plus years before creates the humor and apathetic message Knott wanted to portray.

Farmers in the south faced a tough situation throughout the Great Depression. Many were forced to sell their land and move, either to support their families or because banks would foreclose on their property. Knott’s cartoon “Slavery Must Be Abolished” creates an accurate depiction of the condition of these farmers.  These families had so much invested in cotton as their livelihood, the market crash forced them to cling to whatever assets they had remaining. The farmers were bound to their way of life, and needed to bare through the painful remedy of withholding supply if they wanted any chance of recuperating their businesses.


Works Cited

Author Not Listed. “He Owes Too Much Now.” Dallas Morning News. 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015

Baughman, Judith S. “The Farm Crisis.” American Decades. Ed. et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Fred C. Elliott, and E. A. Miller, “COTTON CULTURE,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Jasinski, Laurie E. “TEXAS COTTON ACREAGE CONTROL LAW OF 1931-32,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 4, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Kentleton, John. “Success or failure? Herbert Hoover’s presidency: he sent the troops against the bonus marchers and gave his name to a shantytown in Washington, but has history been fair to President Hoover?” Modern History Review 14.4 (2003): 7+. General OneFile. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.

Knott, John F. “Slavery Must Be Abolished.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 01 Nov.2015


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.