Tag Archives: John Knott

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

Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars

Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars

 

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, the United States automotive industry saw the development of innovative engineering in automobiles such as semi-automatic transmissions, hydraulic brake systems, and engines with more and more cylinders. Fatal car accidents and traffic safety caught the attention of legislators in Texas and all over the country during that time. In the late 1930’s, politicians and their constituents feared that older cars posed a large threat to public safety. However, few people realized the overwhelming threats were actually new high-speed cars combined with people’s reckless driving and disregard for traffic laws.

The political cartoon by John Knott titled, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars”, published on February 27, 1938, in the Dallas Morning News, illustrates the undeniable danger reckless drivers and high-speed sports cars manufactured at the time posed for passengers in other vehicles as well as pedestrians. In the cartoon, a man in a suit and tie labeled “Chronic Wild Driver” is illustrated in a sports car driving away from a crash where two people are left on the ground. One of the victims of the crash appears to be crawling away from the crash as he looks in the direction of the reckless driver, while the other victim is left lying on the ground unconscious or dead. The wild driver appears to be driving a 1938 BMW 328 Sports Coupe (Goodwood Revival). Released in 1938, the car was among the finest of its class at the time with a 6 cylinder, 4-speed manual engine and a then astonishing top speed of 93 miles per hour. Even in 1999, the car was a finalist for the “Car of the Century” award by a worldwide panel of automotive journalists (Law).

The title of Knott’s cartoon, “Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars” directly correlates to the editorial that was published in the same edition of Dallas Morning News; the editorial, titled “Logical Car Retirement” is written in line with public opinion at the time and focuses on the danger of older cars and their increased likelihood of breaking down or losing brake control in a highway. Although the main focus of the editorial is older cars, it does state that, “admittedly, the major portion of fatal accidents (was) in the new and high-speed car class.” By illustrating a high-end sports car in the cartoon, Knott appears to have agreed with this point, however, Knott labeled the man in the car a “Chronic Wild Driver” expressing his belief that cars were not only the ones to blame.

At the time, the development of car safety features was almost nonexistent compared to the development of faster engines (World Health Organization). Because of this, Texas began to establish laws that regulated certain driving habits, instating it’s first mandatory drivers license examination in 1937 (U.S. Department of Transportation). The original driver’s license law of Texas took effect on February 14, 1936, and required each driver to possess a license issued by the County Tax Collector.Unfortunately, these early public safety laws did little to stop the massive loss of lives. During that time, cars became a typical household item. Vehicle ownership in the United States rose 150.44% from 1920 to 1930 (Davis).

In the U.S. in the late 1930’s, legislation was passed with the intention of making highways safer. However, these laws did not have a large impact on people’s driving habits at the time (Gibson and Crooks 453). At the time, people’s driving habits were predominant over their attention to traffic laws. The journal article, “A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving” by James J. Gibson and Laurence E. Crooks explores the human behavior and self-awareness while driving. The article states that of the skills demanded by contemporary civilization, driving an automobile is the most important to humans because a defect in it has the greatest threat to our lives. Furthermore, in 1938, the sense that traffic laws were absolute agreed with the act of dangerous driving (467).

The need for more driver’s education in the public school system at that time was overwhelming (470). Additionally, the public needed to gain a common attention to the danger they were causing themselves through their ignorant driving habits. The mixture of chronic wild drivers and fast cars was detrimental to the highway safety of Texas in the late 1930’s and in his cartoon, John Knott emphasizes the danger of this combination.

 

Works Cited

Davis, Stacy C. Transportation Energy Data Book. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2013.

Department of Public Safety records. Texas Department of Public Safety, 1931.

Gibson, James J., and Laurence E. Crooks. A Theoretical Field-Analysis of Automobile-Driving. 1938.

Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015: Supporting a Decade of Action. World Health Organization, 2013.

Heck, Katherine E., and Keith C. Nathaniel. “Driving Among Urban, Suburban and Rural Youth in California.” University of California.

Highway Statistics, Summary to 1995. PDF ed., U.S. Department of Transportation, 1997. Federal Highway Administration Office of Highway Information Management.

Hugill, Peter J. Good roads and the automobile in the United States 1880-1929. PDF ed., Geographical Society, 1982.

Knott, John. Should Be Retired With Unsafe Cars. 27 Feb. 1938, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin.

Law, Alex. “Car of the Century.” Auto123, 22 Dec. 1999, web.archive.org/web/20060308141111/http://www.auto123.com/en/info/news/news%2Cview.spy?artid=1082.

“Logical Car Retirement.” Dallas Morning News, 27 Feb. 1938. Editorial.

1938 BMW 328 Sports Roadster Chassis no. 85378 Engine no. 79280. Bonhams, 12 Sept. 2015.

Texas, Legislature, Senate. Senate Bill 15. 1835. 44th Legislature, 2nd session.

Traffic Safety Facts 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation, 2015, crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication812384. National Highway Safety Administration.

Dirty Work

France (represented as a person) climbs up the side of a mountain, tethered to and pulling up Russia. Hitler hides nearby with a knife, eyeing the rope connecting Russia and France.
France and Russia, tethered together with a rope, climb up the side of a cliff while Hitler hides nearby, holding a knife.

In John Knott’s political cartoon, Dirty Work (published March 15th, 1937), the intentions of France and Germany to sway Russia in their favor are depicted as climbers on a mountain. France is pulling Russia towards a renewed alliance with Britain, while Germany lies in wait to sever the ties between them.

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian nationalist assassinated the presumptive heir to the Austrian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. One by one, the European powers were dragged into the conflict” (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). World War I, the international conflict between the Allied powers of France, Britain, Russia, Italy,  and the United States and the Axis powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria would critically change relations between European countries. In 1907, Britain, France, and Russia had already formed an understanding known as the Triple Entente. Italy decided to join the Entente in 1915 instead of siding with Germany. Prior,  France and Russia formed a cordon-sanitaire, or agreement, to protect one another in 1914. This group of nations was powerful opposition to the Triple Alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. The two opposing sides continued fighting until Germany signed an armistice in November of 1918 (Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War). Despite the agreement for peace, Germany remained bitter and relations between European nations became extremely strained.

A year after the close of World War I, tensions between countries remained high. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles was signed by the Allies and a reluctant Germany. The agreement dictated that Germany’s Rhineland region would be occupied by an Ally army in order to ensure French security. Angered with the troops stationed so close to home and a part of everyday life, German citizens grew tired of the presence of Allied troops. When these occupiers attempted to form separatist governments, German citizens began to passively resist. For instance, “workers stayed home, and the civilian population refused to cooperate with the French occupiers” (Merriman and Winter). As tensions rose between the two opposing forces, “the new German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann called off passive resistance and began negotiations with France” (Andrea and Neel). Members of the German foreign office laid the framework for Locarno, an agreement designed to drastically improve relations with the French. Stresemann improved the idea, expanding the pact to include Britain and Italy, guaranteeing the territorial status quo of western Europe. In addition to the peace agreement, there would be no German military presence in Rhineland as a gesture of goodwill. The Locarno agreements were enacted in London in December of 1926.

Despite these agreements temporarily pacifying the opposing countries, the new Nazi Germany and France again butted heads. “In March 1936 Germany sent troops into the Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Treaty of Versailles, declaring that the situation envisaged at Locarno had been changed by the Franco-Soviet alliance of 1935” (Britannica). While France argued that this was a direct violation of Locarno, nothing was done, for Britain did not share the same claim. Nazi Germany was a threat looming on the horizon and France’s hope for positive political negotiation was dim. In the accompanying editorial to Dirty Work entitled No Locarno, the desire of both France and Britain to form a new agreement with Germany is discussed as unlikely to come to fruition. Germany refused to put itself in a position to be so easily controlled. New leadership in Germany would not be so cooperative. Stresemann, who had facilitated the creation of Locarno, was replaced as German foreign minister by Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop and Hitler, referred to in the editorial as “fascist Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” looked to entice Britain and France into understandings that Germany had no intention of keeping. For Germany, however, the “bug under the chip,” or something undesirable subtlely attached to something valuable, was the French-Russian cordon sanitaire of 1914 (Editorial). If France was attacked, Russia would come to its aid and vice versa. While Nazi Germany was ambitious, it would not be able to survive an attack on two fronts from both Russia and France. Thus, the relations between Russia and France needed to be eliminated in the interest of Germany. Nazi Germany also had to entice Britain and France into an agreement OUTSIDE of the League of Nations, the international organization formed between countries after World War I. Both France and Britain wanted the backing of this organization and the countries that participated in it. Germany’s main goal then was to sever the ties between Russia and France.

John Knott’s political cartoon Dirty Work depicts the goals of the various nations through characterization of France, Russia, and Hitler as climbers on a mountain. While Hitler is portrayed as himself, France and Russia are sketched as what one might assume the typical Russian or French person to look like. France and Russia are tethered together with a rope that represents the cordon sanitaire between the two. Hitler, hoping to cut the tie between France and Russia, hides just around the corner with a knife. If the rope were cut, Russia would fall without something to support it. In 1937, Russia was going through the Great Purge, a period of political oppression under the Soviet Union. It was on the verge of collapse with no external stimulus (Rittersporn). Hitler’s knife would not only sever its ties but allow Russia to run itself into the ground. The knife, while not drawn to represent a physical act in 1937, eventually became the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, ending the cordon sanitaire as Russia and Germany promised to not counter the actions of one another. With this in place, Germany waited a single week before invading Poland, a country under the protection of France and Britain. Thus, World War II began.

It is evident that no treaty is perfect. There are always concessions to be made and hard lines to be drawn. What is vital to the future of peace between countries is understanding the balance between compromise, necessity, and the importance of working together as opposed to against one another. The inability of nations to bridge the gap between the goals and necessities of each country led to the death of millions. Unfortunately, this lack of meaningful and effective agreements between countries persists today. It is uncertain just how detrimental the effects of current decisions will be on the future of the human race.

Works Cited:

Axelrod, Alan. “Ribbentrop, Joachim von (1893–1946) Nazi German foreign minister (1933–1945).” Encyclopedia of World War II, edited by Jack A. Kingston, vol. 1, Facts on File, 2007, p. 689. Facts on File Library of World History. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX4067800556&it=r&asid=eebdb853d57e8646f13df326a8a63383. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

“German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.” Encyclopedia Britannica, edited by The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. 22 Jul 2016. https://www.britannica.com/event/German-Soviet-Nonaggression-Pact

Karabell, Zachary. “Eden, Anthony [1897–1977].” Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, edited by Philip Mattar, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, p. 755. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3424600873&it=r&asid=8872902e8a07698ec62fcc7c67dcaa3b. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Knott, John. “Dirty Work.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937.

“Locarno Pact.” World History Encyclopedia, edited by Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel, vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945, ABC-CLIO, 2011, pp. 583-585. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX2458803623&it=r&asid=99045c1562ff275fc3e1c4c109a04b57. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Mombauer, Annika. “Alliance System.” Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 1, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 47-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3446900030&it=r&asid=023dc0910917a3301c8e3da5b6cffe43. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

“No Locarno.” Dallas Morning News. 15 Mar. 1937. p.5

“Pact of Locarno.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 13 Oct. 2016, www.britannica.com/event/Pact-of-Locarno. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

“Rhineland Occupation.” Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and  Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2217-2221. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3447000751&it=r&asid=ae5e37e051910a79f9c6de5a484271b2. Accessed 28 Sept. 2017.

Rittersporn, Gabor T. “Purges, The Great.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 1247-1251. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?

“World War I (1914–1919).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War, vol. 1, Gale, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3048500018&asid=6aaa3eab990420667484bc968b96a420. Accessed 15 Nov. 2017.

 

Isolationism versus Freedom of the Seas

Debating Freedom of the Seas, Uncle Sam reminds Senator Hiram Johnson of the consequences of entering World War I by displaying a list of casualties and war debt accrued.
Debating Freedom of the Seas, Uncle Sam reminds Senator Hiram Johnson of the consequences of entering World War I by displaying a list of casualties and war debt accrued.

The political cartoon “What Price Freedom of the Seas” by John Knott illustrates the struggle between the general public and politicians in the United States (U.S.) during the years preceding World War II. Opposing interpretations of the ideology: Freedom of the Seas, caused much debate between people who were against the war, but for commerce, and people who were against both. In the U.S.’s best interest to stay out of the war, Neutrality Acts were passed which allowed U.S. ships to be neutral against belligerent nations, and continue trade with both allied and hostile nations alike under the ideology: Freedom of the Seas. Many of the people in the Senate were Isolationists (people who were against any foreign contact/conflict) including Hiram Johnson who also was an advocate for free trade. The accompanying editorial to the cartoon, “Senate Neutrality Bill” brings in the differing viewpoints on the issue of Freedom of the seas. People recognized that the ideology was crucial for trade and geo-political control over the seas for the U.S., but the continuation of embargos was highly disputed especially after WWI where hostile nations attacked neutral American ships aiding Britain. The editorial compared the leadership during 1937 under Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) to a past president’s ideology with foreign nations: “Speak softly and carry a big stick” -Theodore Roosevelt. This ideology and later policy meant negotiating peacefully with foreign nations while simultaneously intimidating them with a big stick (military power).(Big Stick Diplomacy 132)  This comparison is critical of FDR’s decision to continue trade while intimidating opposing forces with a “big-stick” as “a more timorous leader would stop trade at once in order to avoid trouble-making incidents” (Dallas Morning News) The different interpretations of the ideology “Freedom of the Seas” led to contradictory actions, unsuccessful neutrality acts, and an eventual entrance into the war just four years after Knott’s cartoon was published.

Knott’s 1937 cartoon depicts only two characters: Hiram Johnson and Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam holds a piece of paper tallying the number of wounded and killed during World War I and the amount of debt accrued to the United States (U.S.) after the war ended. He has a disappointed expression on his face as he sadly puts his hand on Hiram Johnson’s shoulder who raises his fist and exclaims: “I believe that a nation’s commerce is its lifeblood and that we should insist upon our rights under International Law!” In Johnson’s hand he strongly holds onto a poster with the words “Freedom of the Seas” written on the side.

Hiram Johnson was a Republican U.S. senator in California from the years 1917 to 1945. Although Johnson took progressive positions in domestic affairs, he was an isolationist – strictly against getting involved in foreign affairs. He was against signing the Treaty of Versailles, and joining the League of Nations under Woodrow Wilson, but he helped endorse FDR’s New Deal. He was a big name and had a big voice in the isolationist movement. He was one of the few progressive republicans who was in favor of FDR, so when he chose to be in favor of the Neutrality Acts, he had much influence due to being favored by both Democrats and Republicans. FDR originally opposed the Neutrality legislation, but eventually approved the acts because of both parties agreeing, and his re-election on the horizon. Johnson tried to stay out of foreign conflict until the end of his career: “Although Johnson had been an outstanding Progressive governor, by the time of his death on Aug. 6, 1945, his views on foreign affairs made him part of an outdated isolationist minority in Congress.” (Hiram Warren Johnson 300) As a stylistic choice, Hiram Johnson was drawn heavier in the political cartoon. This portrayed the greediness of his statement in the cartoon to continue free trade while many citizens strongly predicted it would lead to war.

The U.S. firmly believed in having neutral waterways for commerce to continue, this protection in the seas is rooted in the ideology of “Freedom of the Seas.” In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, while many countries were being colonized, some nations also wanted control of the seas surrounding their land. They enforced their power with naval force and bases at canals. (Rappaport 111) However, many of these nations believed the seas to be free like air: “Queen Elizabeth I of England proclaimed: ‘The use of the sea and air is common to all; neither can any title to the ocean belong to any people or private nation fought for free water travel, beginning with Thomas Jefferson, who enacted the Jefferson Embargo Act of 1803 (mentioned in the editorial as a parallel to the need for free water travel and commerce in 1937). The Embargo Act prohibited U.S. ships from going into foreign ports. This was to compel French and English ships from interfering with American merchant ships while they were in the Napoleonic Wars (a war over French expansion). This act eventually backfired and negatively impacted the U.S. economy until it was repealed. (Embargo Act (1807) 379) Freedom of the Seas was declared by London in 1908 as an unofficial agreement with allied and enemy nations, but no belligerent nations ratified it thus not binding them to it during World War I. “Upon the outbreak of war the United States called for a de facto observation of the Declaration of London.” (Young) The ideology was never set in international law except for small treaties between allied nations. As years went on this ideology was disputed in many nations, the U.S. being extremely for it, especially Hiram Johnson who used this ideology to continue to trade while war went on. It’s very contradictory that he was an isolationist that wanted to continue foreign trade at the cost of inevitably entering war.

Uncle Sam holds a sign with the debt owed to the U.S. after World War I and the number of American soldiers killed or wounded during the war. (Schuker 542) The expression on Uncle Sam’s face symbolizes the disappointment much of the public had in the Senate’s interpretation of Freedom of the Seas. Many people in both the general public, and in political chairs wanted to avoid war at all costs, as the war only 20 years prior to this cartoon was World War I, which was detrimental to the U.S. as a whole. Although many politicians knew about how devastating the past war was, they continued to push for free trade, which many people disagreed with as that would most likely lead to war. Due to there being no international law for free trade, and America simply enforcing it with a “big-stick” initiative, it was only a matter of time before hostile nations attacked U.S. ships bringing resources to friendly nations. This violation of the ideology would most likely bring the U.S. into the war. Robert Lansing, (Legal Advisor to the State Department at the beginning of World War I and later the Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson) compared the neutrality of 1937 to the neutrality of 1915 (World War I) due to the U.S. establishing itself as a neutral power, but eventually being brought into both wars because of belligerent nation violation of free waterways. (Lansing)

After World War I, the need to stay out of war in 1937 expanded into the Isolationist viewpoint (originated in 1934 in the Nye Committee). The main idea of Isolationism was avoiding alliances and conflict with all foreign nations completely. In 1934, there was speculation that the entrance into the World War I was for profit instead of good ethics. Created by the U.S. Senate, this committee investigated business leaders who were suspected of manufacturing supplies and trading with belligerent nations. “Committee members found little hard evidence of an active conspiracy among arms makers, yet the panel’s reports did little to weaken the popular prejudice against “greedy munitions interests.” (Schlesinger) This viewpoint was driven by Hiram Johnson in 1937, however his drive for free trade with belligerent and allied nations contradicted part of the Isolationist viewpoint, confounding the original ideology.

The Neutrality Acts, passed between 1935 and 1939, were the main catalysts of the cartoon and editorial because they allowed trade to continue between the U.S. and hostile nations. Congress passed four acts that limited American involvement in the ongoing war on the Seas and in Europe (Delaney 66). “[The Neutrality Act of 1935] banned all arms and ammunition shipments to belligerent nations and placed America’s armaments industry under federal control for six months.” (Delaney 66) As the four acts came out they edited the previous acts, usually strengthening them. The 1937 act had a “cash-and-carry” provision, allowing the U.S. to supply belligerent countries resources if they paid in cash and guaranteed that the U.S. would not become 9 (the same year the U.S. declared war). The Neutrality Acts were passed to keep the U.S. out of the war, but the inclusion of enforcing free trade with these acts ultimately made them unsuccessful as belligerent nations infringed upon the notion of “Freedom of the Seas” and attacked vessels sent to friendly nations.

The editorial “Senate Neutrality Bill” expressed the differing viewpoints groups of people at the time. The two options debated by citizens were: to completely end trade “… a more timorous leader would stop trade at once to avoid trouble-making incidents.” (Senate Neutrality Bill) While the other option was to continue the embargos under the Neutrality Acts because commerce and geo-political control in the seas was the lifeblood of the nation. Citizens, knew that free trade was vital, but they predicted it would lead to conflict “Yet embargoes create an international antagonism that may form the prelude to conflict.” Isolationists wanted nothing to do with any foreign nation. Hiram Johnson wanted free trade under the pretext of Freedom of the Seas, but he did not want to enter a war. The ultimate decisions made by FDR and the Senate couldn’t satisfy all of these viewpoints and this angered many people. Articles were written by regular citizens calling out the acts for not giving the citizens a choice and calling the neutrality a “compound of ignorance, timidity, and ignorant isolationism.” (Peace act). Although many of these people interpreted Freedom of the Seas differently, the ideal outcome as stated in the editorial, would be peace.

“What Price Freedom of the Seas” by John Knott illustrates how Hiram Johnson believed that through the Ideology of Freedom of the Seas and the upkeep of its principles through force or a “big stick” America should’ve been allowed to continue free trade with any nation. This greed made him blind to the possibility of conflict happening due to this continued trade, as it had happened before in 1807. Many citizens and politicians recognized the problem of continuing trade especially after the tragedies of World War I “We have grown older: we have burnt our fingers in war: we would like to keep the peace.” (Senate Neutrality Bill) The actual decisions made in the Senate eventually led to the U.S. entrance into World War II. The idea of Freedom of the Seas has been debated since ships were able to travel across the oceans. Many regions around the globe have had treaties signed to ensure power over their portion of the ocean while other nations pushed for complete neutrality of the seas (U.S. being one of these nations). Today, 57 years after the cartoon was published, Freedom of the Seas is set in international law: Freedom of Navigation, but the differing interpretations still exist, which may lead to miscommunication and conflict.

 

 

Works Cited

“Big Stick Diplomacy.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 132-133. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3611000096&it=r&asid=e50dd9ad437cd28effb3d2d4e51265db. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Delaney, David G. “Neutrality Acts.” Major Acts of Congress, edited by Brian K. Landsberg, vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 66-69. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3407400231&it=r&asid=5857bae0871ce8e2105ea29c237e5a36. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

“Embargo Act (1807).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2015, pp. 379-381. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3611000275&it=r&asid=04f56b30da03c843f1df9631a1d454b4. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

“Hiram Warren Johnson.” Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 8, Gale, 2004, pp. 300-301. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3404703347&it=r&asid=40aa2a37ec20e231ef4e2ec6ad2c5a76. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Knott, John. “What Price Freedom of the Seas.” Dallas Morning News. 5 March 1937.

Lansing, Roberrt. (1937, Jan 31). NEUTRALITY: 1915 SHEDS LIGHT ON 1937. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/docview/102014742?accountid=7118

“Peace act,” 1937 model. (1937, Feb 23). The Washington Post (1923-1954) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/docview/150925381?accountid=7118

Rappaport, Armin, and William Earl Weeks. “Freedom of the Seas.” Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy, edited by Richard Dean Burns, et al., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 111-122. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3402300066&it=r&asid=63c0fb9915224211a6b2b41f192d9311. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., and Roger Bruns, eds. Merchants of Death Congress Investigates: A Documented History, 1792-1974.  New York:  Chelsea House Publishers, 1975. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/merchants_of_death.htm

Schuker, Stephen A. “World War I War Debts.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 542-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3401804606&it=r&asid=393cc8c39279d947d296ff78adc127b8. Accessed 16 Oct. 2017.

Young, Jr., James Leroy: Freedom of the Seas , in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2014-10-08. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/freedom_of_the_seas

“Senate Neutrality Bill.” Dallas Morning News. 5 March 1937, page two. http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=F54G4FSDMTUxMDgxNzg1OS41MjgyMjA6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425769CAC69DDF@2428598-1042576A718AA444@17

Walmart Scalia Thomas

Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia disrespectfully forcing women back to work at Wal-Mart.
Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia disrespectfully forcing women back to work at Wal-Mart.

As workers of the 21st century continue to pursue the fairest and most equal opportunities for their individual careers, the conflict of sex discrimination and fair pay between those powers and authoritative entities have continued.  Even with the establishment of the 14th Amendment over a century back, the Supreme Court’s interpretation has shifted.  The amendment states there should be no denial to, “any person within its (United States’) jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (law.cornell.edu).”  Unfortunately, there are court cases that discuss the very question of whether or not an individual is given equal protection under laws, which applies to Danziger’s cartoon portrayal of sex discrimination and unfair pay, applying to female employees of Wal-Mart.  

Back in 2001, a Wal-Mart employee named Betty Dukes and 5 other women, filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, claiming that they had been employing company-wide discrimination acts against women (cnn.com).  The women essentially claimed that it was more difficult for them to get promoted than their male counterparts and that the level of pay for women was inferior.  Dukes and the five women who filed the lawsuit represented over 1.5 million women at Wal-Mart, which made it the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history (cnn.com).  That class action lawsuit didn’t result in a victory for Dukes, however, as the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against it.  Danziger’s political cartoon above expresses these results, and emphasizes the crucial relationship of Supreme Court decisions to worker’s rights, in addition to continuous business development.

These women felt as if they were being unfairly treated, which is supported by a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act that was created after the fall of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) in 1935.  The Fair Labor Standards Act clearly states that, “The equal pay provisions of the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) prohibit sex-based wage differentials between men and women employed in the same establishment who perform jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions (dol.gov).”  Given that, it is apparent that Dukes and the female employees of Wal-Mart have a clear-cut point of reference for defending themselves in the lawsuit.

This occurrence of discrimination also ties into the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was preceded by a Supreme Court ruling over Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.  That decision resulted in employees not being able to take action over discriminatory pay if the pay decision by the employer occurred over 180 days earlier, which frustrated those seeking complete elimination of that discrimination (nwlc.org).  A dissenting opinion by Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg in the 5-4 ruling, discussed the need for Congress to take legislative action in order to fully rectify the discrimination conflict occurring in the workplace.  Thus, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 came into the worker’s rights equation, which finally assisted and protected workers subject to unfair treatment in the workplace, with anti-discrimination laws and a reset to the 180 day limit to file a claim(nwlc.org).  With evidence in play, it was up to the Supreme Court to validate the claim of Dukes and Wal-Mart female employees.

The two justices depicted in the political cartoon above, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, are regarded as two of the more conservative justices among those of the Supreme Court, and voted.  Although there may be a public perception of conservatives being less favorable than liberals towards gender issues, the personal history of both Scalia and Thomas provides more insight into his vote in favor of Wal-Mart in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.  During Clarence Thomas’ confirmation process to be a Supreme Court Justice, he was involved in a sex scandal.  His former assistant Anita Hill claimed he verbally harassed her with sexual language.  The coke can displayed in the political cartoon with Justice Thomas appears to be a reference to this sex scandal, because of the fact that Anita Hill once recalled Thomas asking, “Who has pubic hair on my Coke?(zimbio.com)”  This, among other sexual claims by Anita Hill, led to the one of the closest confirmations for a Supreme Court justice over the past couple of centuries, at a 52-48 vote from the U.S. Senate.  

In reference to Justice Scalia, there has been controversy on his views towards women, along with his preference for less-restricted business.  Scalia’s strict interpretation of the Constitution has etched a negative image of his views towards equal rights, particularly in association with his quote that sex discrimination will basically occur depending on the state of society,”If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, you have legislatures (Cohen).”  That interpretation of the constitution is frowned upon because of the equal-protection clause of the 14th amendment, which strived to not deny anyone equal protection of the laws.  Also, it gives the perception that sex discrimination acts are changeable based on the state of society.  Scalia’s corporate view also correlates to the political cartoon above, in his vote of Wal-Mart over Dukes, with an attempt to assist corporate influence.  One way in which he has done this was through halting any restrictions on corporate spending during federal elections, which he believed violated the First Amendment (Cohen).

The political cartoon by Jeff Danziger above, created on June 21st, 2011, depicts two Supreme Court Justices as greeters of Wal-Mart, telling women to get back to work.  It’s apparent that the cartoonist views both Justice Scalia and Thomas as the main antagonists of this incident involving women, regarding the court case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.  Also, Scalia is shown as forcefully kicking a female employee back into the store, and back to work.  Justice Thomas is shown holding and looking at a coke can, while clearly irony abounds in these Wal-Mart “greeters” making the women go back in the store to work.

Danziger’s cartoon connects back to the John Knott cartoon of Hatching Another One for the Ax (Knott) and the editorial of Haste Made Waste with a correlation to a deficient business environment and the denial of the Supreme Court in a legal setting. The 5-4 decision against Dukes in the case, occurred because of a lack of any real substance when staking the claim that Wal-Mart was nationally discriminating women and giving less opportunity for promotion.  As stated in Justice Scalia’s majority opinion, “it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims will produce a common answer to the crucial discrimination question(oyez.org).”  This statement asserts not only the lack of legitimate support the women had, but also points to how difficult it is to win against a business of Wal-Mart’s magnitude.  The Knott cartoon also includes a Supreme Court restriction in helping out workers.  As the Great Depression peaked and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was looking to improve the economic condition in the United States, he announced changes in the form of the New Deal, a set of programs, regulations and acts designed to reconstruct the economy.  One of his acts was known as the National Industrial Recovery Act, or NIRA, which was enforced by the National Recovery Administration, or NRA.  The goal of the NRA combined with NIRA, was to implement industrial codes that would essentially regulate businesses in a fashion that could simultaneously benefit workers through improved wages, hours worked and working conditions.  Unfortunately, the NRA’s lifespan was cut short in FDR’s eyes, as the Supreme Court invalidated it due to legality issues in distribution of power(law-making powers to the president) and the failure to operate successfully.  The Knott cartoon portrays FDR’s desire to re-implement an NRA, but the past left a poor mark on that piece of legislation.  Ironically enough, the power of big business was increased by the NRA because of such poor regulation on industrial codes, leading to continuous big business power. Thus, not changing the fact that the Supreme Court indirectly helped big business with a denial to a new NRA, similar to how the Supreme Court benefited Wal-Mart with its decision in not granting money to the women of the Dukes lawsuit.  

The editorial, Haste Made Waste, in John Knott’s cartoon, references FDR’s desire for wage legislation to be introduced with the NRA, which is essentially what Dukes and the women of Wal-Mart wanted.  That said, FDR was given an opportunity to showcase what the NRA could do with its first introduction, but failed.  Dukes and the women of Wal-Mart have yet to be given an opportunity to adjust their work environment they way they want it. It’s evident that the business and worker problems of FDR’s era differ from that of today, but the connection in worker’s rights and the branches of related legislation are still prevalent in dictating how business and people will be organized and maintained for future years.

Works Cited:

Danziger, Jeff. “Walmart Scalia Thomas.” www.huffingtonpost.com.

Mears, Bill. Supreme Court Rules for Wal-Mart in Massive Job Discrimination Lawsuit. www.cnn.com/2011/US/06/20/scotus.wal.mart.discrimination/index.html.

“Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.” National Women’s Law Center, nwlc.org/resources/lilly-ledbetter-fair-pay-act/.

“Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.” Oyez, 13 Nov. 2017, www.oyez.org/cases/2010/10-277.

“Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act.” United States Department of Labor, www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/hrg.htm.

Cohen, Adam. “Justice Scalia Mouths Off on Sex Discrimination.” Time, Time Inc., 22 Sept. 2010, content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2020667,00.html.

Staff, LII. “14th Amendment.” LII / Legal Information Institute, 12 Nov. 2009, www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv.

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

Hatching Another One for the Ax?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rules to the road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s an Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Cited:

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

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

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

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

To Tax, or Not To Tax?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chasing the New Deal

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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