Tag Archives: Knott

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.

 

1937: Social Security Taxes Come to Life

Caught in the Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

LEFF, MARK H. “Taxation.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 963-967. Gale Virtual Reference Library,

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

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

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

Social Security: An Unsupported Support System

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

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

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

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

Texting and Driving

Jeff Parker's cartoon visualizes the effects of texting and driving
Jeff Parker’s cartoon visualizes the effects of texting and driving

While the people of Texas and The United States of America were given the driver license and speed safety regulations they were fighting for in 1937, the 21st century had its own plans for traffic safety.  The invention of the mobile telephone and its revolutionary commodities such as texting and mobile applications inadvertently led to new safety problems.  As depicted in the cartoon, drawn by Jeff Parker in 2009, texting has led to the attention of drivers being put on the message they are sending rather than the road resulting in safety violations.

The cartoon depicts multiple outcomes that could occur when a motorist decides to pick up a phone and send a text message.  These outcomes include hitting a cyclist, terrorizing a pedestrian, causing road rage, afflicting a car crash, and lastly violating multiple traffic laws as shown by the driver hitting a stop sign and an orange cone.  Jeff Parker uses this cartoon to provide commentary to and for the people who text and drive and the people who must deal with those drivers. He depicts the scene of one of chaos, with collateral damage occurring all around the driver yet all he is focused on is his message.  Parker obviously believes that there is a problem with drivers who text and drive, his position is agreed upon by most of the general public and scientists who say that texting and driving raises the likelihood of crash by twenty-four times (Moreno).

Both Knott, who drew a similar cartoon in 1937, and Parker use their cartoons to express a problem found in the world of motor vehicles, whereas Knott takes a very direct approach by pointing out and directly asking why vehicle inspection isn’t being enforced. This shift in storytelling, where Knott uses words and Parker visuals, could be perceived as a generational shift, as audiences have become smarter than audiences in the 1940’s they are less accepting of a cartoon that tells them exactly what it means with no subtlety.

Parker uses strictly visuals to tell his perspective.  By showing the carnage of the effects of texting and driving, Parker invokes empathy from the viewer. Parker’s cartoon is also of its time as well, as it uses little to no text and its human’s characters are exaggerated to play up the comedic aspect of the cartoon.  While Parker and Knott use different approaches to appeal to their audience both artist’s works are focused in on the safety of others in relation to traffic safety.  Knott and Parkers cartoons both expressed the publics opinion on the topic of traffic safety and both were regulated several years after the cartoon was published.

Texting and driving has become a recent safety epidemic with death rates linked to the act growing rapidly every year the technology becomes more readily available (Caird, 312).  The data shows that younger people, between the ages of 16-30, are exponentially more likely to pick up a phone to text putting themselves at a much higher risk of injury or fatality.  These are the people that are called out directly in the editorial from the Knott cartoon that the author states to directly protect from the consequences of not having a vehicle inspected.  At the time of the drawing of Parker’s cartoon 28% of all traffic accidents were caused by someone texting and driving (Kareklas and Darrel, 223).  The widespread effect of accidents was reaching the levels of vehicle accidents that were prevalent during Knott’s time.  Due to the large amount of backlash happening from the public, texting and driving reform would be on its way.  This process is very similar to the way people in the 1940’s obtained the vehicle inspection laws, public outrage and backlash.

After texting and driving was considered dangerous to drivers and pedestrians, movements to stop the act started to sprout up, targeting especially teen drivers.  Mobile phone application developers have taken to the cause by making several different applications that turn the phone off or make it inert if the driver goes above 25 miles per hour (Moreno).  These applications proved to make little difference as the average accident rate caused by texting and driving stayed relatively the same.  With public pressure mounting lawmakers made their play to regulate texting and driving.  Over the next several years lawmakers around the country made changes to their respective legislatures to regulate and in some cases, ban the act of texting and driving.  In total ten states have banned use of hand-held smart phones, thirty-two states have banned young drivers from using a cellphone whilst driving, and thirty-nine states have banned the act of texting and driving completely (Moreno).

While texting and driving is still a moderate problem in the United States of American and Texas, it has been significantly regulated in recent years.  This type of regulation is similar to the type of regulation put in place for vehicle inspection during the 1950’s as is the backlash to the government for not putting legislation in place to protect it’s people.  It seems, although the issues change, that the way people tackle safety problems are similar whether it be 1937 or 2009.

Caird, JK, et al. “A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Texting on Driving.” Accident Analysis and Prevention, vol. 71, 2014, pp. 311-318.

KAREKLAS, IOANNIS, and DARREL D. MUEHLING. “Addressing the Texting and Driving Epidemic: Mortality Salience Priming Effects on Attitudes and Behavioral Intentions.” Journal of Consumer Affairs, vol. 48, no. 2, 2014, pp. 223-250.

Moreno, Megan A. “Texting and Driving.” JAMA Pediatrics, vol. 168, no. 12, 2014, pp. 1172-1172.

Parker, Jeff. “Texting and Driving.” Florida Today, 2009.

Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie

Messages Image(2953671508)

Nice Kitty, Nice Doggie is a political cartoon by John Knott depicting the rising tension between labor unions and industries during the Great Depression. Published in the Dallas Morning News in April 1937, this kitchen bout contextualizes the Hershey Pennsylvania Strike of 1937 between peaceful union workers protesting for their right to unionize, while Frances Perkins, the US Secretary of Labor, mitigates between these two parties two with the enactment of Fair Labor Standards Act  (Grossman 1).

In 1937 in the wake of civil unrest and growing unease with the American Economy, the workers at the Pennsylvania Hershey Chocolate Factory began to formulate their plan of strike. Just four months before the strike a note entitled “Chocolate Bar-B” circulated the factory. Signed by the Communist Party of Hershey, it brought attention to poor working conditions and highly encouraged them to unionize (De ‘Antonio 3). Furthermore, after owner Milton Hershey fired many workers without apparent reason, union leaders felt they were being punished for unionizing and decided to have no more. On April 2nd the strike began with the union president’s signal and over 600 workers abruptly stopped there. What they were doing was perfectly legal and they gave no reason for them to be forced out. Several days later Hershey sent a message to the protesters “Evacuate by 12 or face the consequences”. Workers did exactly that however as they began to exit the building disgruntled farmers and antiunion members that were affected by the strike attacked the protestors with clubs, bats, and pitchforks. Twenty-five workers, were severely beaten to the extent they had to be transported to the local hospital (Chocolate Workers 2).

 

John Knott cleverly and comically depicts each entity in this cartoon with specific and deliberate details. For example, the labors right to strike being depicted as a cat. The labors well thought out strike was almost cat like in the sense that they just sat their peacefully. With constant food coming to the protestors it gave them no reason to move from their place. They were able to just dwell in their spots.

 

Also Knott depicts the aggressor the Industries right to operate as a dog. He brilliantly draws the dog with its teeth shown and claws out, pointy like the pitchforks they used to beat the protestors. Furthermore, unlike the cat with open eyes Knott draws the dog with x’s where his eye would belong. This could symbolize the dying industry of unorganized labor and the rebirth of unionized labor unions.

 

Lastly and what I believe most canny was John Knotts depiction of Frances Perkins. With a masters from Columbia and an extensive public service resume Frances Perkins was more than qualified to fill her position as Secretary of Labor. Frances Perkins was the first woman to ever be appointed to the United States Cabinet; she represented a milestone in American history (Frances Perkins 1). Still, John Knott uses a patronizing and misogynist tone when depicting her. John Knots bias is explicitly shown as he reduces her to the stereotype that women are expected to fit at the time; a housewife who is confined to the walls of her kitchen. Trying to get the pests underfoot to simmer down.

John Knotts Nice Kitty, Nice Doggy makes light of the tension between labor unions and industries during the Great Depression.  It uses the imagery of a cat and dog fight to reveal the growing tension between industry and labor unions. Furthermore, it uses obvious undertones to make fun of Secretary Frances Perkins. The political cartoon serves to comment on how this outbreak at the Pennsylvania Chocolate Factory is a significant event for the unionizing movement during the Great Depression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Chocolate Workers’ Sit-down Strike Historical Marker.” ExplorePAHistory.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2017.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s extraordinary life of wealth, empire, and utopian dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2007. Print.

Biography.com editors. “Frances Perkins.” Biography.com. A&E Networks Television, 07 Apr. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Grossman, Jonnathon. “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage.” United States Department of Labor. N.p., 09 Dec. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2017.

Suggestion for Historical Mural

Suggestion for historical mural

Going against the wishes of the League of Nations, Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and his italian army invaded Ethiopia in an effort to gain an advantage in the imperialistic race Europe found itself in at the time. This increased tension between Italy and other members of the League of Nations, particularly England and France.

In the Knott cartoon, a man is dressed in Ancient Roman robes and a laurel wreath. He is labeled as Mussolini and Caesar. Mussolini rides a horse drawn chariot through the street under an arch labeled “Roma”, surrounded by an enormous crowd and people leaning out of windows waving flags. The design of the town is evocative of ancient Rome. Being marched behind him, attached to the chariot by the neck with a rope, is a bedraggled black man wearing nothing but a large barrel, labeled Ethiopia.

This cartoon references the Italo-Ethiopian war, an armed conflict which was one of the leading causes to world war II and ended in the subjugation of Ethiopia by the Italian forces.One of the reasons for this conflict was imperialism. Before World War I, European countries were racing to colonize Africa — this competition was a major inciting factor for the war. One of the reasons for the creation of the league of nations after the war was to settle disputes between nations and avoid further war. They pushed for the disarmament and demilitarization of nations involved in the first war in an effort to seek and maintain peace. However, during this time Benito Mussolini and his movement of fascism rose to power in Italy. He became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and focused on the expansion of the Italian military forces. By the late 1930s, he had used his military to invade Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Albania, making Italy a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean area.

The Italo-Ethiopian war was a significant one of Mussolini’s conquests. Ethiopia was one of the few independent countries in the European colonized continent; Italy had tried and failed to acquire it as a colony in the late 19th century. A small border conflict between Ethiopia and the Italian controlled Somalia gave Mussolini the justification for invading Ethiopia. The rationale was that Ethiopia was to be held accountable for the conflict, but the real motive was to gain the resources and boost Italian prestige.

This was exactly what the league of nations wanted to avoid. It denounced Italy’s invasion and tried to impose economic sanctions on Italy, but it was ultimately ineffective due to lack of support. The conquest of Ethiopia angered the british, who had colonized East Africa and worried about maintaining their control, but other major powers had no real reason to interfere with Italy. Supporting the rise of fascism within Europe, this war contributed to the tensions between fascist regimes and western democracies.

Equally important to understanding this political cartoon is the reference to Julius Caesar. The ancient politician and eventual dictator of Rome bears similarities to Mussolini: both were ruthless Italian dictators bent on expanding Italy’s control through military force and who were eventually killed by those who opposed them. Although in the present day we know of Mussolini as a dictator, at the time the cartoon and editorial were published that was up for debate, as he was still accumulating power. By likening him to Caesar, someone historically known as a tyrant, Knott made a strong political statement about the ethics of Mussolini’s conquests. This is further emphasized by the title of the cartoon, “Suggestion for Historical Mural”. Murals are a large, public, accessible artform. Since they reach such a wide audience, they have the capability to sway public perception. By suggesting that this unflattering depiction of Mussolini be a historical mural, Knott is making a statement about the way he wants history to remember Mussolini.

The cartoon shows Mussolini on top of a chariot, crowned with a laurel wreath, while the Ethiopian man is dragged below by the neck, wearing only a bucket. Mussolini’s stature is one of power: he is in possession of technology that allows him to be swifter and stronger, he stands above the other man, and he wears a crown that is symbolic of victory. Meanwhile, the barrel the Ethiopian man wears signifies destitution, and the rope around his neck helplessness. Mussolini and his army reign over Ethiopia with formidable strength, and this is reflected in the positions the people in the cartoon find themselves in.

The editorial accompanying this cartoon is titled “A Hot Time in the Old Town”. This title is drawn from a popular song from the time period of the same name, “A Hot Time in the Old Town” (also referred to sometimes as “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” after a memorable refrain in the chorus) composed by Theodore A. Metz in 1896. This march was popular in the military, associated with the Spanish American war and Theodore Roosevelt’s rough riders. Although the song was created before the 20th century, a popular rendition of it was recorded in 1927 by Bessie Smith, a notable singer of the era. This would have made the song a relevant reference in the 1930s, when the editorial was written. In regards to the article, the “hot time” would be the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, and the “old town” would be a reference to Rome, a city in Italy with an ancient history of conquest, and fits in with the parallels the cartoon draws between Ancient Rome and Italy during the 1930s. The fact that this song was popularized with the military emphasizes the militaristic nature of the conflict in Ethiopia, drawing attention to the fact that Italian armed forces were sent in to occupy Ethiopia.

By equating Mussolini with the tyrant Caesar and showing him subjugating the Ethiopian man, Knott draws attention to the situation between Italy and Ethiopia, as well as making it clear he believes Mussolini is a dictator wrongfully conquering Ethiopia.

Works Cited

“Italo-Ethiopian War.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia.” Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia | History Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Julius Caesar.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

History.com Staff. “Benito Mussolini.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

“WW2: Italy Invades Ethiopia.” Anonymous. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.

Kalinak, Kathryn Marie. How the West Was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford. Berkeley: U of California, 2007. Print.

Knott, John. “Suggestion for Historical Mural” Dallas Morning News 18 Apr. 1936. Print.

Lets cut back on spending by a ‘sprinkle’ percent!

Obama, as an ice cream server, "cutting back" on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.
Obama, as an ice cream server, “cutting back” on government spending by withholding the sprinkles.

In late January, President Barack Obama presents a federal budget proposal that would exceed restricted spending caps mandated by congress four years ago. This proposal includes new capital gains, bank taxes, and a new tax on american companies competing in world markets. The political cartoon was posted on January 2nd, 2015, prior to the announcement on Obama’s budget proposal, titled Bloated Government. It is shown and predicted by the cartoon artist, Steve Breen, that Obama voices his want to cut back on government spending but those are not his actions. Barack’s new proposal could cause the government to become further bloated, untiqued, and unresponsive to taxpayers, and that is exactly what the GOP would like to avoid. The cartoon strongly and correctly predicted that Obama would spend more rather than cut back on government spending, just as was seen previously through FDR’s term in office.

President Barack was never actually known for cutting back on costs. In his plans to cut taxes, extend unemployment benefits, fund job-creating public works projects, and increase defense spending, he added $6.167 trillion to the national debt, which is a fifty-three percent increase, in only six years. So far the national debt is building up like an enormous snowball. Today’s taxpayers and future generations face massive indebtedness, while congressional democrats and current administration(Obama) block every attempt to turn things around.

In Steve Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, there is a rather large, and heavy set man sitting on the left side of the counter, concluded to be the customer. This obese man is labeled “gov’t” to symbolize the nation’s government currently and how bloated it is. On the counter there is a large bowl, uncommonly huge for the size for a regular bowl of ice cream. The bowl is filled with more than eight bananas, dozens of ice cream scoops of assorted flavors, all drizzled in chocolate, foamed over with tons of whipped cream, and a cherry to top it off. Not your average cup of tea, or rather, bowl of ice cream. This bowl happens to be labeled “spending” to symbolize how great the national government’s spending is and common it has become for it to be that much. On the right side of the counter there are two thin men dressed as the ice cream servers. One man symbolizes Barack Obama, having the same characteristics. “You need to cut back so we withheld the sprinkles,” Obama says in the cartoon. All, put Steve Breen is depicting in his illustration that Obama says he wants the government to cut back on spending but in his actions he does not show that. All that government spending might anger, or already is angering taxpayers, republicans, and congress.

Although Barack’s proposal was likely to get prevented from making progress in congressional opposition, he did not give up. The budget is down to pre-financial crisis levels, and the president will seek approval to break through spending caps. This will play out to be more spending and more debt. After hearing the proposal Senate Orrin G. Hatch says, “He is the most liberal, fiscally irresponsible president we’ve had in history. I don’t know why he doesn’t see it. You’re facing a debt crisis not because Americans are taxed too little but because the government spends too much.” Obama’s plans represent roughly seven percent increase in 2016 government spending. To his credibility, Obama basically inherited a terrible financial crisis that was the worst that our economy has sustained since The Great Depression. Looking in the past, because of his policies the economy has come roaring back.

The resemblance is existent between President Obama term and FDR’s, just as the likeness of Steve Breen’s political cartoon and John Knott’s. Knott’s cartoon, Nice Work!, portrays the Director of the Bureau of Budgetary, Lewis Douglas, as a hard working man trying to cut down the national budget. In Breen’s cartoon, Bloated Government, Obama is seen “trying” to cut back on government spending. During FDR’s term in office, Lewis Douglas worked hard to cut down the national budget so that the government would not spend as much and taxpayers would remain contempt. FDR went along with Douglas’ plans until he showed his true colors and downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. Likewise with Obama, he himself voiced that he needed to cut back on government spending. Not only did he go over the projected budget, but his proposal requests to spend even more. Unlike FDR, Obama worked with congress in order to help the economy. Congress on October 21st, 2015, moved a step closer to clearing a bipartisan budget deal that would boost spending for domestic and defense programs over two years while suspending the debt limit into 2017. The agreement would essentially end the ongoing budget battles between congressional republicans and President Obama by pushing the next round of fiscal decision making past the 2016 election when there will be a new congress and White House occupant. Obama and FDR have both set up the national budget situation for the president to come and take over. The next president will then also have political cartoons to be depicted in during their term.

 

Works Cited

Snell, Kelsey. “House Passes Budget Deal; Senate Expected to Act Soon.”The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mufson, Steven, and Juliet Eilperin. “Obama Budget Proposal Would Boost Spending beyond ‘Sequestration’ Caps.” The Washington Post 29 Jan. 2015, Business sec. Fred Ryan. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Mervis, Jeffrey. “Budget for 2016 Accentuates the Practical.” Science Mag 6 Feb. 2015: 599-601. Print.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Amadeo, Kimberly. “Which President Added Most to the U.S. Debt?”About.com News & Issues. Neil Vogel, 14 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Crew, Clyde. “Obama’s 2016 Federal Budget And Middle Class Economics.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Breen, Steve. San Diego Union-Tribune 2 Jan. 2015: n. pag. Print.

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

Urgent Letter to Santa Claus

John Knott, "Urgent Letter to Santa Claus"  A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit "or else".
John Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”
A personified globe is writing a letter to Santa Claus requesting to receive credit “or else”.

“Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”

December 21, 1931

John Knott

Following World War I, Germany was asked to pay reparations to Britain and France; however, Germany was reluctant given the staggering sum requested and the inevitable financial distress associated with paying such reparations.  Germany’s reparation bill seemed so incredibly outrageous that it was almost impossible for the struggling country to pay for the large sum (Schuker, 542) . A 1931 Los Angeles Times article supported the notion that, “Germany [would] simply not pay, [because] no party and no government…willing to agree to payment [could] possibly stay in power” (“Germany and Reparation”, 4).   At the same time they also accumulated a large amount of international debt.  Consequently, the public lost faith in the German currency, and hyperinflation took over the country.  In 1931 the German government battled high unemployment, plunging farm income, and political unrest as economic depression enveloped the country.  To combat the deflated currency and economic distress, Germany continued to borrow capital and placed a massive strain on its banks.  The German debt spiraled to an unsustainable level while debtors became increasingly concerned about recovering their capital.  It was important to note that forty percent of those debts were owed to Americans (Fearon, 510) .  By the summer of 1931, the banking system of Germany began losing when “Germany introduced exchange controls and froze foreign-owned credits, [which made] it impossible for US citizens to withdraw their capital (Fearon, 510). Similarly, that consequential loss of economic confidence could also be traced back to modern economic dilemmas, such as the 2008 Credit Crisis (Stewart).  Those measures set the stage for heated foreign relations and an international credit crisis, because most countries were occupied with their own domestic economic difficulties in the midst of The Great Depression.

The 1933 editorial in The Dallas Morning News, “Panic or Prosperity,” underscored the bleak economic outlook for the world and emphasized the necessity for international cooperation to resolve the crisis.  “Panic or Prosperity” explicitly highlighted a suggestion for an international conference on debt as recommended by Great Britain, “in order to restore confidence and credit relations among the states of the world” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2).  The editorial also articulated concerns regarding restrictions on the war debt revisions due to the Hoover Moratorium. The Hoover Moratorium was a proposal by President Herbert Hoover to postpone all intergovernmental debt payments and reparations, excluding governmental obligations held by the general public (Fearon, 511).  The moratorium was an attempt to alleviate some of the financial turmoil and depression that plagued Germany due to their massive debt after World War I (Robinson, 456).

“Panic or Prosperity” claimed that the ratification of the moratorium would hinder war debt revision as well as the global discussion required for effectively combating the German credit crisis. The article supported its plea for international collaboration by referencing the thoughts of world-renowned economist, Sir George Paish of England, who predicted, “a speedy breakdown in world credit [would occur] unless an international conference is held” (“Panic or Prosperity”, 2). Moreover, there was concern that the strong financial interdependence between nations would serve as a catalyst for global economic decline. Reliance on the stability of other foreign nations directly impacted the economic condition of the United States. Such economic dependence rendered the U.S. more vulnerable to the Great Depression due to international instability and the inability to withdraw U.S. capital from Germany. Accordingly, Germany left other nations susceptible to poverty, unemployment, and overall economic instability. The editorial concluded that passing the moratorium and ignoring the need for an international debt conference could have dire consequences. Such actions, therefore, should not be viewed from an isolationist perspective since putting the needs of a single country or political party above the collective need for international collaboration would result in global economic chaos.

An accompanying political cartoon by John F. Knott, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, illustrated personification of the globe writing a letter to Saint Nicolas and demanding the receipt of credit. The sketch alluded to the growing tension amid world powers in 1931 and their impatience with Germany for causing an international credit crisis.

In his cartoon Knott highlighted these grievances against Germany and their freeze on global credit by addressing the problem to Santa Claus. The depiction of Santa Claus, universally known as a giver of gifts during Christmas, was incorporated within the illustration. The cartoon itself was drawn around the time of the holiday, a season that is known to encourage thoughts of generosity and hope. The character of Santa Claus or Saint Nicolas originated from Germany, therefore, it can be assumed that the cartoon was directly addressing Germany.

Worldwide dissatisfaction with the international credit freeze was apparent as the primary figure of the cartoon clearly expressed frustration with the international financial situation. Likewise, Knott’s use of “…or else” sardonically pokes at the destructive financial consequences following Germany’s actions in the summer of 1931 (“Panic or Prosperity, 2).

Furthermore, Knott illustrated the deteriorating nature of the financial condition within the U.S., depicted by broken windows, tattered clothing, and lack of shoes on the character. The use of these details emphasized the poverty and economic collapse that followed the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression era (Mcelvaine, 151).

Upon closer examination of Knott’s work, there was also a juxtaposition of the scribe with a lower body which resembled a young boy, while his hands were seemingly aged.  The depiction of the adult hands stressed the seriousness of the message and the threat of “or else”—i.e., the dire consequences of the credit crisis.  The kid-like aspects of the cartoon suggested a needy world looking, as children do, towards Santa to deliver wishes.  Through this contrast, Knott implied that even though the world powers were delivering a serious message to Germany, their requests could come across as foolishly desperate.

The congressional vote on the Hoover Moratorium was set to occur within days of the cartoon’s publication.  Accordingly, even the title, “Urgent letter to Santa Claus”, conveyed the pressing nature of the topic. As a final attempt to alter the impending ratification of the Hoover Moratorium, the cartoon directly addressed the readers of The Dallas Morning News as well as Congress to carefully consider the consequences of passing the bill.

John Knott’s, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the plummeting financial circumstances of countries directly involved with the debt that Germany owed. Knott acknowledged the frustration with Germany and the poverty and instability caused directly by their actions. As a way of combating the destruction created by Germany, Knott drew attention to the matter to fight for future economic restoration.

Both the editorial “Panic or Prosperity” and John Knott’s cartoon, “Urgent Letter to Santa Claus”, directly addressed the need to reconsider the consequences of passing the Hoover Moratorium.  Knott’s cartoon placed the blame for the declining international economies on Germany and suggested that the primary solution to the problem was to coerce Germany to unfreeze repayment of foreign credit. Meanwhile, “Panic or Prosperity” highlighted that the true means of repairing the economic destruction would occur solely through international cooperation rather than isolationist actions. Differences aside, the two sources agreed that immediate action was required to restore the deteriorating financial situation and prevent further damage to the world economy.

Works Cited

“Panic or Prosperity.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed.,  sec. 2: 2. Print. <http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/HistArchive?d_viewref=doc&p_docnum=-1&p_nbid=U50X50WDMTQ0OTk1NjYwOC44ODgyODQ6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&f_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D221569F70FFE@0&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D22155F61DF68@2426697-104D22159BA346A4@9-104D2217C3412E7A>

Knott, John F. “Urgent Letter to Santa.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 21 Dec. 1931, 82nd ed., sec. 2: 2. Print.

Robinson, W. A. “Moratorium, Hoover.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I.  Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 456. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

Schuker, Stephen A. “World War I War Debts.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 8. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 542-543. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 23 Oct. 2015.

“War Reparations.” World History Encyclopedia. Ed. Alfred J. Andrea and Carolyn Neel. Vol. 18: Era 8: Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-  CLIO, 2011. 439-441. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

FEARON, PETER. “International Impact of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 510-516.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

MCELVAINE, ROBERT S. “Causes of the Great Depression.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 151-156.Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

“GERMANY AND REPARATIONS.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File): 1. Jan 12 1932. ProQuest. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Stewart, Heather. “We Are In The Worst Financial Crisis Since Depression, Says IMF.”  Editorial. The Guardian. N.p., 9 Apr. 2008. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

The New Member

The New Member

John Francis Knott: May 5th, 1933

This political cartoon depicts the reaction of the public towards President Franklin Roosevelt’s effort to involve foreign powers in the attempt to balance the budget and end the Great Depression. A major factor of budget depletion was the New Deal, a political effort to aid the economy in order to end the Great Depression. Implementation of the New Deal began in 1933, during President Roosevelt’s first three terms. The New Deal consisted of programs whose goals concentrated on relief from economic depression. For example, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) was formed in order to create jobs for the unemployed and the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) worked to helped farmers.

However, some of the public doubted the New Deal due to a fear that the government was spending more money than they could gain, therefore causing the nation to plummet further into debt. This idea is supported in ‘Balancing the Budget’, the editorial that is partnered with this particular political cartoon. In this editorial, the unnamed author also suggested that the New Deal and other reform programs might only be beneficial if President Roosevelt could proceed with his threat to “cut off outgo from the Treasury”, thus limiting debt incurred by reform and relief programs. However, in the eyes of the public, this action could give more power to the President, contributing to the popular opinion that the New Deal only increased the power of the federal government, taking the power away from the people.

The most prominent feature of the political cartoon is the individual dressed in traditional Scottish garments, who is the ‘New Member’, or addition to Roosevelt’s cabinet. Upon further research, this individual is revealed to be Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister in 1933. Ramsay MacDonald met President Roosevelt in Washington in order to plan The World Economic Conference of 1933, a summit of the major economic powers in order to discuss methods in which they can deal with the worldwide Great Depression. However, President Roosevelt ended the conference early for an unknown reason, and thus no solution to the Great Depression was found.

This political cartoon conveys the opinion of the public: that Roosevelt had a risky dependence on aid from overseas. Ramsay is depicted to be carrying papers that proclaim, “Billion $ saved in Gov’t Expense”, thus demonstrating the belief of the public that the methods of Ramsay MacDonald aimed to benefit the federal government rather than the American people. The public may also have of been mistrustful of Ramsay MacDonald because he had roots in a Marxist society, which contrasted the capitalism of the American government. Moreover, Ramsay MacDonald was then a part of the minority labour government, which advocated fiscal conservatism, a policy that only threatened to worsen the Great Depression by focusing on saving the government money.

The main objective of this political cartoon focuses on influencing popular opinion, yet humorous intentions may be derived through irony and satire. Irony is primarily represented through the idea that the United States had received their independence from Britain not 150 years prior to this time period, and yet the American government seemed to be reconnecting with the powers that had once been the enemy. This notion contributed to the tensions among the public and the mistrust in Ramsay MacDonald’s meddling in the government. Irony is further represented in modern times, where the New Deal may be regarded as one of the greatest government reforms, yet in 1933, citizens may have been dubious of the outcome of reform programs and distrustful of the government’s intentions. Satire is represented in the traditional Scottish clothing that is worn by Ramsay MacDonald in the political cartoon. The clothing makes the individual seem out of place and distinctive. However, due to the mistrust that was instilled in the minds of Americans during the American Revolution, the distinctiveness of this individual in the cartoon may be represented in a negative, derisive light. Satire is emphasized when it is considered that despite the efforts of the New Deal, the economic crisis was elucidated only during World War II, when defense spending helped the employment rate soar.

 

Citations:

Lichtman, Allan J. “New Deal.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Ed. Robert H. Zieger. Vol. 5: Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1921 to 1945. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 251-257. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“The New Deal and American Society: Overview.” Social History of the United States. Ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Daniel E. Bender. Vol. 4: The 1930s. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. 49-50. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“James Ramsay MacDonald.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 84-85. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

“America’s Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal.” Omeka RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2014.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Invitation to Ramsay MacDonald to Visit and Discuss the World Economic Situation.,” April 6, 1933. Online Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. 02 Dec. 2014.

 

They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying

DOC015
“They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” comments on pre-World War II interactions between Europe and Secretary of the State Cornell Hull.

 

They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying

John Francis Knott — March 1937

Distinguished through his thought-provoking ideas and unique artistic abilities, John Francis Knott was a political cartoonist for the Dallas Morning News who illustrated more than 15,000 cartoons in his 50-year career. His work throughout the early 20th century focused much on presidential campaigns and wars of the time and attracted national and international attention. His cartoon “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying”, published on March 22, 1937 equally centralized around the upcoming World War and America and Europe’s atypical relationship leading up to it.

Characterized by historians as a time of political and economic unrest, the 1930s was turbulent for nations worldwide. Coming out of the midst of the Great Depression, the United States was slowly starting to become financially stable again under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s leadership. Europe on the other hand became plagued with political crisis, with Adolf Hitler making plans to invade parts of Europe and Germany aligning itself with other strong nations, proving that a war was likely imminent. In an attempt to avoid an international feud, the United States, among other nations, called for a peaceful meeting to discuss the issues and try to extinguish tensions. This attempt is essentially what Knott illustrates in his cartoon.

“They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” depicts two characters: a woman holding cannons, muskets, and other miscellaneous weaponry with the word “Europe” on her chest and a man in a car with “Good Neighbor Hull” on it asking the woman if she “want[s] a ride.” The woman in this piece clearly represents the nation of Europe preparing for war with Germany and the Axis Powers. The man is noted to be Cordell Hull, American politician and Secretary of State to Roosevelt who strongly advocated for the meeting between nations. Although the European people were in favor of peace, the men in power were not heeding Hull’s please for compromise. In the background of the illustration are two signs reading “Road to World Peace” and “International Trade” which Hull is gesturing towards as if suggesting this is where he plans to take the woman on the car ride.

The humor behind the illustration is derived from the criticisms of how both American leaders such as Hull and the European nations handled the proposition to meet peacefully. Specifically in the cartoon, Knott ridiculously has Hull offer to give Europe or European leaders a ride to the conference. Equally, signs advertising the benefits of meeting happen to line the road which Hull plans to take. Paradoxically, Knott unrealistically has the European woman carrying heaps of advanced weaponry and warfare machinery through the streets. Overall, the cartoon is Knott’s humorous depiction of Secretary of State Hull’s overt attempt to ask Europe for a meeting to discuss the issues at hand.

In a companion piece published alongside “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” entitled “Advice to Europe” Hull’s relationship and overall influence over European nations is better exemplified. The article touches on Europe’s hesitancy on taking advice from “a young upstart” like the United States, despite America’s wealth and political establishment. Ultimately, Europe considers aggression the only practical solution despite Hull’s or other nation’s appeals to handle the issue in a peaceful manner. The article even goes on to say that even someone with more power and authority than Hull would likely have an extremely difficult time in preventing the altercation from being resolved through violence or force.

Essentially, “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying” by John Francis Knott humorously comments on the Secretary of State Cornell Hull’s proposition to Europe to settle differences in a peaceful meeting to avoid an international war. Although Hull’s proposal failed, Knott permanently etched the idea into history with his cartoon and remarked on the tense and confusing times leading up to the Second World War.

 

Works Cited:

“Cordell Hull.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “They Can’t Put Him in Jail for Trying”. Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 22 March 1937: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 30 Nov. 2014.

Smitha, Frank E. “Crisis and War in Europe, 1937 to 1940.” Crisis and War in Europe, 1937 to 1940. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Woolner, Diane. “Repeating Our Mistakes: The “Roosevelt Recession” and the Danger of Austerity.” Roosevelt Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2014.