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.
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.
Cartoonist John Knott foreshadows the demise of the NRA regarding the opposition from some industries and companies.
The political cartoon, “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott for the Dallas Morning News published October 28th, 1933, portrays a football team huddled together with “NRA” written on the back of their pants. The field goal in the back has a sign that reads, “’Nobody’s goin to tell us how to run our business,’” (Knott 2) and the opposing team is standing in front of the goal in tackling stances with angry looks on their faces. The men huddled in the group are slouched over as if they are defeated and don’t have a strategy to continue while the team in the back look ready to attack and finish the game. Knott’s cartoon demonstrates the opposition between businesses and the NRA, which was established by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 amongst his other New Deal propositions to cure the economy through industrial self-government.
The accompanying editorial, “A Test for the NRA,” provides context for the cartoon regarding Henry Ford and steel companies that oppose the National Recovery Administration. The steel companies wanted to run their own businesses, hence the sign hanging from the field goal, and to not be controlled by the government or by codification that moderated how the businesses ran. There were a select few Ford dealers who had accepted the blue eagle, but there were also others who opposed it, leaving the NRA at a predicament on whether to punish the steel companies or not. There was also a section of the National Industrial Recovery Act, a law passed by Franklin D. Roosevelt to authorize him to regulate production, that stated that companies must recognize work unions, but the steel companies did not recognize the United Mine Workers of America, a labor union. Although the strikers were not recognized, they still refused to go to work despite the President’s demands. Furthermore, the NRA was having difficulties being in charge and keeping industries in check due to the clashing temperaments within the steel companies, which foreshadowed its own demise.
In 1929, the stock market crashed due to a decline in consumer spending and increase in unsold goods during World War I, leading to the Great Depression. When Franklin D. Roosevelt got elected in 1933, he enacted the New Deal in an attempt to hasten recovery from the Depression. The National Industrial Recovery Act was a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal program, and it authorized the President’s right to regulate production. The NIRA attempted to end the Depression through industrial self-government in which industries and businesses would draft codes of fair labor practices, such as set wages, maximum hours, and the right to withhold unions.
Along with the NIRA came the National Recovery Administration, which approved the codes of business. Hugh S. Johnson was in charge of the NRA, but he was not fit for the job due to his submissive character. He was afraid that the Supreme Court would rule out the NRA, so he depended on businesses to voluntarily cooperate with the codification and establish set wages and hours within their workplace. These codes meant change; unfortunately, prosperous companies, such as steel and automobile companies, were not happy with these conditions and refused to comply with them. They had their own successful methods and were not willing to change them as the NRA prompted to do so. Because the Depression was affecting the nation atrociously, production and jobs were necessary to keep the people alive, and the NRA allowed businesses to uphold restrictive policies that hindered the road to recovery. The NRA soon created a voluntary blanket code, in which set wages and hours were provided for businesses to expedite codification. Those who agreed to the blanket code were given a placard with a Blue Eagle, the symbol of the NRA, with the words “We Do Our Part,” that was to be placed on their windows, and consumers were only permitted to give their business to those who adhered to the blanket code.
The irony behind the cartoon lies within the players. Football is known to be in an intense sport in which the players put up a fight no matter the circumstance. However, the players huddled up in the center look worn out and ready to quit due to their inability to think of a “game plan” or solution. The “NRA” players aren’t living up to their expectations as football players; instead, they look like they do not belong in the game. Knott presents the NRA this way to portray the NRA’s weakness and inefficiency and to foreshadow the loss they were about to experience. The NRA’s downfall began when Johnson became erratic and caused various conflicts with government officials and businessmen. Code compliance became a problem, and the NRA let bigger industries get away with code violations. The NRA became so unpopular that it was compared to fascism and was also called “No Recovery Allowed.” The ideas held by the NRA were naïve in that they believed society would look past their interests to work together and better the nation. Due to this, the Supreme Court shut down the NRA and declared that the NIRA was an unconstitutional assignment of power to the president.
“What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” by John Knott reflects the conflict between the NRA and steel companies during the 1930’s. Steel companies were independently successful and did not want interference from administrations that were forcing new workplace conditions down their throat. However, not all steel companies were unanimous in their decision to adhere to or decline the blanket code, stressing the NRA as depicted in the editorial. The NRA was unsure of what they’d do, for they feared hurting the business of those who adhered to the blanket code. Because of the NRA’s inability to resolve conflict and take charge, the “NRA” team depicted in the cartoon is slumped over and defeated just as they were in reality.
Knott, John. “What’s the Next Play Going to Be?” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec. 11: 2. Print
“A Test for NRA.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 28 Oct. 1933, sec 11:2. Print.
OHL, JOHN KENNEDY. “National Recovery Administration (NRA).” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, edited by Robert S. McElvaine, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 683-688. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Accessed 28 Nov. 2016.
John Francis Knott’s political cartoon titled, “Look!” published on Wednesday, March 31st, 1937, depicts eight anthropomorphized scrolls outside of a building labeled “Supreme Court”. All eight scrolls are seen outside this building, however, three are walking out of the building with a smile on their faces and a big “OK” stamped on their sides, whereas the other five, battered and bruised, incredulously peer up from the side of the stairs. Each of these scrolls, made to look like people, are labeled. Among the injured scrolls, the words “NRA”, “AAA”, and “Guffey Act”, with the others reading: “RR. Labor Act”, “Frazier-Lemke Act”, and “Minimum Wage Law” (Knott 2). In his political cartoon, John Knott is depicting some of FDR’s New Deal acts and administrations that were ruled unconstitutional in contrast to others that were upheld. The cartoon also illustrates the power struggle between Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the United States Supreme Court regarding the implementation of the New Deal. The cartoon indexes to the dynamic between the Supreme Court, FDR, and his attempts at court-packing by increasing the number of justices in the Supreme Court that would sway the balance of opinion (“Court Packing Plan”).
The accompanying editorial, “The Court Decides,” provides background information and context for the cartoon in regards to the decisions made by the Court the previous Monday, March 29th, 1937. It explains how the Supreme Court had been reviewing cases involving the New Deal and had actually sustained and upheld over 60% of the New Deal legislation, contrary to the popular belief that it had struck down most of the laws and acts of FDR’s national recovery plan. It further describes the American public’s trust in the Court and the Court’s dedication to “interpret the Constitution as it stands” as they “do not have their ears to the ground, they keep their feet on it.” (“The Court Decides” 2).
As a result of the Wall Street stock market crash on October 24th, 1929 and widespread panic that ensued, The Great Depression of the 1930s was an economic breakdown that began in the U.S. and ultimately led to a worldwide economic collapse. It is the most severe depression of the Western world to date. The United States alone suffered a 30 percent decline in real gross domestic product and unemployment rate was at around 20 percent at its highest point. The American public was desperate for work and the American spirit was at an all-time low (Romer and Pells).
Upon becoming the 32nd president of the United States in the midst of the Depression in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt did not hesitate to begin working towards nationwide recovery. The United States was in shambles and needed political and economic reform as most of the nation’s banks came to a close, industrial production plummeted, and as many as 15 million people were unemployed. Roosevelt was burdened with responsibilities as he had been elected president to solve the worst economic problem in the history of the United States (“The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945)”). In his first 100 days in office, known as his great productive opening period, FDR worked with the new democratic congress to enact bills that would begin to stimulate the economy and increase public confidence (Freidel and Sidey). With his New Deal legislation, Roosevelt hoped to put an end to deflation, lighten lower-income group debt, and provide employment to those who had become unemployed as a result of the depression (Dickinson). However, the Supreme Court ultimately stepped in between 1935 and 1936 and struck down eleven pieces of New Deal legislation, explaining that they violated the separation of powers and intruded on states’ reserved powers (“The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945)”).
These decisions made by the Supreme Court are ultimately what John Knott is referring to in his political cartoon. The three pieces of legislation depicted on the side of the steps of the Supreme Court building in the cartoon, battered and bruised, are the NRA (National Recovery Administration), AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Act), and Guffey Act. The National Recovery Administration or NRA, was a government agency established to work to implement codes promoting fair-practices. The NRA was an element of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of June 1933 that was intended to work to eliminate unfair trade practices and reduce unemployment. The agency established codes that affected around 22 million workers across several workforces, but came to an abrupt end in 1935 when the Supreme Court invalidated it when ruling it unconstitutional beginning with a specific provision dealing with petroleum industry regulations, but ultimately coming to the conclusion to invalidate the entire act and administration, stating that the NIRA “unconstitutionally extended the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the states to intrastate commercial transactions-that is, business dealings occurring entirely within the boundaries of a state” (Brand).
The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. A prominent feature of the New Deal alongside the NRA, the AAA aimed to aid the agriculture industry by restoring purchasing powers to farmers, as they had experienced before World War I. The act was “designed to restore parity prices for ‘basic agricultural commodities’—initially defined as wheat, cotton, corn, hogs, rice, tobacco, and milk—by reducing supplies in artificial scarcity. Benefit payments would compensate participating farmers who agreed to curb acreage or kill excess livestock” (Chen). This was made possible through a tax levied on processors of agricultural commodities. This tax increased commodity prices by reducing supplies and enhanced famers’ purchasing power, but faced invalidation as the Court stated that it, like the NRA, intruded on the reserved rights of the states to regulate production. The Court used the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution in their argument as it states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” “Assuming that Congress could not directly compel farmers to reduce acreage or cull livestock” (Chen). However, the AAA was rewritten in 1938 and upheld by the Court in Mulford v. Smith in 1939.
The last of the unconstitutional acts portrayed in the cartoon is The Guffey Act of 1935. Originally named The Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, the Guffey Act was named after its sponsor, Joseph Guffey, a Senator from Pennsylvania, and was passed by congress to regulate and bring stability to the coal industry. The act outlined a minimum price for coal and protected the rights of those who worked for the industry. Additionally, this act worked to established wages and improve working conditions as coal mining had a reputation of being a “sick” industry with frequent worker strikes due to unhealthy and dangerous working conditions. However, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional in 1936 as it interfered with private commerce, similar to the NRA and AAA (O’Neal).
Although many of FDR’s New Deal policies fell under the jurisdiction of the Court and bankers and businessmen turned more and more against his New Deal programs, fearing the way he allowed for deficits in the budget, he was re-elected by a large margin in 1936 (Freidel and Sidey). Because of the problems his New Deal legislation faced in the eyes of the Supreme Court, when re-elected, Roosevelt proposed a new plan to change the Supreme Court. His plan, later known as “Court-Packing” proposed that “for every judge over seventy who did not retire (there were five) the president could appoint an additional justice” (“FDR’s Supreme Court”) Roosevelt claimed the purpose in his proposition to be to expedite the Court’s work, but many believed it was an attempt to place justices that would support his programs. He was met with a heated debate and suffered a loss in credibility in the eyes of the public as they had supported the New Deal, but did not agree with the idea of interfering with the Supreme Court.
Although Roosevelt’s New Deal had suffered a lot by the hands of the Court’s rulings, there were some acts that remained as they were constitutional. The acts Knott decided to include in his cartoon are the R.R. (Railroad/Railway) Labor Act, Frazier-Lemke Act, and the Minimum Wage Law.
The Railway Labor Act (RLA) was a very important piece of labor legislation implemented prior to FDR’s New Deal; however, it was amended in both 1934 and 1936 during President Roosevelt’s first term, and later in 1951 and 1966. The act secured the rights of railway workers and employers in light of numerous strikes that began happening in the late nineteenth century. The1934 amendment to the act addressed concerns of railway workers and unions. Criminal penalties were introduced “in the case of violation of the act’s provisions related to collective bargaining” (McCartin). It allowed for workers to choose their collective bargaining representatives and also created the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB), a board of 34 members that equally represented carriers and unions that corresponded with disputes before they advanced to the National Mediation Board. The amendment of 1936 extended the act to apply to common air carriers of both interstate and foreign commerce as well as transporters of the U.S. mail (McCartin). The decision the Court made on Monday, March 29th, 1937, sought to avoid interstate commerce from being interrupted as a result of strikes and disputes between employers and workers that concerned wages or working conditions on the railroads. It upheld and promoted the practice of collective bargaining in which negotiation could be held between an employer and a labor union as it was a “declaration of public interest and policy”.
The Frazier-Lemke Act, also known as the Farm Bankruptcy Act, was named after its sponsors: North Dakota Senator Lynn Frazier and North Dakota Representative William Lemke. It was passed by congress in 1934 as part of FDR’s First New Deal, its purpose was to restrict banks as they began to repossess farms that faced hardship during the Great Depression. This act allowed the federal courts to lower a farmer’s debt to a level proportional to the existing value of his property. They, under certain conditions, could give these farmers a three year stay of foreclosure in which they did not have to begin debt repayment right away. This law was sustained by the Supreme Court on March 29th, 1937 as it was an amended version that secured creditors’ property rights (Bonner and Eriksson).
The Minimum Wage Law referred to in the editorial explicitly claims that it regarded women. In making this reference, one can conclude that Knott’s political cartoon refers to the Court’s decision on West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish made that previous Monday. The court case involved the West Coast Hotel Company and Elsie Parrish, a maid who worked at the Cascadian Hotel in Wenatchee, Washington. Parrish sued the company due to a discrepancy in her pay and the decision the Court made was in her favor as the Court concluded that the state had an authority to interfere in labor contracts if it “appeared that the parties were not equal in bargaining power or where the failure to intervene would endanger public health” (Goble). The Court argued that in denying a woman a living wage was a danger to their health and community, and subsequently warranted the enactment of a minimum wage law for them.
Look! is a political cartoon by John Knott published in the Dallas Morning News that illustrated the constitutionality of different acts of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. As FDR worked tirelessly to implement legislation for the betterment of the American economic system, he was faced with continual backlash from the Supreme Court in terms of unconstitutionality in regards to some of his acts. Knott’s use of portraying the individual acts as men dressed up as scrolls that have either been approved or kicked ‘to the curb’ can show how the “majority of conservative America” had the “utmost confidence” in the Supreme Court’s ruthlessness and dedication to uphold the constitution as well as the continuing power struggle experienced between the Courts and FDR (“The Court Decides” 2).
Bonner, Jeremy, and Erik McKinley Eriksson. “Frazier-Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 3, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 457. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3401801593&asid=cbc7cb890562d387a1b7746b03d7d431. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.
Brand, Donald R. “National Recovery Administration.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Ed. Robert H. Zieger. Vol. 5: Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1921 to 1945. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 247-251. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Chen, Jim. “Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933).” Major Acts of Congress. Ed. Brian K. Landsberg. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 9-13. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
“Court-Packing Plan.” The Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties in America. Ed. David Schultz and John R. Vile. Vol. 1. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2005. 244-246. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Dickinson, M.J. (1996) ‘Creating the resource gap: Bargaining costs and the First New Deal, 1933–5’, in Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 45–85.
“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. Ed. Robert J. Allison. Vol. 3: American Social and Political Movements, 1900-1945: Pursuit of Progress. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 24-31. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Goble, George W. “West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 445. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3401804515&asid=9a8e9208da11f626b34fcb4d75776ce2. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.
McCartin, Joseph A. “Railway Labor Act.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, edited by Neil Schlager, vol. 2, St. James Press, 2004, pp. 166-171. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
“National Recovery Administration (NRA)”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
O’Neal, Michael J. “Guffey Act.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide. Ed. Neil Schlager. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2004. 407-410. Gale Virtual ReferenceLibrary. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Romer, Christina D. and Pells, Richard H.”Great Depression”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 08 Nov. 2016 <https://www.britannica.com/event/Great-Depression>.
“The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics, vol. 2, 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%7CCX3048400016&asid=591a52c4bb42666249bf026343a3ecd3. Accessed 20 Nov. 2016.
The Campaign is On! is a political cartoon by John Francis Knott displaying the partisan views of New Deal policies as a solution to the Great Depression preceding the 1936 presidential election. It shows Franklin D. Roosevelt, the incumbent president and democratic nominee, holding up a sign with the words “MORE FOOD AND BETTER HOMES”, both promises of his New Deal policies. It also shows two men walking directly beside him, one labeled as a farmer and the other as a city worker. The cartoon then depicts a frustrated-looking elephant, symbolizing the Republican party, wearing a coat with the words “ANTI-NEW DEAL” and holding a sign that asks “WHO’S GOING TO PAY FOR THEM?” (Knott 2) This cartoon suggests that Franklin Roosevelt, farmers, city workers and the Democratic party wish to continue on with the New Deal as the solution for the depression, while it displays the Republican party’s skepticism and disapproval of such a measure.
The editorial “The Roosevelt address”, which the cartoon was paired with, described Roosevelt’s speech at the National Democratic Dinner in 1936. It explained that this particular speech was utilized by Roosevelt to launch his campaign for his second term in office. The writer also asserted how the two main points of his speech left him vulnerable to economic criticism. The first of Roosevelt’s claims being that the national income had increased dramatically during his presidency from 1932 to 1936, which the writer explained did not take into account the devaluation the dollar underwent during his first term in office. Roosevelt’s second claim expressed his disagreement with the Republican ideology that simply lowering manufacturing costs would lead to economic recovery. He believed it instead would result in either the displacement of workers by machinery or a decrease in wages while hours on the clock increased for workers. The writer of the editorial then followed up with citing Henry Ford’s manufacturing model which gave worker’s fair pay scales while still lowering manufacturing and sell cost (“The Roosevelt Address” 2).
In the late 1920s and the 1930s the worst economic depression the nation had ever endured took place. This infamous period is known as the Great Depression. Prior to total economic collapse, the country had already been trending towards a recession, however, a notable start to the depression took place on October 29, 1929 when the stock market crashed (McElvaine 151). This event alone was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, but it did spark a general reluctance of the population to invest in stocks. From 1929 to 1933, the overall “consumption levels declined by 18 percent and investment levels declined by 98 percent.” (Lawson 61) As a result of this, one-quarter of the available labor force was unemployed. The streets began to fill with homeless and breadlines began to grow. It became clearer and clearer that government intervention was required. Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt’s predecessor and a Republican, implemented some measures to combat the economic downturn, although not much was done under his administration. An honest effort by the government to relieve the economic pains of the Great Depression was not put into motion until Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.
During his first term in the White House, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs and agencies, which became known as the New Deal, to combat the damage being done by the Great Depression. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration, the Civil Works Administration, the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration were the first of many programs created under the banner of the New Deal to help control “prices, wages, trading practices, and production.” (Savage 845) The second major wave of New Deal legislation came in the form of the Social Security Act, the Wagner Act, and the Works Progress Administration. These measures aimed to increase consumption and decrease unemployment and also added “new social welfare benefits, such as retirement pensions and unemployment insurance.” (Savage 846) When the 1936 presidential election and the illustration of Knott’s cartoon came about, the country needed to decide whether to continue with such policies and reelect Roosevelt or to abandon the New Deal and bring in a Republican presidential elect.
Before the Great Depression was in full swing, the nation’s agricultural sector began to suffer in the 1920s. World War I had brought a large amount of agricultural growth to the United States. However, following the conclusion of the war, there began to be an overproduction of crops that flooded the market and impeded the farmers’ ability to make a profit (Lawson 62). Many of the country’s farms, particularly the ones at a larger scale, were being held afloat by New Deal policies such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. This measure aimed to limit the production of crops in order to raise prices to profitable levels. This straightforward plan by the Roosevelt Administration, as well as many incentives from the government, may have swayed many farmers of the time to align with the implementation of the New Deal. This is evident in a 1936 election report by the Los Angeles Times titled the “Vote of the Drought States” that shows major agricultural states of the Midwest displaying a majority of party votes for Roosevelt (“Vote of Drought States” 14).
Major cities in the United States, such as Los Angeles, Akron, and Detroit, experienced a rapid growth in population during the 1920s because of the increase in the number of industrial jobs, as well as the retail and service industries. The occurrence of the stock market crash of 1929 and the persistent economic decline that followed proved to be a challenge for the ill-equipped city governments to combat. This resulted in a decrease in the consumption of products which led to a surplus in the goods being produced. In reaction, industry began to cut production and commit massive layoffs of its workers. These now unemployed city workers could no longer afford to pay their mortgages and rents, this is lead to an increase in the presence of homelessness of these major industrial centers (Flanagan 311). This put these people in a position where government aid was a necessity and the Roosevelt administration up until the 1936 election had a demonstrated a willingness to do so. The New Deal policy, the Federal Relief Act, provided monetary aid to state funded unemployment compensation programs. Also the Civilian Conservation Corps provided work for thousands of jobless young men on federal oriented projects, such as reforestation, road building, and flood control (Kennedy 430). Through agencies, such as the National Recovery Administration (NRA), Roosevelt aimed to “secure the agreement of major industries to government-backed codes designed the to stop the downward slide of payrolls, prices, and production.” (Kennedy 431) Those specific measures might have proven to be ineffective because even after their implementation the economy still “remained sickly.” (Kennedy 432) However, these and many other policies displayed to city working voters a clear effort by the Roosevelt administration to provide assistance to a suffering demographic of the United States’ population. This is possibly what coerced many wage earning voters to side with Roosevelt during the 1936 election. This is displayed when an article that was published in the New York Times following the election stated that “the wage-earner votes might easily account for the landslide” Roosevelt victory (Huston E4).
The Republican party during the 1936 presidential election was firmly against the measures implemented by the Roosevelt Administration and as a result were “anti-New Deal”, as Knott’s cartoon suggests. During the Republican Convention of 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio, the party’s platform began with the sentence, “America is in peril” and “focused on the alleged threat of New Deal policies to American Constitutional government.” (“1936 Conventions” 117) Essentially the Republicans wished to place the majority of the burden of unemployment relief back into local and state governments. They also wanted to restrict the federal government from placing production regulations on agriculture and industry, which was done by the National Relief Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. Alfred M. Landon, the Republican candidate, and the Republican party as a whole believed the New Deal had slowed the recovery of the economy by placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of private enterprise and industry (Merz E3).
The Democratic party during the 1936 presidential election was prepared to back Roosevelt and his New Deal policies. The Democratic Party Convention of 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania “was one of the most harmonious in party history.” (“1936 Conventions” 117) The party’s platform “supported the continuation of the extensive federal programs undertaken by the Roosevelt Administration” and expressed a necessary collaboration between federal and state governments to handle the issues brought about by the Great Depression (“1936 Conventions” 118). In an article published by the New York Times it is expressed that Roosevelt wished to divide the cost of relief between the national and state governments. Also Roosevelt expressed that the policies implemented by his administration did not slow down economic recovery, but instead brought “the return of confidence and the advance of business.” (Merz E3)
The Campaign is On! by John Francis Knott provides the viewer with a snapshot of various points of views on New Deal policies leading into the 1936 presidential election. Farmers at the time experienced a substantial loss in profit as a result of crop overproduction and the Great Depression. This group tended to side with Roosevelt and his New Deal policies for regulation and guaranteed profit. City workers began to struggle as a result of massive layoffs that took place in response to a rise in the surplus of goods. Wage-earners sided with the Roosevelt because of the measures taken in the form of industrial regulations and social projects implemented by his administration. Republicans at the time called for the abandonment of the New Deal, believing that it violated the United States’ Constitution and slowed down economic recovery. On the other hand, the Democrats and Roosevelt vouched for the continuation of the New Deal arguing that it had led to apparent improvements in the economy during his first term as president.
Flanagan, Richard. “Great Depression and Cities.” Encyclopedia of American Urban History. Ed. David Goldfield. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2007. 311-313. Print.
Huston, Luther A. “Labor and Farm Groups Big Factors in Voting: Credit for Outcome Shared by Small Cities and Large, Negroes and Whites, New Voters and Old.” New York Times, 8 Nov. 1936, p. E4.
Kennedy, David M. “Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Presidents: A Reference History. Ed. Henry F. Graff. 3rd ed. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 427-443. Print.
Lawson, Russel M. and Benjamin A. Lawson. “Great Depression.” Poverty in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Ct: Greenwood Press, 2008. 61-65. Print.
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. Print.
Merz, Charles. “Issues the Campaign Has Brought to the Fore: With President Roosevelt Himself as the Chief Issue, These are Also Vital.” New York Times, 1 Nov. 1936, p. E3.
Savage, Sean J. “Roosevelt, Franklin D.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference, 2004. 838-849. Print.
“Vote of Drought States.” Los Angeles Times, 9 Aug. 1936, p. 14.
“1936 Conventions.” National Party Conventions 1831-2008. Washington DC: CQ Press, 2010. 116-118. Print.
The political cartoon, “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More,” was created by John Francis Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1933. It depicts the cotton planters of the United States with regards to the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the economic aspects that accompanied it. The cartoon reveals the economic issues faced by the United States and the twenty million cotton planters depicted in the image. Knott’s cartoon highlights the negative effects that the U.S. government and its New Deal policies – such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Commodity Credit Corporation – had on cotton planters nationwide. These negative effects included the acreage reduction’s failure to raise crop prices, the tenant farming system’s lack of productivity, the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931, and the overall economic incongruities which were created.
The Great Depression spanned from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. While the depression was most known for its negative effects on American society and the crash of the stock market, it was also associated with the sharp decline of profitable cotton prices; this was devastating due to the increased agriculture during that time period. Therefore, it was important for farmers and cotton planters to get back into business. In 1933, the U.S. government created a program that financially helped farmers for lowering cotton acreage, which reduced supply and thus created higher prices. The program, known as the New Deal, brought about interesting changes to the agricultural aspect of the nation – it constituted the Agricultural Adjustment Administration which called for a forty percent cotton acreage reduction and the Commodity Credit Corporation which provided a ten cent loan for each pound of cotton as long as planters promised to reduce its acreage in the following year (Golay 204).
“Can’t You Spare a Nickel More” depicts stress on the cotton planter’s face as well as Uncle Sam’s (Knott 2). These difficult times created a bleak outlook for the nation along with its twenty million cotton planters. Even after the Agricultural Adjustment Administration enforced an acreage reduction on cotton, thirteen million bales remained to sustain the world demand for the rest of the year. This countered the goal of raising the price of crops. In addition to this issue, the tenant farming system – a system in which tenant farmers contributed their own land and labor for capital –resulted in wastefulness and inefficiency. It caused trouble for the South’s traditional cash crop and created conflicts between planters and tenants due to its many internal economic problems (Hawkins).
The accompanying article, “The Price of Cotton,” explains the cartoon’s exchange of ten cents profoundly; it questions the unfairness of lending of ten cents per pound of cotton rather than fifteen cents and explicitly states that the discrepancy is inadequate (“The Price of Cotton”). The Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 further emphasized the strains placed upon cotton farmers by requiring that the amount of cotton planted in 1932 and 1933 could not surpass thirty percent of that of the preceding year (Jasinski). The synthesis of these two sources develops the notion that the combination of reduced cotton acreage and lowered payment to cotton farmers only created an increasing lack of sustenance as well as an overall miserable lifestyle.
The humor in this cartoon is evident in the distinct contrast between the two parties depicted and their relation to the underlying meaning of the image. Despite the fact that the wealthier man is not explicitly labeled as Uncle Sam, it can be inferred based on the combination of the cartoon, the article, and knowledge of American popular culture. While the man representing the twenty million cotton planters of the U.S. is illustrated in tattered clothing with a grim expression, the man who appears to be Uncle Sam handing him the ten cent loan looks stern yet well dressed which emphasizes the economic gap as well as the issues which were created by the loans and cotton reduction (Knott 2). The prominent issue that Knott’s cartoon focuses on is the unfair loans given to the cotton planters by the government. The cartoon focuses attention on the twenty million cotton planters receiving a ten cent loan which insinuates that the planters are not receiving sufficient funds for their duties, thus creating a cycle of internal and external economic incongruities.
(1) “The Price of Cotton.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.
(2) Golay, Michael. America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal. New York: Free, 2013. Print.
(3) Hawkins, Van. “Cotton Industry.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
(4) Jasinski, Laurie E. “Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931-32.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
(5) Knott, John. “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.
(6) Novak, James L., James W. Pease, and Larry D. Sanders. Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.
The United States’ economy took a hard strike in 1929. Since that devastating moment in history and throughout the time frame of economic struggle, the active presidents did what they could, in their opinion, to help the economy from self destructing. The Dallas Morning News’ November 25, 1933 editorial visits one of the methods used to succor the nation in times of hardship. In addition, John Knott’s political cartoon accompanies the editorial depicting Lewis Douglas, the director of the Bureau of Budget and Planning during Fredrick D. Roosevelt’s term in office, trying to cut down the national budget to save the economy. The Bureau of Budget and Planning director primarily inspects government activities, coordinate fiscal estimates, and generally control expenditures. The editorial and political cartoon render an illustration of the vigorous attempt to rescue the United States from its state of penury.
On October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, the United States fell into the worst economic period of the twentieth century when the American stock market crashed. Due to the Great Depression, banks failed, the nation’s money supply diminished, companies went bankrupt causing them to fire their workers in flocks. President Herbert Hoover urged patience and self reliance and claimed that it was not the government’s job to try and resolve the issue. Thus, 1932 was the blackest year of the Great Depression with one-fourth of the work force unemployed. Once Franklin D. Roosevelt became the nation’s thirty-second president, he acted swiftly to try and stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief to those suffering. As it turns out, Roosevelt actually created more problems for the government in his attempt to help and by creating the New Deal. Although, not in the beginning. At first, when Lewis Douglas was chosen as the Director of the Bureau of Budget, the nation was contempt with his plans. Douglas was an advocate of balanced budgets and limited government expenditures.
The $2,600,000,000 Budget editorial that is paired with the cartoon voices Lewis Douglas’ plan for the nation. He set a goal of two billion six hundred million dollars for normal annual expenditure by the government. This plan cuts off twenty-five percent in the figure for the fiscal year. The article also mentions how the budget director would have to deal with Congress. Since Douglas’ budget was undoubtedly astray from the normal budget, congress decided to proceed with caution as far as permitting this plan. In contrast, the article articulates that the nation’s taxpayers would love Douglas, for the budget required drastic reductions in pension programs and also economy in all offices. The budget director would not be popular in Washington, but would be worshipped by the tax-bearing citizens.
The political cartoon, Nice Work! by John Knott, a rather rugged man is shown chopping off a portion of a tree log, while another more comfortable looking man is shown sitting on the opposite end of the log. The tree log laid out on the ground is labeled ‘National Budget’ and is already partially cut through. The man holding the ax in the air getting ready to continue chopping the log is Lewis Douglas. His arm is labeled ‘Douglas’ and he is not wearing a coat and has his sleeves rolled up. Douglas is illustrated with a sweaty, frustrated, yet determined face. This portrays how Douglas was hard at work to cut down the national budget. The taxpayer sitting on the end of the log has his hand up and his mouth open as if he is alarmed by what Douglas is doing. Although the taxpayer is not showing any sign of stopping him. Taxpayers are alarmed by this proclamation that the director of budgetary is suggesting because the nation has never seen this done and they are not sure if this will necessarily help their current economy’s issues. The cartoon is ironic since the taxpayer should actually be cheering Douglas on for cutting down their taxes, rather than what Roosevelt has in store for them. The government is the one who should be worrying about this new plan when their salary will be cut down just like the tree log.
In the long run, Lewis Douglas was only awarded with a short term in the spotlight. Roosevelt later downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. A month after signing the Economy Act on March 20, 1933 to fulfill Douglas’s expectations, Roosevelt restricted gold imports, signaling his turn toward inflationary measures. Given Roosevelt’s new change in direction for the economy, the government needed more funding than what was available so they increased taxes. The monetary extraction from hardworking America prolonged the depression. Lewis Douglas resigned which magnified the increasing divergence between what Frederick D. Roosevelt had promised during a 1932 presidential campaign and what played out to be even more problems for the economy.
Dickinson, Matthew J. “The BoB and Other Institutional Staff Agencies.”Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 59-62. Print.
Hazlitt, Henry. “Lewis Douglas Dissects The New Deal: The Former Director of the Budget Thinks We Are Heading Toward Collectivism.”The New York Times 28 July 1935, The Liberal Tradition sec.: BR4. Print.
Patton, Mike. “A Brief History Of The Individual And Corporate Income Tax.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
Economic turmoil created heavy doubt in civil servants in 1930’s Dallas. Political scandals didn’t help the federal government’s case when trying to win over the good hearted people of Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Morning News’ 1933 editorial “Civil Service Needed” is an outcry against the job buying problem in political machines. Knott’s political cartoon, “Caveat Emptor,” perfectly captures political bosses ripping off Congressmen in a back alley deal. Knott’s humorous insight and the Dallas Morning News sheds light on corruption at the federal level.There are many factors that prelude to the punchline in Knott’s cartoon. Political machines created problems long before 1933, such as the Tweed Ring of the late 19th century (Kennedy 473). Progressive legislation from the Theodore Roosevelt Administration simmered down political machines (Jackson); however, with FDR’s New Deals creating about three million empty jobs at the state and local levels (Kelber), the system began to pick up some more momentum. Traditionally with this form of corruption, people at the lower rung of the machine would give funds and votes to a certain candidate. A newly elected and corrupted official would then rig legislation to give jobs and contracts to contributors to his campaign, cutting out the poor souls who believed in hard work over money. Now with such a large increase in government owned jobs in Depression era America, who was to determine the allocations of these jobs? Enter newly surcharged political machines, ready to give out jobs to the highest bidder.
The good folks of Dallas, Texas weren’t so keen on government handouts made by the political machines. An November 3rd 1933 editorial in the Dallas Morning News titled, “Civil Service Needed” strongly urges, “the wider need of civil service in state employment” The editorial serves as a response to new revelations of campaign solicitation within the Treasury Department (Dallas Morning News 18), which slides perfectly into the definition of political machines. According to the Editorial, corruption can’t be eliminated until change has been brought at the highest level, a burning need for legislation that penalizes political machines higher and higher. It’s also pretty safe to say the, “evil revelation” of job buying is also shared by the mass majority of Americans, a time where nobody found new jobs in a broken economy.
Knott’s cartoon repeats this message against job solicitation, but allows the audience to laugh at the powerful individuals involved. The young man with his hand in his deep pocket portrays congress. His happy-go-lucky face clearly describes he has no idea what is going on. His counterpart to his left has a better idea of a bigger picture. The cigar, large gut, and authoritative demeanor of the man to the left makes him literally large-and-in-charge in the transaction. Cigar man can easily be related to the political bosses who ran the machines, holding a parchment titled state jobs. He’s not the only boss, the next guy behind him is expecting the same treatment and handout from congress on the right. The fence in the background makes the action in the foreground very wrong, like some back alley drug deal. So clearly Knott is saying political machines are shady, and this process is happening again and again. What’s humorous comes from the relationship between the two parties. In a political machine, the representative is meant to be seen as the guy in charge, as he is the one giving the jobs to the highest bidder. Though the other guys look more aware of what’s going on, after all, “the job buyer is no less guilty of political corruption than the job seller” (Dallas Morning News 18). Very much akin to the image of the communist spy in the war room in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; two parties who think they have the upper hand, but in the end are still the loser.Knott flips that around because the bosses are ripping off the corrupt congress, instead of politicians apparently selling to the highest bidder.
Can there be any benefits to job distribution? Or does Knott’s cartoon serve as the ultimate warning to corrupt politicians? The cartoon title, “Caveat Emptor” translates from Latin to “Let the buyer’s beware” Although, the machines weren’t so wary against they’re actions, they believed corruption was in the right. The political machines did manage to benefit those who were a part of it, and they were the only way to, “ultimately provide stable and reliable government,” in an already corrupt system (Ehrenhalt). Take Mayor Daley’s Chicago in the 1950s, where his political machine built many jobs in and around the city (Ehrenhalt). So to some Americans, and I guess some politicians, in order to move forward as a nation, jobs must be bought, and loyalty must be seized, and men must appear with big guts and cigars behind fences. There are definitely men such as Mayor Daley who oppose Knott’s opinions, saying he’s just Knott funny. According to machine supporters, if you corrupt an already corrupt system, then two wrongs can make a right.
Political Machines bought and sold jobs like hot commodities during the Great Depression. The desperate American people and general apathetic feelings toward government allowed corruption to spread. Nevertheless, the people at the Dallas Morning News weren’t afraid to show their true colors. Knott’s cartoon made politicians look like the fools that they are, creating humor in an otherwise dark subject. The impact of the article at the time may have been small, but in today’s world of information, the archives help show how Americans thought in 1930s Texas. Knott was a forefather in political satire, a sign of not only more mistakes made by politicians, but great satirists such as Stanley Kubrick. Both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon make America’s voice heard in an otherwise silenced nation, crying against any form of political corruption, and making fun of those who do.
Ehrenhalt, Alan. “Why Political Machines Were Good for Government.” Why Political Machines Were Good for Government. Governing, July 2015. Web. 03 Nov. 2015. <http://www.governing.com/columns/assessments/gov-political-machines-positives.html>.
Kelber, Harry. “How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression.” How the New Deal Created Millions of Jobs To Lift the American People from Depression. The Labor Educator, 9 May 2008. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://www.laboreducator.org/newdeal2.htm>.
Jackson, Bill. “Political Machines.” Political Machines. The Social Studies Help Center, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.
Kennedy, Robert C. “Nast, Thomas (1840–1902).” Encyclopedia of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Ed. John D. Buenker and Joseph Buenker. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2013. 473-474. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
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.
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.
The political cartoon Too Far Apart offers a comedic yet eye-opening perspective on the imbalanced distribution of healthcare during the Great Depression. The Great Depression devastated the middle class, further excluded the lower class, and ruined the lives of several members of the upper class. Many Americans lost their jobs, and droughts across the country caused many farmers to lose their major source of income. This drastic spike in the poverty rate led to a significant decrease in the quality of healthcare received by the public. Furthermore, many impoverished citizens were unable to consistently eat and this made them more susceptible to the various illnesses that were prevalent during the 1930s. Many children suffered from rickets (a disorder that stems from a lack of Vitamin D, phosphate, or calcium) and since there were many areas that didn’t have running water, a large number of people became ill from the constant spread of germs. Physicians often found themselves unable to handle the sudden influx of unemployed and underprivileged patients, and this eventually created a gap in the quality of healthcare Americans received.
The article that complements this cartoon, titled ”The Medical Problem”, aims to provide insight on the medical issue from the perspective of the many physicians that were working during the Great Depression. The article claims that much like the majority of citizens, many doctors were negatively affected during the Great Depression. Countless physicians were being overworked and did not receive any compensation for their efforts. Additionally, many unemployed Americans that were unable to afford medical care were under the assumption that doctors failed to understand their troubles and doctors eventually began to feel the same way about the American populace. The article also pessimistically analyzes several proposed solutions to the medical problem that was prevalent during the Great Depression. The author repeatedly asserts that doctors and American citizens were “unable to agree” on a way to ensure that Americans received quality healthcare and that doctors were equitably salaried. However, agreement on a solution was not a simple task. The author highlights the complexity of the medical crisis by saying that it was a “many-sided problem” and that “even the soundest medical thinking has difficult cross-currents”.
Too Far Apart, a political cartoon drawn by John F. Knott, accurately illustrates the rift that was created between upper class healthcare and middle class healthcare. According to “Poverty in America: An Encyclopedia”, “public-relief programs enjoyed widespread support” during the Great Depression. For example, many middle-income Americans (income of $150 to $424) heavily relied on the Work Projects Administration (WPA) to supply them with medical care. The WPA did what they could, but they often lacked the proper facilities to treat their “3.5 million patients”. However, families that were considered to be financially comfortable (income of $425 and up) were, on average, able to pay for medical care 45.9 percent of the time. Middle-income families were only able to pay for medical care 18.8 percent of the time. This meant that many of these families (31.4 percent) were forced to rely on the free programs that were being offered through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Knott’s cartoon exemplifies this fact by showing an ill and hopeless man lying in a bed with the words “medium income sickness” inscribed on the blanket. The man is looking up towards a rather large building with the words “first class medical care” etched on its side. The fact that the man in the medium income bed is unlikely to ever be able to reach the first class medical building that is not only physically separated from him but also metaphorically separated implies that there was indeed an issue that needed to be resolved and that many unlucky, downtrodden, and sick Americans were suffering due to the lack of a solution.
The humor in this cartoon is particularly subtle. Neither the character nor the environments in this cartoon are drawn in an exaggerated form. Knott undoubtedly choose this realistic style to illustrate the seriousness of the medical problem that affected millions of Americans during the Great Depression. Knott’s goal for this cartoon was not to make people laugh. He instead aimed to inspire thought amongst his viewers. However, this cartoon does contain some humor. Many viewers of this cartoon could probably relate to the man in the bed since millions of Americans were either unemployed or unable to pay for topnotch medical care. Knott takes advantage of the human capacity to empathize with another individual or situation in an effort to further emphasize to his message through humor.
John Knott’s cartoon Too Far Apart accurately captures the despondent attitude many Americans had towards the medical industry during the Great Depression. Many families could not afford decent medical care and they were forced to rely on public-relief programs whenever they became ill. Various solutions were drawn up but because of the disparity between the ideals of doctors and patients, there was never any agreement. These numerous disagreements created a gap between the health care received by the upper class and middle class. As this gap became increasingly apparent, journalists and artists like John Knott yearned to expose this problem and one impactful result of this desire was the political cartoon Too Far Apart.
“Great Depression.” Poverty in America: An Encyclopedia. Russell M. Lawson and Benjamin A. Lawson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. 61-65. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.
The political cartoon “The Dread Contagion” depicts the American community attempting to reach out and offer the Good Neighbor Policy to those in the Eastern hemisphere.
This cartoon was created during the time period of the late 1930’s, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) was president. This was the era of the Great Depression, in which the American economy declined drastically after a crash in the stock market in 1929 with statistics such as a rise in unemployment rates from 8 to 15 million as well as a GDP that had decreased from $103.8 billion to $55.7 billion (Great Depression). During this decade, FDR was elected president in 1933 and began what he called the New Deal, which was “a series of economic measures designed to alleviate the worst effects of the depression, reinvigorate the economy, and restore the confidence to the American people” (New Deal). Through usage of the media, such as radio and television, FDR was able to bring back the confidence in the depressed democratic community who began fearing that institutions such as fascism and communism could possibly be better than their own. One of the biggest policies that branched from the New Deal, was the Good Neighbor Policy.
The Good Neighbor Policy is essentially what it says, the nation being a good neighbor to its neighboring countries. Roosevelt’s ideal was to “dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor—the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others,” in order to better his relationships with the Latin American countries as well as the eastern hemisphere countries (Carlsen). The Good Neighbor policy was not actually thought out during the time that it was declared by FDR, but the importance of the declaration was the underlying desire to promote commercial relations with other nations to save the United States from its ongoing depression (Smith). In order to prove his ideals towards other nations that previously thought the United States to be an oppressive power, FDR began multiple reciprocal trade agreements with the Latin American countries. Alongside this, the Export-import bank began to provide the other countries with credit for importing goods from the United States. In company with the economic acts done in response to the Good Neighbor policy, militaristic actions were also taken in order to fully gain the trust of the foreign countries. With acts such as the Platt Amendment, the United States proved that they would no longer interfere with domestic affairs in other countries. To further prove they would not use their military to engage in domestic affairs, the U.S. government refused to send in troops when the U.S. oil companies were having conflicts with the Mexican oil companies. Instead of attempting to boycott U.S. imports to Mexico completely, the U.S. oil companies were pressed to come to a compromise with the Mexican president to further demonstrate the Good Neighbor policy (Foreign). FDR’s ideal was to lower the overall armaments in the world and slowly end the desire for war between other nations. The policy overall had the greatest impact on the majority of the western hemisphere.
While this policy had a great effect on the western side of the globe, the same could not be said about the eastern side. This cartoon was made only a few years before the beginning of World War II, and plenty of tensions were flaring up between nations. According to the article associated with this cartoon, Pax Americana, almost all countries can easily tell about how they desire peace while their actions prove the exact opposite. Lines such as “Hitler, with one foot on the Rhine, the other foot on squelched minorities is a man of peace and will sign any treaty to prove it” further implicates that actions towards peace speak louder than words towards peace (Knott). From the implementation of the Good Neighbor policy, the United States has proven themselves to be the nation that is truly pushing towards peace unlike all other nations in the eastern hemisphere. The cartoon shows the eastern hemisphere as it is plagued by the contagious “war fever,” showing the current war-torn state the east is in as well as the fact that war is “contagious” because war can breed more war. The people behind the fence in this cartoon handing out the Good Neighbor Policy towards the eastern hemisphere as a “medicine” in order to cure the eastern nations of their war fever. Essentially, if the eastern hemisphere could implement a policy similar, if not equal to, the Good Neighbor policy and prove their desire for peace with their actions, war could as a whole finally come to an end.
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Knott, John F. “The Dread Contagion.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 2 Apr. 1936: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/02261/cah-02261.html>.
Knott, John F. “Pax Americana.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 2 Apr. 1936, sec. 2: 2. Print.
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