Tag Archives: Texas

A Precedent is Set for Texas Politics

A cartoon figure representing honest, average citizens of the Lone Star State, “Former Governor, Jim “Pa” Ferguson is confronted by Old Man Texas” confronts former governor, Jim “Pa” Ferguson who is, while playing a political shell game of “Political” shells on the lawn of the State Capitol Lawn.
A cartoon figure representing honest, average citizens of the Lone Star State, “Former Governor, Jim “Pa” Ferguson is confronted by Old Man Texas” confronts former governor, Jim “Pa” Ferguson who is, while playing a political shell game of “Political” shells on the lawn of the State Capitol Lawn.

 

 

History is known to repeat itself, and in Texas politics, a pattern of scandals and corruption has been set within its highest office. But when did these unethical, corrupt political practices begin? They can be followed back to one couple that set a precedent for dirty politics in Texas. For two decades, from 1914 to 1932, Jim “Pa” Ferguson and his wife, Mariam “Ma” Ferguson, took control of the Texas Capitol and used the governorship for personal gain, at any cost. As the Fergusons’ role as governor developed, so did the opposition to scandal and “Fergusonism,” becoming major issues in Texas politics for years thereafter.

For Jim “Pa” Ferguson, the mastermind behind countless political schemes and scandals, serving as Texas Governor was his most direct way to gain the political power and recognition he so clearly desired (Stayton). After a successful first term, Ferguson immediately began his second term with an egocentric mindset that led him into troubled waters with Texas officials. After disagreeing with The University of Texas Board of Regents’ choice of president, the former governor abused his powers by vetoing the university’s entire appropriations budget. This bold act of rebellion shocked and angered UT students, professors and government officials. On July 21st, 1917, charges were made that led to the first impeachment of a governor in Texas history (Steen).

For instance, he resigned the day before his impeachment, fully intending to enter the race again and reclaiming his “rightful” spot in the Texas capitol (Steen)  After being defeated for the Democratic nomination, Ferguson was unable to get back on the ballot for governor. Except his pride would not allow for failure to define his career. He made the decision to extend his political power to and through his wife, Mariam “Ma” Ferguson (Huddleston), and had her run on his behalf in the 1924 Gubernatorial race.

Ferguson’s need for control and blatant opposition to his adversaries became even clearer during his wife’s campaign for office. “Ma” Ferguson ran with campaign slogans like “Me for Ma and I ain’t got a durn thing against Pa” and “Two governors for the price of one” (Patrick). These blatant messages showed voters that “Pa” would still be in charge if elected. With outspoken messages against the KKK and Prohibition, “Ma” won the election and started “her” career as the first women governor of Texas, and once again the Fergusons were back in office. Even after receiving a second chance at the governorship, however, the couple continued their pattern of public controversy and corruption within the state capitol.

Despite running on a platform of honesty and reconciliation, Ma’s first two years in office were more contentious than voters had hoped. The couple was prosecuted of cronyism, after granting friends and political supports contracts from the state highway commission (Huddleston). By the late 1920s to early 1930s, public sentiment towards the Fergusons took a turn for the worse (Dallas Morning News). At that point, Texas citizens were tired of the couple’s unethical behavior and their lack of respect for the office. The people’s hope diminished as their weariness grew, because of the notorious greed and fraud that marked the Fergusonian period. In fact, the media, which opposed the couple’s political antics, coined a new term—

“Fergusonism”—in the 1920s to refer to and to underscore “Pa” and “Ma” Ferguson’s corrupt actions (Brown).

For the last time, Mariam decided to run against incumbent Governor Ross Sterling in the 1932 gubernatorial election. In an article entitled, “Sterling Support”, the Dallas Morning News published the article to officially announce its support for the Sterling candidacy and to revoke support for the Fergusons, candidates who had once enjoyed the newspaper’s endorsement. At the time, The Dallas Morning News stated that it was “primarily against the spoils system which Fergusonism represents,” most likely referring to the 1924 state highway commission contract scandal, as well as the many other political transgressions during the two decades the Fergusons held office. The Dallas Morning News’editorial both explained how its opposition to the couple resulted from the “bitter disappointment of the faith put in the Fergusons in 1924” and also asserted, “in complete unison,” the newspaper’s support for Ross Sterling.

The political cartoon, “He Remembers the Old Shell Game” by John Knott, appeared in the same issue of the Dallas Morning News on August 15, 1932. After decades of the Ferguson’s strong grip on political office, Knott depicts “Old Man Texas,” a representative of the everyday, average Texan (Perez), standing up to “Jim” Ferguson and the political games he played while in power at the Texas State House. The politician is playing a “shell game” which is a game “where a person hides a small object underneath one of three nutshells, thimbles, or cups, then shuffles them about on a flat surface while spectators try to guess the final location of the object (YourDictionary)”. The phrase shell game also refers to “any scheme for tricking and cheating people (YourDictionary)”. Within the cartoon, the shells, Labeled, “Ma”, Jim and Gov. Office, represent the control and responsibility that Ferguson had over the Texas people during the “Fergusonian” period. By depicting Ferguson’s political motivations as a shady gambling game, humor is used to show the realization of the Texas people and how they no longer wanted to be under the control of a politician who covertly shifted his responsibility and power for years right before his constituents. Through this cartoon, the artist conveys the fact that public opinion had shifted from trust in, to skepticism about, Ferguson’s leadership.

Ultimately, Knott’s political cartoon depicts the frustration that grew towards former Governor Jim Ferguson and all his tricks to maintain control over Texas politics. After controlling the gubernatorial office for over two decades, the Fergusons set an unfortunate precedent for unethical leadership. As their time in office continued, power was never enough. Always hungry for more, the couple did whatever it took to keep their name relevant and political control in their hands, even if it harmed the voters who gave them their position in the first place. Unfortunately, “Fergusonism” has become a norm in politics today. It is now common for corruption and indictments to make headlines. The Fergusons paved the way for new, boisterous politicians to pander to the public and continue the tradition of dirty Texas politics for years to come.

 

 

Works Cited

 

“”Fergusonism and the Klan”.” “Fergusonism and the Klan”. Accessed March 26, 2018. http://www2.austin.cc.tx.us/lpatrick/his1693/klan.html.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, Joan Jenkins Perez, “Knott, John Francis,” accessed March 26, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkn05.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, Ralph W. Steen, “Ferguson, James Edward,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffe05.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 24, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, “Sterling, Ross Shaw,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fst42.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on July 7, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, Ben H. Procter, “Great Depression,” accessed March 23, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/npg01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on January 31, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, Norman D. Brown, “Texas In the 1920s,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/npt01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Handbook of Texas Online, Richard T. Fleming, “Moody, Daniel James, Jr.,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmo19.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 26, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

 

Knott, John. “He Remembers the Old Shell Game.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

 

Staff. “Sterling Support.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

 

Stayton, Jennifer. “Meet James ‘Pa’ Ferguson, the First Texas Governor to Face an Indictment.” KUT, kut.org/post/meet-james-pa-ferguson-first-texas-governor-face-indictment.

“Shell Game.” One-Dimensional Dictionary Definition | One-Dimensional Defined, www.yourdictionary.com/shell-game.

Rick Perry Carries on Texas’s Unethical Political Traditions

Sustaining damage to his political image, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suffers a black eye after being indicted for abuse of power.
Sustaining damage to his political image, former Texas Governor Rick Perry suffers a black eye after being indicted for abuse of power.

 

In Texas, the government is big, and the ethical dilemmas are even bigger. For decades, the Lone Star State has been home to scandals—i.e., conspiracy, stock fraud, bribery, and other forms of corruption—caused by unscrupulous politicians, including high-ranking ones, whose actions mislead voters and undermine good governance. Recently, one of Texas’s most notable politicians, former Governor Rick Perry, continued this infamous Texas legacy. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times published the article, “Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power,” which examined one of many controversial events that took place during Perry’s time as governor (“Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted”). Perry, who served in office for fourteen years, made headlines for his questionable ethical decisions and corruption, all while consolidating power and exerting a strong influence that continues to resonate in and through state government (“Rick Perry Biography”). Like his infamous 20th century predecessor, Jim Ferguson, as head of the executive branch of state government Perry exercised abuse of power, engaged in cronyism, and maneuvered to extend his political reach beyond his time in office (Nadler and Shulman).

Rick Perry has never been shy about making bold moves to keep a foothold in public office. After two failed runs for the presidency, Perry currently serves as the fourteenth United States Secretary of Energy appointed by President Donald Trump (“Rick Perry”). In 1989, after switching allegiance from the Democratic Party to membership in the Grand Old Party (GOP), Perry became one of Texas’s most controversial Republican figures (“Rick Perry Biography”). His leadership and political promises were overshadowed by the numerous scandals that took place during his time in elected office—i.e., as a member of the Texas House of Representatives (1985-1991); as Commissioner of Agriculture of Texas (1991-1999); as Lieutenant Governor of Texas (1999-2000); and as Governor of Texas (2000-2015) (Texas State Archives). Whenever ethics were in question, Perry did not shy away from conflict and regularly made unorthodox decisions to maintain his image and power for future political endeavors (Barabak).

During his years in state office, Perry was known as a political powerhouse who was not afraid to bend the rules or to govern in sometimes controversial ways. For example, as Governor in 2013 and while saddled with low approval ratings, he engaged in a bitter power struggle with public universities, especially with then University of Texas President, Bill Powers. The challenges arose after Perry met with advocates from the conservative think tank, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). The organization pushed for public research universities in the Lone Star State to be run in a more “business-like” way, following “seven breakthrough solutions” offered by Perry’s friend, donor, and TPPF board member, Jeff Sanderfer (Ramsey).  Some of the most controversial suggested reforms included: “rating professors, based on student assessments; separating teaching and research; and including revenue as one measure of whether a program or class should continue” (Ramsey). In response to the proposed changes, there was immediate resistance from university leaders, but under Perry’s control and in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession, change was inevitable. The Governor’s alma mater, Texas A&M University, did not last long in the resistance, ultimately resulting in University Chancellor Mike McKinney’s replacement by John Sharp (none other than the Governor’s former classmate and fellow yell leader), as per Rick Perry’s request (“John”). As aggressive changes were taking place on A&M’s campus, tensions continued to escalate on Texas’s flagship research campus, The University of Texas at Austin (UT).

These acts of dominance over Texas’s higher education system were a clear overstep by Perry. As a C student himself, he did not have much credibility to make decisions for postsecondary educators. Nevertheless, the Governor used his political authority and power to make changes that appeased voters. Bill Powers, former UT-Austin President, resisted Perry’s “business-like” higher ed reforms, which turned into a contentious public battle between university officials and the Governor (Jensen). Despite objections from Powers and the UT Austin community, Perry succeeded. He appointed Board of Regents and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, who eventually called for Power’s resignation (Jensen).

Even as the public became aware of Perry’s domineering leadership style, he continued to make headlines for certain unprincipled decisions, and these controversies culminated in 2014 when Perry was indicted for abuse of power for his attempt to force Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney (DA) to resign. When she refused, Perry then attempted to unilaterally veto funding for the DA’s Office. More specifically and very controversially, the Governor threatened to defund the statewide public integrity unit (Malewitz, Ramsey).

According to the Perry, he sought Lehmberg’s resignation solely because she was professionally disgraced, after being arrested and pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated. The DA’s Office, on the other hand, understood the Republican Governor to be making a threat that was designed to drive out the DA who was a Democrat. Moreover, given the drastic efforts Perry made, there was speculation that his actions were fueled by his own political agenda, because at the time, the nearly defunded public integrity unit was in the process of investigating “his own party’s mismanagement of state government agencies, including alleged corruption in CPRIT [the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas] (Nueman)”.

On August 14, 2015, a grand jury in Austin, Texas, indicted Rick Perry “on two charges related to his effort last year to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign” (Plohetski). That indictment was eventually overturned, however, by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Two judges’ dissension and another judge’s abstention notwithstanding, the Court dismissed the case after finding Perry’s veto lawful on behalf of his 1st Amendment rights (Malewitz, Ramsey). Immediately thereafter, Perry spoke of how the indictment was “nothing less than a baseless political attack, and an assault on constitutional powers,” that negatively affected his run for U.S. President at the time (Tatum).

With over fourteen years of governorship, Perry had extensive connections and deep political ties that he kept loyal to, even if they did not benefit the greater public good. His participation in the “good ol’ boy network” garnered scrutiny in the public eye. Most notably and as an example, in 2007 Governor Perry issued an executive order requiring all girls entering the sixth-grade to receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.  Only a few hours later, Perry rolled back his decision and claimed, “he was misinformed” and “made a mistake” (Root).  In Perry’s eyes, his mistake may have not been that he made an unethical decision on behalf thousands of Texan’s public health, but that he did not keep his ties to the drug distributor, Merck, more undercover from the public, for his own personal gain. To make things even murkier, Mike Toomey, Perry’s former Chief of Staff, was one of three lobbyists for the company at the time, revealing an obvious act of cronyism that was an embarrassment to the Perry Administration. Still more accusations were made against Perry’s ethics and personal interests after watchdog groups exposed the fact that Merck donated money to Perry’s re-election campaign (Root).

During his extended governorship, Perry’s involvement in cronyism scandals and political favors became a normal practice in the Texas Capitol. In 2013, CPRIT was back in the news, as a criminal investigation was opened after finding out that an eleven billion-dollar grant was given to a Dallas based bio-therapeutic company without proper “scientific or business review” (Drew). Perry later signed a bill to restructure the agency in order to regain confidence and trust during his national run for the presidency.

As more stories were published concerning corruption in the capitol, the public began to grow weary of his administration’s dominance in Texas politics. In 2014, 62% of Texans felt that Perry’s resignation was “long overdue,” and 51% of Americans disapproved of his presidential run as a GOP candidate (Jensen). Even as public opinion dwindled, Perry was not finished with his position just yet. Before he left, he made sure to build a strong foundation for continuing conservative dominance in Texas politics for years to come (“Gov. Rick Perry, Leaving Office”).

During the fourteen years that Perry controlled the Texas executive branch, he established an influence and legacy that is continuing well after his time in office. With over 8,000 appointments made, Perry established deep roots for his own ideology and for conservatism in Texas’s state capitol (McDonald). This record number of appointments will shape policy and establish his power in several different areas throughout the state—i.e., over the University of Texas System Board of Regents, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and in many other positions throughout the state. (McDonald). Even now, as the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, Perry’s influence continues to make an impact on Texas and American politics far beyond his time as governor. By championing energy independence, Perry continues to keep his political agenda a priority, which in turn still points to Texas. Since oil is one of the state’s largest industries, Perry’s political influence still makes an impact back home (Braun).

Rick Perry, the strong Texas political figure that he was, garnered equal parts attention and criticism for his bold behavior and shady politics. Just as Perry did not shy from controversial views, neither did his critics, most notably the late political columnist, Molly Ivins. Born and raised in the Lone Star State, she famously penned the nickname, “Governor Goodhair” to describe to him and wittily highlighted the difference between “Texas Tough and Texas Stupid” (Ivins). Her criticism was welcomed by many Texans and helped create comic relief during Perry’s extended governorship.

Illustrated by William “Bubba” Flint and published by the Dallas Morning News, the political cartoon atop this blog post depicts Rick Perry looking roughed up. He has a black eye, the result of the “Perry Indictment.” On his head is a large-brimmed cowboy hat labeled “Texas Politics.” Deceptively simple, Flint’s cartoon visually represents the rough and tumble of state politics: By “donning the hat”—i.e., engaging in Texas Politics—Rick Perry has taken a beating, and his public image has been battered and bruised by all the scandals and indictments.

Throughout Texas’s political history, Rick Perry is only one of many governors who have endured scandals and implemented questionable policies in their time of governorship. In many ways, Jim “Pa” Ferguson, Texas governor from 1914-1917, was involved in scandals that closely mirrored Perry’s. For instance, Ferguson was the first governor to be indicted and impeached while in office, and like Perry, Ferguson was indicted for overstepping his power and starting political turmoil with University leadership (Steen).

Like today, the Lone Star State’s gubernatorial scandals were captured in political cartoons of the era. For example, in a political cartoon published by the Dallas Morning News in 1932, Ferguson was depicted playing a “shell game”, a gambling game that is meant to confuse and disarm the players (Dallas Morning News). The illustration refers to the numerous scandals and shifting of political responsibility by Ferguson and the resultant mistrust that the Texas public had for him. Due to several acts of cronyism and mishandlings of power on his part, the media coined a new phrase, “Fergusonism,” to describe the corruption and scandalous behavior that characterized his extended time in office (Brown). The Dallas Morning News published an accompanying editorial, titled, “Sterling Support”, to publicly revoke their past support of Ferguson, in direct response to the mishandling and scandals that Fergusonism brought (“Sterling Support”).

In their respective times at the Texas State Capitol, former governors Rick Perry and Jim Ferguson boldly took office and used their power for personal advantage and for the benefit of those in their inner circles. Many of their policies recklessly abandoned ethics and followed in the long line of corrupt politicians who have set a rather low bar as the standard in Texas politics. As it often does, history is repeating itself, and in the 21st century, Texas appears on track to continue its legacy of deep partisanship and dirty politics for years to come.

 

Link to LA Times article ‘Texas Gov. Rick Perry is indicted, accused of abusing his power’

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-na-pn-rick-perry-indictment-texas-20140815-story.html

 

Works Cited

Anderson, Nick, and Houston Chronicle. “Rick Perry’s Return to Spotlight Brings a Return to Editorial Cartoons for ‘Oops’ Moment.” San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio Express-News, 19 Jan. 2017, www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/anderson/article/Rick-Perry-s-return-to-spotlight-brings-a-return-10869459.php#photo-8616106.

Barabak, Mark Z. “Gov. Rick Perry, Leaving Office, Ends an Influential Era in Texas.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2015, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-texas-politics-perry-abbott-20150120-story.html.

Barabak, Mark Z. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry Is Indicted, Accused of Abusing His Power.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2014, www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-na-pn-rick-perry-indictment-texas-20140815-story.html.

Braun, Stephen. “Perry Brings Oil Industry Ties to Energy Department.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 14 Dec. 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/perry-oil-industry-energy-department.

Burnett, John. “Are Texans Tired Of Gov. Rick Perry?” NPR, NPR, 13 Oct. 2010, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130521544.

Burrough, Bryan, and André Carrilho. “Rick Perry Has Three Strikes Against Him.” The Hive, Vanity Fair, 30 Jan. 2015, www.vanityfair.com/news/politics/2012/01/rick-perry-201201.

Flint, William Bubba. “Rick Perry Political Cartoons.” The Dallas Morning News, www.dallasnews.com/local-politics/local-politics/2011/10/06/rick-perry-political-cartoons.

Goodwyn, Wade. “Showdown At The UT Corral.” NPR, NPR, 14 July 2014, www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2014/07/14/330752898/showdown-at-the-ut-corral.

Handbook of Texas Online, Norman D. Brown, “Texas In the 1920s,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/npt01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Handbook of Texas Online, Ralph W. Steen, “Ferguson, James Edward,” accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffe05.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 24, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Ivins, Molly. “Shrub Flubs His Dub.” The Nation, 31 May 2001, www.thenation.com/article/shrub-flubs-his-dub/.

Jensen, Tom. “Header Poll Results.” Public Policy Poling, 29 Jan. 2013, www.publicpolicypolling.com/polls/most-texas-voters-done-with-rick-perry/.

“John Sharp Wins Approval as Texas A&M Chancellor.” Longview News-Journal, 16 Aug. 2011, www.news-journal.com/news/local/john-sharp-wins-approval-as-texas-a-m-chancellor/article_332680e0-6787-5e9d-b174-d953161cad66.html.

Jr., Leonard Pitts, and Tribune Content Agency. “The Dumb Indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.” Statesman Journal, Statesman Journal, 24 Aug. 2014, www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/2014/08/24/dumb-indictment-texas-gov-rick-perry/14522427/.

Knott, John. “He Remembers the Old Shell Game.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

Malewitz, Jim, and Kiah Collier. “Rick Perry’s Energy Legacy Is More Complicated than You Think.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, 13 Dec. 2016, www.texastribune.org/2016/12/13/recap-rick-perrys-texas-energy-legacy/.

Malewitz, Jim, and Ross Ramsey. “Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Dismisses Rick Perry Indictment.” The Texas Tribune, Texas Tribune, 24 Feb. 2016, www.texastribune.org/2016/02/24/texas-high-court-dismisses-rick-perry-indictments/.

McDonald, Christian. “The Rick Perry Legacy: Government Overseers Who Think like He Does.” Mystatesman, American-Statesman Staff, 22 Sept. 2014, www.mystatesman.com/news/the-rick-perry-legacy-government-overseers-who-think-like-does/mbVM77p7aMTVC2OzWqnpNP/.

Plohetski, Tony. “Rick Perry Indicted for Lehmberg Veto Threat.” Statesman, Associated Press, 16 Aug. 2014, www.statesman.com/news/rick-perry-indicted-for-lehmberg-veto-threat/tQ4rPHj7Zx2HOxCECBfMsO/.

Ramsey, Ross. “Tensions Between Rick Perry and U.T.’s Bill Powers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Mar. 2013, www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/tensions-between-rick-perry-and-uts-bill-powers.html?auth=login-smartlock.

Staff, KUT. “Governor Rick Perry Indicted on Two Felony Charges.” KUT 90.5, 15 Aug. 2014, kut.org/post/governor-rick-perry-indicted-two-felony-charges.

Staff. “Sterling Support.” The Dallas Morning News, 18 Aug. 1932.

Tatum, Sophie. “Charges against Rick Perry Dismissed in Abuse of Power Case – CNNPolitics.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Feb. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/02/24/politics/rick-perry-indictment-dropped/index.html

 

IMG_2983

Texas Taxpayers Unite

John Knott was a cartoonist from Austria-Hungary, famous for his work illustrating American political cartoons.  For decades his works were published in the Dallas Morning News (John Knott Wikipedia).  In his 1932 piece, “Arousing the Countryside,” a man is depicted riding horseback, trying to spread the word for a cause he supports.  The man symbolizes the members of the State Taxpayers Association of Texas, an organization against income taxation that only consisted of 600 members (Taxpayers Complain).  The Association’s main goals at the time were to “exempt from taxation homesteads up to a certain assessed valuation” and to shift “the tax burden from… real estate to other forms of wealth through a State income tax (The Taxpayers Meet).”  Though many citizens of Texas favored a removal or lowering of the property tax, the Association struggled in rounding up support for the idea. In his illustration, John Knott used intense patriotism, through powerful imagery and strong wording, to display the State Taxpayers Association of Texas’s disgust for their state government’s spending of the people’s taxes, in order to encourage reform and try to save the worsening economic status of the poor.

The editorial, “Taxpayers Complain,” published in the Dallas Morning News on January 29, 1932, that goes along with the cartoon, seemed to have a bias toward the cause, discussed the Association’s recent rally in Fort Worth, Texas. A day earlier an editorial titled “Drive to Slash Levies Begun By Taxpayers,” went into more detail about the rally in Fort Worth and cited the President of the Association, D.M. Jones, saying that the rally was a success and that thousands of Texas citizens were exposed to the Associations demands. The Association was mostly composed of real estate owners who looked for relief from the heavy real estate tax that existed at the time (Taxpayers Complain).  According to Jones the members of his organization were considered “economic pioneers” of their time (Drive to Slash Levies Begun By Taxpayers). This helped open the minds of people who were willing to sacrifice their time and efforts to step forward and gain momentum for their movement. The State Taxpayers Association of Texas viewed Lone Star State spending as too lavish and not focused on what its citizens needed. Even though the poor tried to vote the burden of their taxes onto the rich, because the rich had all the power at the time, they ended up evading many of the taxation responsibilities they should have born (Taxpayers Complain).  

John Knott implemented many artistic devices into his cartoon to foster awareness among his readers.  He added powerful words like “war, waste, and extravagance” to display how important the issues were to people at the time.  These words serve as an example of soft propaganda that the State Taxpayers Association of Texas used to rally support for their cause.  The words produced emotions in readers, in order rally them to the cause.

In Knott’s cartoon a man is depicted on a strong horse, pointing ahead and shouting.  He represents the members of the Taxpayers Association and their hope for a future with better tax reform.  The Paul Revere-esque image of the man is designed to spark patriotism in the reader. He is depicted riding down the street spreading the word of the organization, similar to Revere’s ride around Boston warning of Britain’s attack at the start of The Revolutionary War.

Knott’s depiction of angry looking citizens further advances the cause of the Association, and demonstrates how they were practically ready to run into battle to support their beliefs.  The cartoon was intended to imbue the readers of the Dallas Morning News with a sense of patriotism by drawing a parallel between the ragtag militia and the Revolutionary War, when the citizens demanded a change.  Knott also added more concerned looking citizens peering down on the scene from a second story window. These people represent the many citizens who were unfairly taxed, but not yet apart of the cause.  The Association is self-described as militant, and were referred to as a powerful front that was not afraid to be vocal about their beliefs.

At the time of the cartoon’s publication, the rich thought that the only way the poor should escape their poverty was through hard work, common sense, and saving.  The poor, on the other hand, looked for relief through tax reform. The State Taxpayers Association of Texas existed to help combat the upper class’s ability to avoid as much taxation as possible (Taxpayers Complain).  The Association believed the correct way to go about this was to get rid of the high real estate taxes, and instead to pay income taxes which would target the rich.

The State Taxpayers Association of Texas was determined to help bridge dramatic differences in income between the rich and the poor that existed in 1932; however, the Association was unsuccessful because of the Great Depression.  Ironically a stronger support for the cause of tax reform could have lessened the effects of the Great Depression.

 

Works Cited

“Drive to Slash Levies Begun By Taxpayers.” Dallas Morning News, 28 January. 1932.  Editorial. Section 1, page 1.

“John F. Knott.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Knott.

Knott, John. “Arousing the Countryside.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News, 29 January. 1932: Section 2, page 2.

“The Taxpayers Meet.” Dallas Morning News, 28 April. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.

“Taxpayers Complain.” Dallas Morning News, 29 January. 1932. Editorial. Section 2, page 2.

 

Can He Sell the Old Man?

Standing outside a barbed wire fence, US Speaker of the House John Garner shows Old Man Texas his plan to divide Texas into five separate states.
Standing outside a barbed wire fence, US Speaker of the House John Garner shows Old Man Texas his plan to divide Texas into five separate states.

Through the history of politics, borders have always been a question up for debate. Man-made political boundaries have been a cause of strife for millennia, and the battles for who gets to draw those lines on maps may likely never end. More recently, borders, representative democracies, and their intrinsic ties to the political process have turned these permeable lines into constitutional weapons. In the 1930s, a debate arose over manipulation of borders—not to change trade or migration or money—but to shift the balance of power in the United States by splitting up the Lone Star State. Then US Speaker of the House, John Nance Garner, attempted to use a nearly 100-year-old law to legally divide Texas into five different states.

House-Speaker John Garner was a Texas-born lawyer who lived from 1868–1967. A Democrat, he served fifteen terms in the United States House of Representatives until 1933, when he was elected Vice-President to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Patenaude). Due to his warm relations with Congress, acquired in his tenure as a legislator, Garner was vital in passing Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms (Patenaude). Before his ascension to the Vice-Presidency, however, Garner proposed some controversial ideas. “Can He Sell the Old Man,” the comic by John Knott, and “Texas One and Indivisible,” the accompanying editorial, both published in The Dallas Morning News in 1932, reference a proposed option by national House Democrats to divide Texas into five separate states. Garner is depicted in the comic holding a map of the Lone Star State and “selling” the plan to “Old Man Texas,” Knott’s “most famous character” embodying the rural Texan’s ideals of honesty in government. (Perez).

Over the years, there have been many attempts to split Texas into multiple states. Of course, none of these plans ever came to fruition. To create a legal justification, all proposed divisions have used the original Texas annexation as signed by the United States in 1845. A compromise between slave-states and free-states, “The Joint-Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States,” declares plainly that Texas may be divided into five individual states (United States Congress) to balance the number of slave and free states as needed. Even when slavery was banned in the United States and the number of free and slave states no longer had implication for the makeup of the Senate, the law remained on the books as a legal justification for dividing Texas.

John Garner’s first attempt to quintisect the state in 1921 was boisterous but unsuccessful as he had no clout. As Speaker of the House, however, Garner’s 1931 attempt to divide Texas had far more momentum. Contemporary sources identify a passionate and frustrated attitude taken on Garner’s part. His stated reason for his proposal was to “transfer the balance of political power from New England to the south” and “restore the prestige” of the southern states (Jacobs). Garner approached the rebalancing of Senate representation as a response to perceived attacks by powerful, regional political hegemons—particularly the North-Eastern United States and their unified interests.

This vengeance for Texas and the South tainted how the public viewed Garner’s ideas. John Knott’s comic exemplifies how Garner’s plan was received. From the outside of a barbed-wire fence, the artist pits the stocky Garner as a solicitor trying to convince “Old-Man Texas” of the Speaker’s grand plan. Garner comes across as smarmy—as if this is a back-alley deal to be cast with Texas joining the Democrats in a big score of federal voting power. “More senators on fewer acres,” he says, pointing to his map of Texas. “Old-Man Texas” appears to be humoring the Speaker, with a nonchalance that reflects an attitude of dismissal. That attitude is further elaborated in the accompanying editorial.

Garner’s goal was to increase Democratic representation in the US Senate (Jacobs). A divided Texas would have five times the amount of control in the Senate, with the majority of the new seats likely going to Garner’s party. Thus, his plan would have created a new regional bloc to compete with the North-Eastern states.  

The editorial, “Texas One and Indivisible,” warned of competing regional interests in the United States—singling out the contemporary example of the East Coast’s homogeneity and how it was used as a voting bloc in the Senate. While Garner would have certainly agreed with a Southern bloc, The Dallas Morning News was not at all supportive of the idea of separating of Texas at all. Adding more regional blocks, it was argued, would only create more “petty states” with “overrepresentation in the Senate” (Dallas Morning News). In addition, the newspaper condemned the expensive construction of four additional legislative buildings and the costly redundancies of tax dollars going to prop-up four more governorships (Dallas Morning News).

The power of borders is unmistakable. Texan history has always had difficulties with the manipulation of how governments draw lines on the map. Legal gerrymandering lives on today in the Texas legislatures and has been a tactic for amassing power for political parties, much like John Garner’s schemes in the twenties and thirties. For example, the recent 2003 State redistricting was rife with protest and court cases. To date, dividing Texas into five states has never been realized, but other measures to remap the political landscape and consolidate political power in the Lone Star State have been successful.

Works Cited

Elliot, Claude. “Division of Texas.” Texas State Historical Association. 12 June 2010. Web.
https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mqd01

Jacobs, Frank. “What’s the Plural of Texas?” Big Think Inc. Web.
http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/537-whats-the-plural-of-texas

“John Knott’s Cartoons Were Front Page Fixture of News” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News. 17 Feb 1963. Print.

Knott, John. “Can He Sell the Old Man?” The Dallas Morning News. 3 Jan 1932, sec. 3: 10. Print.

Patenaude, Lionel V. “Garner, John Nance.” Texas State Historical Association. 15 June, 2010. Web.
https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fga24

Perez, Joan Jenkins. “Knott, John Francis.” Texas State Historical Association. 15 June 2010. Web. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkn05

“The Joint-Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States” United States Congress. 12 Dec 1844. Print.
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ref/abouttx/annexation/march1845.html

Trickey, Erick. “For More Than 150 Years, Texas has had the Power to Secede…From Itself.” Smithsonian Institute. March 7, 2017. Print.

“Texas, One and Indivisible.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News. 3 Jan 1932, sec. 3: 10. Print.

Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder!

An elephant, representing the Texas Legislature, points to a redistricting map of the state which shows a large portrait of an elephant, the symbol of the Republican party, superimposed on the map.
An elephant, representing the Texas Legislature, points to a redistricting map of the state which shows a large portrait of an elephant, the symbol of the Republican party, superimposed on the map.

Borders, especially Texas borders, have always been divisively political. Texan history has been full of border disputes: the 19th century issue of slavery in the Missouri compromise (Connor); attempts in the 20th century to redistribute land to political parties (“Division of Texas”); and 21st century gerrymandering within the state (Tarr and Benenson). The long, repetitive cycle of redrawing arbitrary lines to meet political goals continued through the early 2000s with the Texas Legislature’s decision to redistrict its boundaries for the US House of Representatives. In 2003, Texas Lawmakers opted for a voluntary redistricting to increase Republican seats in congress (Toobin).

While redistricting is required by the US Constitution every ten years at the advent of a new census, the 2003 redrawing was not a legal necessity. The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature called for a vote on a new redistricting plan soon after taking a majority of seats in both houses. This plan was rife with controversy. ­­The process of redistricting was drawn out well past the intended Republican time-frame due to several court hearings (e.g.: League of United Latin American Citizens v Perry) regarding the legality of gerrymandering along racial and political lines (Eggin). Those legal cases challenged the legality of the new map. One district was found to be in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and was re-drawn (Eggin). By 2007, however, the new district map was finalized and in effect.

Leaders of the GOP, like Texan Tom DeLay, repeatedly stated that the purpose of this elective redistricting was to increase Republican control of the US House of Representatives (Toobin).

DeLay was the House Majority Leader and Republican whip in the United States Congress. After the state elections in 2002, DeLay took time off from Washington in 2003 to lobby the Texas government in Austin for a new district map. DeLay had an instrumental role redistricting the Lone Star State. He ran a Political Action Committee (PAC) called “Texans for a Republican Majority” that focused its large monetary assets on influencing the Texas house to re-draw the state’s map boundaries (Eggin).

DeLay’s national political career was tainted with assorted ethics and procedural violations, especially his ruthless work with the Texas legislature. In 2004, DeLay was reprimanded by the House Committee on Official Standards for exceeding acceptable behavior in pursuit of his political goals. In 2006, he was forced to resign from the US Congress when he was indicted for alleged conspiracy and election violations vis-à-vis his PAC (“DeLay, Tom”). The tactics used by DeLay that so effectively built a stronger Republican majority would ultimately be his downfall. Because of the overtly political goals, partisan redistricting has left many in the electorate frustrated and cynical towards the politicized electoral boundaries.

These sentiments are aptly captured in Christopher Weyant’s cartoon, “Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder.” His cartoon depicts the geographic area of the state of Texas with several small shapes carved into it, representing congressional districts. By far the most immense shape is the large figure of an elephant’s head superimposed in the middle, covering a majority of the map. The elephant symbol is used a second time for the anthropomorphized presenter of the map, who is labeled as the Republican Texas Legislature. Dressed in traditional Texan garb—a cowboy hat, yoked shirt, large belt buckle, rancher boots, and bolo tie—the elephant announces: “Booty is in the eye of the beholder!” This is a play on the idiom, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This pun replaces “beauty’s” sentiment of love and appreciation with the nearly-homophonous “booty,” a noun that normally describes seizures in war (Oxford English Dictionary). “Booty” has the connotation of being something a pirate steals from its rightful owners. In this case, Weyant’s word choice shows the sordid behavior of the GOP in the pursuit of more seats in the US house—perhaps “pirating” the right of representational democracy from the electorate in the state.

This cynical view of the 21st century Texas redistricting was not uncommon in the years following the new map’s creation by the Texas legislature. During the Supreme Court cases on racial gerrymandering, many commentators found that the nature of the redistricting was an unnecessary political aggression. That the Republican party was sacrificing the will of the people for a shameless grasp at power (Toobin).

Jeffery Toobin, in his New Yorker editorial “Drawing the Line,” (pp.) described the Republican Party’s efforts at nation-wide redistricting as heavy-handed and corrupt. Especially in light of Tom DeLay’s inditement for political corruption, critics like Weyant found pirate-like behavior in his party’s conduct. Toobin argued that these aggressive methods would not be conducive to political discussion and would ultimately cost the Republican Party politically. John Cornyn, the senior Republican Senator of Texas, however, saw it differently. He said that many in his party felt their aggressive new map was justified—political revenge for the Democratic-drawn maps that had been used for the past decades (Toobin).

Such spiteful GOP responses to perceived injustices by the opposing party recall memories of 1930s-era efforts by Texas Democrat John Nance Garner to overcome the North-Eastern hegemony in the US Senate by redrawing the borders of the Lone Star State. Just as 21st century Republicans have redistricted Texas to guarantee greater representation in the United States House of Representatives, Garner led a campaign to divide Texas into five smaller states in order to increase the number of Democratic members in the US Senate. Garner’s political machinations were the subject of much critique in the Dallas Morning News in 1932. The editorial board, in their piece “Texas One and Indivisible,” found that Garner’s politically charged plan would adversely affect the citizens of Texas. Read together with John Knott’s cartoon, “Can He Sell the Old Man,” that depicted Garner as a salesman selling something the State didn’t want, there’s an immediate connection with today’s political commentators’ and illustrators’ concerns surrounding redistricting.

The controversies around remaking political borders are constant in Texas history. In 1932, when John Garner was criticized in The Dallas Morning News for his attempt to split up Texas for the benefit of his political party, it was only one many attempts to draw lines to wield power. Today’s use of governmental processes to gerrymander borders remains both controversial and pervasive. Even with the potential costs of the political game, bureaucratic means of partitioning are effective and will likely continue as long as they are technically allowed.

Works Cited

“Booty: Definition.” Oxford University Press. 2018. Web. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/booty

Connor, Seymour. “Missouri Compromise.” Texas State Historical Association. 15 June 2010. Web. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/nbm01

“DeLay, Tom.” Congress A to Z, 5th ed., CQ Press, 2008, pp. 152-153. CQ Press American Government A to Z Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX2142200100/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=b56f15d8. Accessed 20 Apr. 2018.

Eggin, Dan. “Judge Staff saw Texas Redistricting as Illegal.” The Washington Post. 2 Dec 2005. Print.

Knott, John. “Can He Sell the Old Man?” The Dallas Morning News. 3 Jan 1932, sec. 3: 10. Print.

“League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry.” Oyez, 11 May. 2018, www.oyez.org/cases/2005/05-204.

Tarr, Dave, and Bob Benenson. “Mid-Decade Redistricti­­ng.” Elections A to Z, 4th ed., CQ Press, 2012, pp. 330-333. CQ Press American Government A to Z Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX4159000121/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=58e78366. Accessed 20 Apr. 2018.

“Texas, One and Indivisible.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News. 3 Jan 1932, sec. 3: 10. Print.

Toobin, Jeffery. “Drawing the Line.” Editorial. The New Yorker. 6 Mar 2006. Print.

Weyant, Christopher. “Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder.” The Hill. 2007.

Fool’s Gold

Unwelcome Strangers rush into a boom town.
During the first Texas oil boom, thousands of people flocked to boom towns to earn a living, but not all visitors were welcome because of the lawlessness that came with them.

 

In the political cartoon “In the Wake of the Gold Rush…” published in The Dallas Morning News on March 8, 1931, John Kott illustrated the cynical threats that loomed over small towns during the first Texas oil boom in the early 1900s. The image shows a crowd of men hastily running towards a vast number of oil derricks in the distance. Behind the men is a large wolf whose body is positioned as if it was stalking prey, and on the wolf, the word “Lawlessness” is written across its body. The cartoon is depicting the infiltration of crime that accompanied rapid population growth that boom towns often experienced during the Texas “black gold” (Gale) rush.

In the late 1800s, Texas was a predominately rural state. Its economy centered around cattle, agriculture, and lumber. The largest city at the time was Dallas. The rest of the urban population was located along what is today interstate highway 35 (Texas Almanac: City Population History from 1850-2000). At the turn of the century, however, a new economic titan was looming beneath the earth in the outskirts of Texas’ open range. The oil boom erupted in 1901 when the Spindle Top oil derrick spewed “black gold” (Gale) in Beaumont, Texas (David). After Spindle Top, discoveries began to spread throughout the state, stretching from the panhandle to the Gulf Coast. Little towns across Texas turned into boom towns overnight and experienced a massive inflow of big-name oil companies, workers, investors and more, all attracted by the promise of newfound riches.

A “boom town,” defined as a town experiencing rapid growth typically resulting from an industry or business development (Collins), can be compared to having a love affair. They are fun at first, and everything is new and exciting, but it doesn’t last. Economically, boom towns flourished due to the excess amount of labor and resources. However, as time goes on, and the economic driver that was responsible for their creation runs low, they evolve into cesspools of crime and filth.

Metaphorically, the early 1900s Texas boom town was the epitome of “the other woman.” The only stable infrastructure were oil rigs and saloons; the towns were so congested people were sleeping in tents or cardboard boxes by the thousands. The streets were full of waste and had the stench of gas constantly lingering in the air (Roughnecks). Also, oil fields were usually located in the middle of nowhere. At the time, this allowed for roughnecks, bootleggers, prostitutes, and dope peddlers to flourish without the threat of the law (Allen).

For example, the editorial Unwelcome Strangers (Dallas Morning News), focuses on the presence of the harmful residents of boom towns. The editorial explains that the oil derricks erected around towns like Borger, Corsicana, and Beaumont may have brought an influx of growth and urbanization, but the people included with them were not always worth the tradeoff (Roughnecks).

The editorial begins by addressing the overnight growth of oil boom towns. In the first paragraph, the editorial takes a negative and derogatory stance against the unwelcome spike of the newcomer population. A glimmer of hope is then presented in the editorial by mentioning the possibility of the government offering some solution, this being much like what the Texas Rangers implemented in Borger, TX to bring the city back under authoritative control (Allen).

Another main point in the editorial is the comparison it drew between the flourishing boom towns of East Texas, to Borger TX. Oil was discovered in Borger in March 1926, and it was a nothing town. It had almost no population at the time of oil discovery and grew to over 45,000 residents within 90 days. The new residents, however, were hazardous and ineffectual to the population. Crime quickly suppressed the town. Borger’s newfound reputation began to spread, and it was given the nickname “Booger Town” because of its repulsive and anarchic environment. After the murder of District Attorney John A. Holmes, Governor Moody declared martial law, Texas Rangers and State Troopers traveled to Borger to extract the unwelcome guests from the town and establish a sense of order (Allen).

The presence of a preexisting population would be the difference in the next stage of boom towns located across the East Texas oil field. The editorial compares the East Texas boom towns to Borger, stating these towns had something Borger did not, some form of a pre-established population. Since Borger had no one in it to begin with, all the criminals and bootleggers could simply arrive and do whatever they please. However, East Texas towns seem to have generations of structure and families that will be able to withstand the surge that comes along with an oil boom. The towns will avoid all the cluster and complications that arise at the beginning of a boom and will be able to enjoy their living conditions in a socially and economically feasible manner.

Throughout the early 1900s, the Texas petroleum industry continued to swing from boom to bust and back to boom again. Small towns erected from nothing were permanently etched into the map, others disappeared just as fast as they began. By the 1930s, the Great Depression and the first world war helped stabilize the petroleum industry, and its astounding growth began to flatten out. The “black gold” (Gale) rush had successfully propelled Texas into the next stages of its development into powerhouse status within the United States.

John Knott successfully identified the problematic aspects of the oil boom, which in other ways was so beneficial to the great State of Texas. The boom was a period where Texas experienced tremendous growth and wealth that led to the birth of a new economic industry; but not without setbacks and struggles along the way. Knott did a great job of focusing the public eye on a nuanced but important detail, affecting the lives of thousands during the “black gold” (Gale) rush.

Anderson, Allen. “Borger, TX.” Handbook of Texas Online, 12, June. 2010 https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/heb10 Accessed 31 March 2017.

Brooks, Raymond. “Texas Topics.” Austin American Statesman, 22 Aug. 1932, pp. 4-4 https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/hnpaustinamericanstatesman/docview/1563224168/4548195B53254C40PQ/1?accountid=7118

“Black Gold.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, Encyclopedia.com, 2018https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/black-gold

“Definition of Boom Town.” Boom Town Definition and Meaning, Collins English Dictionaryhttps://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/boom-town

Knott, John. “In the Wake of the Gold Rush…” The Dallas Morning News, 8 March. 1931: p6. Web http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=T46T49LDMTUyNTMwMzg4NC4xNDc0NToxOjEyOjEyOC44My42My4yMA&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D1A955F6DC1E7@2426409-104D1A958EF80F79@5

McComb, David. “Urbanization.” Handbook of Texas Online, 15, June. 2010 https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hyunw Accessed 31 March 2017.

Olien, Roger. “Oil and Gas Industry.” Handbook of Texas Online. 15, June. 2010 https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/doogz Accessed 31 March 2017

“Texas Almanac: City Population History from 1850-2000.” Texas Almanac. 2000 ed. Print.https://texasalmanac.com/sites/default/files/images/CityPopHist%20web.pdf

“Today in Texas History: East Texas Oil Field.” Newstex.com, Houston Chronicle, 5, Oct. 2009 https://advance-lexis-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/document/?pdmfid=1516831&crid=c4ce0810-5bfe-4911-b7b5-549c19f80ef0&pddocfullpath=%2Fshared%2Fdocument%2Fnews%2Furn%3AcontentItem%3A7WST-5YC1-2RGX-T13J-00000-00&pddocid=urn%3AcontentItem%3A7WST-5YC1-2RGX-T13J-00000-00&pdcontentcomponentid=299488&pdteaserkey=sr20&pditab=allpods&ecomp=Ly_k&earg=sr20&prid=a402aa78-6c3d-43ae-97bf-dc8f7f77e5fb

“Unwelcome Strangers.” The Dallas Morning News, 8 March 1931, p. 6.http://infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=T46T49LDMTUyNTMwMzg4NC4xNDc0NToxOjEyOjEyOC44My42My4yMA&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D1A955F6DC1E7@2426409-104D1A958EF80F79@5

“Wave of Lawlessness in Oil Fields; Witchia Falls Jail is Crowded.” Austin American Statesman, 1 Jan. 1920, pp. 1-1 https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/hnpaustinamericanstatesman/docview/1621720843/69305F8F688D4C2EPQ/1?accountid=7118

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.

 

“The Tax Expert”

1937 cartoon. One man labeled "Legislature" hands a paper, which reads "Tax Remission 9 Million Dollars,"to a man labeled "Texas," while reaching into the Texas man's pocket, labeled "New Taxes."
In a 1937 John Knott cartoon, Legislature hands Texas a document containing a newly proposed House Bill, simultaneously reaching into Texas’s pocket.

 

In March of 1937, tax legislation bombarded Texas politics. Fred Mauritz, a member of the Texas House of Representatives in the 45th State Legislature, proposed a bill that month, which would generalize tax remission policy. The “Mauritz Bill,” as it was referred to at the time, aimed to distribute $9,000,000 per year in state tax money amongst all counties in Texas, for five years years (“In Sales Tax Squeeze”). The bill was surrounded by political and economic stress caused by the financial needs of the the counties, the lack of revenue of the State, and disagreement between Governor James Allred and the Legislature regarding the remission of taxes — the governmental action of sending excess tax money back to the public for various reasons, rather than keeping the money in its own hands (Texas. Exec. Allred. “Senate Bill No. 114 Veto”). In his political cartoon, “The Tax Expert,” from the March 26, 1937 publication of the Dallas Morning News, John Knott portrayed the ineffectiveness and self-contradictory nature of the cycle of taxation and distribution of funding, and the motives of the parties involved in the Mauritz Bill.

Knott’s cartoon goes straight to the point, dominating the foreground of the image with two men: the one on the left labeled “Legislature,” and the one on the right labeled “Texas,” who is better known as “Old Man Texas” — a recurring character Knott featured in many of his cartoons and based off of the broad head and bushy mustache of one of his acquaintances, James A. Boyd (Administrator). The man on the left is clearly handing a document over to Old Man Texas, which contains the text, “Tax Remission — Nine Million Dollars.” While one hand of “Legislature” is occupied with passing on the document, the other hand is simultaneously reaching into the pocket of “Texas,” which is full of cash, and is identified as “New Taxes.” The Legislature man appears to be grinning as he smokes his cigar, and interestingly, the Old Man Texas’s face holds the expression of shock and worry as he holds the paper in his hands. Knott undoubtedly believed that the bill violated the fundamental concepts his famous character represented: “honesty in government, low taxes, and property ownership” (Perez).

While the man on the left represents the 45th Legislature of Texas, he also bears a striking resemblance to none other than the “Tax Expert,” Fred Mauritz (Fred Mauritz). The medium-length, wavy hair and round glasses of the character drawn by Knott and the context of the cartoon present evidence for the argument that the man labeled as “Legislature” was in fact meant to be Mauritz, but whether he was actually being represented is still up for debate. What cannot be debated, however, is the fact that Mauritz was the mastermind behind the tax remission bill displayed in the cartoon. The House member proposed the bill in response to others that were already in place and providing 40 Texas counties with tax remission, as well as the introduction of several much more specific tax remission proposals that focused only on certain counties (“In Sales Tax Squeeze”).

The cartoon’s accompanying editorial, entitled “Tax Remission,” described this as a  “trend toward remission of county taxes” (“Tax Remission”). The trend had been sustained by House Bill No. 22, which extended tax remissions to Galveston County for five years for the construction of the seawall and other measures to protect the city from coastal flooding (Texas. Legisl. House.“Extending the Remission”).  It was apparent that several counties needed governmental aid as their municipal funds were depleting and something had to be done to combat the destruction of Mother Nature. Following the Galveston bill were similar proposals to provide tax remission for flood control purposes to Harris county as well as the Pease River Flood Control District counties of Foard, Cottle, Hardeman and Wilbarger (“Allred Vetoes”). Although proposals such as these had good intentions, the unequal distribution of State tax money throughout the State of Texas was a growing issue. The Mauritz Bill aimed to end the discriminatory effects of specific tax remission bills by remitting taxes to all Texas counties (Texas. Exec. Allred. “Senate Bill No. 114 Veto”). It was widely supported in the Legislature, as it passed through the House, was seen with favor by the Senate State Affairs Committee, and showed promise of passing in the Senate (“Tax Remission”).

But on March 24th, 1937, as recorded in the House Journal of the 45th Texas Legislature, Governor James V. Allred declared his opposition to such bills as he announced, “We have got to stop tax remissions somewhere” (qtd. in Texas. Legisl. House. “Journal of the House 1298”). In his veto message regarding Senate Bill No. 114 — the Harris County Bill — he claimed, “I must look at the welfare of the State as a whole, and in doing that, it now becomes my duty to veto this and other similar Bills.” Allred was not in opposition to the actual projects that the proposed tax remission was to go toward, but he recognized that to provide such funds was not feasible. Feeling the effects of the Great Depression, the State was facing a shortage of revenue and could not afford giving ad valorem tax money back to the counties; doing so would both add to the state’s deficit and hurt the credit of the state. Further, the passage of a bill for one county was bound to be used as an argument for another similar bill to be passed for another county. And finally, the State was not allowed to supervise the expenditure of tax remissions, and therefore counties could easily put money towards anything they wanted no matter what was termed as the initial purpose for the money (Texas. Exec. Allred. “Senate Bill No. 114 Veto”). In Allred’s veto against House Bill No. 18, he stated, “In view of the depleted condition of the Treasury and the fact that no revenues have been raised, I have no other alternative.” The State just could not take another loss in revenue given its financial condition at the time (Texas. Exec. Allred. “House Bill No. 81 Veto”).

Allred could foresee what was to come if tax remission policy was passed into law, and he shared his perspective with Knott. Clearly, giving “excess” tax money back to the counties was not the end of the deal. In the cartoon, as Old Man Texas, ultimately standing for the taxpayer and the integrity of the state’s financial system, is engrossed in the Mauritz bill placed in its hands, “Legislature” is busy digging in his, or the taxpayers, pockets, scavenging for additional revenue. Knott showed that the proposed tax remission was really a hoax; the money would be given back to the counties by means of an illusory rebate, which would distract the taxpayers from the reality that their taxes would eventually be increased in order for the State to make up the difference. In turn, the State was to receive the same amount of money, and the counties funding that could be used according to their desires, while “Old Magician Taxpayer,” had to “produce out of his hat once more,” and “in finality pay the bill” (“Tax Remission”). The cartoon displays the political struggle of the time, in which the Democratic Party under President Franklin Roosevelt pushed for more relief programs as a part of the New Deal — conceptually similar to tax remission — while the more conservative minded, characterized by Knott’s Old Man Texas, resisted with the argument that those policies of governmental intervention went too far and would find unfavorable sources of funding; that is, taxes (“New Deal”).

In 1937, Texas taxpayers were at the time paying sales taxes, excise taxes on commodities such as fuel and oil, and local property taxes. Income tax had not even been put into place (“Texas” 864). Allred, in order to reduce the economic burden on taxpayers and particularly low-income groups, desired to keep taxes low and refrain from using a state sales tax as a means to generate revenue (Ewing). As his opinion was reflected in Knott’s cartoon — that is, tax remission would have required higher state taxes in order to be practical — the motives of the Legislature are much more ambiguous. While it could be argued that Mauritz and his like-minded colleagues genuinely wanted to assist the counties that were in need, and do so fairly, there can be little doubt that they did not not look ahead at the implications of such a plan. The grinning face and sneaky hand of the man on the left of the cartoon indicates one perception of the legislative motive: personal gain as a result of increased state revenue with the benefit of satisfying constituents. The title implies that Mauritz was a “Tax Expert,” and was therefore well aware of the side-effects of his bill.

Unfortunately, the Mauritz Bill was never put into place for us to see the result, as it was put on hold in the Senate and never made its way to Allred’s desk for signing (“In Sales Tax Squeeze”). In fact, most tax remission efforts of the 45th Legislature were unsuccessful in the end, thanks to the exercise of checks and balances in the Texas governmental structure. However, Knott’s cartoon still highlights the political conflict of the time. While the Legislature wanted tax money to be sent back to the counties so that they could aid the people at their discretion — a sort of roundabout tax cut — the question arose of how funds would be raised by the government to balance its revenue loss. The only real options would have been either the contradictory implementation of higher taxes, or the dangerous submission to adding to the budget deficit. Further, the issue surrounding Knott’s cartoon brings up another issue: the victimization of the taxpayer. As both sides of the arguments at the Capitol in the 1930’s strongly held their ground, the regular people of the state were to sit and wait without providing direct input until a bill was placed into their hands. At that point, they would have had to agree to whatever terms were decided; hence, the anxiety rather than excitement expressed in the face of “Texas” in Knott’s cartoon. As it would be seen throughout history and even today, fiscal policy such as the Mauritz Bill can fix one problem, but only by raising another; there really does not exist an absolutely sound answer to the economy.

 

Works Cited

“ALLRED VETOES TAX REMISSION.” The Austin Statesman (1921-1973), Apr 02, 1937, pp. 1, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American Statesman, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1610334236?accountid=7118.

Ewing, Floyd F. “Allred, James Burr V.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 2010, www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal42.

Fred Mauritz. Digital image. Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Texas Legislators: Past & Present. Texas State Preservation Board, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2017, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/mobile/photodisplay.cfm?memberID=1257&filename=Mauritz_F_49.jpg.

“In Sales Tax Squeeze.” The Austin American (1914-1973), Apr 18, 1937, pp. 4, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Austin American Statesman, http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1611463487?accountid=7118.

Administrator, Dallas News. “John Knott’s Cartoons Were Front Page Fixture of News.” Dallas News, The Dallas Morning News, 4  Jan. 2013, www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2013/01/04/john-knotts-cartoons-were-front-page-fixture-of-news.

Knott, John Francis. “The Tax Expert.” The Dallas Morning News, No. 17 ed., 26 Mar. 1937, p. 4.

“New Deal: Reform or Revolution (Issue).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Carson and Mary Bonk, vol. 2, Gale, 2000, pp. 705-707. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3406400640&asid=0ae5ba6d78e6204ab1cc3ccaed64dba1. Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.

Perez, Joan Jenkins. “Knott, John Francis.” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 15 June 2010, tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fkn05.

“Tax Remission.” The Dallas Morning News, No. 177 ed., 26 Mar. 1937. Dallas Morning News Newspaper Archive Database, Readex, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=Q56N4FQEMTUwODI5MTEzOS41MDQ0OTc6MToxMzoxMjguNjIuNjAuMTA1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-10425A715CE83A7F@2428619-10425A7265F96F45@27pp. 28–28.

Texas. Executive Department. Governor James V. Allred. House Bill No. 81 Veto Message. Austin, Texas. 23 April, 1937. Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Web. 6 Oct. 2017, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/vetoes/45/hb81m.pdf.

Texas. Executive Department. Governor James V. Allred. Senate Bill No. 114 Veto Message. Austin, Texas. 2 April, 1937. Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Web. 6 Oct. 2017, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/vetoes/45/sb114m.pdf.

Texas. Legislature. House of Representatives. Extending the Remission of State ad Valorem, Occupation, and Poll Taxes Collected in Galveston County to the City of Galveston to 1943. 45th Legislature. Regular Session. House Bill No. 22. Chapter 23, pp. 26-28. Austin, Texas. 4 March 1937. Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Web. 11 Oct. 2017, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/sessionLaws/45-0/HB_22_CH_23.pdf.

Texas. Legislature. House of Representatives. Journal of the House of Representatives of the Regular Session of the Forty-fifth Legislature. House Journal. 45th Legislature. Regular Session. 12 Jan. 1937. Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Web. 13 Oct. 2017, http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/govdocs/James%20V%20Allred/1937/message032437.pdf>.

“Texas.” Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States, 8th ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2016, pp. 843-870. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3632200053&asid=0be0d0046afca9c852120b994b14c77c. Accessed 2 Oct. 2017.

Not a Good Place to Sit

 

“Not a Good Place to Sit” (Knott)

The cartoon Not A Good Place to Sit by John Knott refers to the Sit-Down Strike Law proposed by Texas Democrat Senator Martin Dies and its continuation within Texas, which made it a felony for workers to perform sit-down strikes. Sit-down strikes are a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at factories or other centralized locations, take possession of the workplace by “sitting down” at their stations. (Encyclopedia Britannica) These strikes occurred throughout America in the 1930’s as a result of unsafe labor conditions and inadequate pay. (Encyclopedia Britannica) The cartoon is a supplement to an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News titled Texas vs. Illegal Strikes published on April 7, 1937.

The cartoon itself is visually simple. It depicts a prickly pear cactus with the words “sit-down strike law” written on it. The cactus is growing out of the center of Texas. The humor in this cartoon can be found through the use of the cactus because if can be interpreted in two ways. At the most basic level and without knowledge of the sit-down strike law, it is obvious that Texas, a place with an abundance of cacti, is not a comfortable place to sit. Additionally, because the cactus is specifically a prickly pear, the name adds to the idea that Texas is inhospitable and prickly. It also strengthens the link to Texas because the prickly pear cactus has a long association with Texas and other southern states, and was even named the official state plant of Texas in 1995. (Cain) On a deeper level, it is clear that the cartoon is referring to the sit-down strikes and legislation taken against them at the time in the state of Texas. It is specifically referring to Texas because Texas legislation took the national sit-down strike law one step further. This made it, quite literally, more dangerous to “sit” in Texas than in other places in the United States.

Sit-down strikes were met with such intense opposition due to their ability to render huge businesses entirely helpless. They effectively prevented their employers from moving production to other locations because the strikers would need to be physically moved in order to continue production (Encyclopedia Britannica). Furthermore, this form of protest prevented their ability to bring in “strike breakers” (Encyclopedia Britannica). These were people brought into the company to replace the workers on strike alleviated pressure on the companies being protested against (Encyclopedia Britannica). Because sit-down strikes made it impossible for companies to get back on their feet without adhering to the strikers’ wishes, they were extremely controversial throughout the United States.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were the first American union to use the sit-down strike (White). On December 10, 1906, at the General Electric Works in Schenectady, New York, 3,000 workers sat down on the job and stopped production to protest the dismissal of three fellow IWW members (Authors of History.com). A decade later, the United Auto Workers staged successful sit-down strikes in the 1930s, most famously in the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1936-1937 (Authors of History.com).  GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put (Authors of History.com). GM turned off the heat in the buildings, but the strikers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and hunkered down (Authors of History.com). On January 11, police tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; in the resulting riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” 16 workers and 11 policemen were injured and the United Automobile Workers (UAW) took over the adjacent Fisher Two plant (Authors of History.com). On February 1, the UAW won control of the enormous Chevrolet No. 4 engine factory. GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December to just 125 in February. Despite GM’s enormous political power, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy refused to use force to break the strike.
Though the sit-ins were illegal, he believed, he also believed that authorizing the National Guard to break the strike would be an enormous mistake. “If I send those soldiers right in on the men,” he said, “there’d be no telling how many would be killed.” (Authors of History.com) As a result, he declared, “The state authorities will not take sides. They are here only to protect the public peace.” (Authors of History.com). Meanwhile, President Roosevelt urged GM to recognize the union so that the plants could reopen (Authors of History.com).  In mid-February, the automaker signed an agreement with the UAW (White).  Among other things, the workers were given a 5 percent raise and permission to speak in the lunchroom. A wave of sit-down strikes followed, but diminished by the end of the decade (White). This was due to legislation proposed by Texas senator Dies, which led to the courts and the National Labor Relations Board holding that sit-down strikes were illegal and sit-down strikers could be fired (“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes”).

The editorial Texas vs. Illegal Strikes focuses on the legislation passed specifically in Texas in order to take the sit-down strike law a step further (White). The national anti-sit-down strike law had already been passed, but the Governor of Texas, James Allred, wanted to make sit-down striking a felony (White). This was a generally agreed-upon stance in Texas, so when the Welmert bill to make sit down strikes a felony was proposed, it was immediately and unanimously accepted by the Texas Senate (White).

Although this legislation was widely supported by Texans, it caused others to become fearful of being charged as felons for past actions. One of the most prominent dissenters of this legislation was John L. Lewis,  the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which established the United Steel Workers of America and helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s (White). At the time, Lewis was attempting to organize the vast Texas Oil Industry and was worried that his unionizing activities would be stopped if he were to be charged for organizing any sort of sit-down strike.

The growth of the CIO was phenomenal in steel, rubber, meat, autos, glass and electrical equipment industries (White). In early 1937, Lewis’ CIO affiliates won collective-bargaining contracts with two of the most powerful anti-union corporations, General Motors and United States Steel (White). General Motors surrendered as a result of the great Flint Sit-Down Strike, during which Lewis negotiated with company executives, Governor Frank Murphy of Michigan, and President Roosevelt (White). U.S. Steel conceded without a strike as Lewis secretly negotiated an agreement with Myron Taylor, chairman of U.S. Steel (White). The CIO gained enormous strength and prestige from the victories in automobiles and steel and escalated its organizing drives, now targeting industries that the American Federation of Labor (AFL) have long claimed, especially meatpacking, textiles, and electrical products (White).

Harvey C. Fremming, a colleague of Lewis in Texas, demanded that Governor Allred look into Lewis’s activities and exonerate the CIO organizers completely (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).  This was based on the grounds that the CIO had only fostered sit-down strikes in states other than Texas, and should therefore still be allowed to operate within Texas (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”). Lewis was never charged with as a felon, but the  entire CIO group was expelled from the AFL in November 1938 and became the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), with Lewis as the first president (“Allred and Peery Against Sit-Downs”).

In conclusion, this cartoon is a commentary on the sit-down strike law and the turmoil it caused in Texas. It shows how the Texas government caused sit-down strikes to become almost non-existent due to legislation passed which made such strikes felonies. It clearly shows that this legislation made it exceedingly dangerous to attempt to perform a sit-down strike. In all its simplicity, the cartoon fully conveys the prickly climate of Texas at the time and all the turmoil that would come out of a group of workers simply wanting to be paid a decent wage. Though this seems ridiculous, echoes of this time are still heard today and these issues continue to fester in the broken labor force of America.

Works Cited:

“ALLRED AND PEERY AGAINST SIT-DOWNS.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 40. Apr 04 1937. ProQuest. Web. 22 Feb. 2017 .

The Authors of History.com. “Sit-down Strike Begins in Flint.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Cain, Delman. “Prickly Pear Cactus, Our State Plant.” Native Plant Society of Texas. Native Plant Society of Texas, 03 Aug. 2015. Web. 2 Jan. 2017.

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Strike.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Dec. 2016.

Knott, John. “Not a Good Place to Sit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Apr. 1937: 6.America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

“Texas vs. Illegal Strikes.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 7 Apr. 1937: 6. America’s Historical Newspapers. Web. 2 Dec. 2016.

White, Ahmed A. “The Depression Era Sit-Down Strikes and the Limits of Liberal Labor Law.” Seton Hall Law Review 40.1 (2010): 1-82.

Come to Texas!

Come to Texas!

 

John Knott’s political cartoon Come to Texas! provides an illustration of the decentralization of highly-centralized industries to Texas during the late 1930s. Depicting the decentralizing industries as a crowd of businessmen with briefcases marked “fair practices,” many highly-centralized businesses during this time were branching out, coming to Texas because of its better conditions towards the end of the Great Depression (Southwestern Industry). However, Texas was not content to accept just any company since a number of these industries were coming to Texas from a wealth of problems, leaving in their wake issues such as poor worker treatment (Gardner). The sign above the Texan’s head exemplifies this concern, cautioning against industries seeking to exploit Texas’ more-business-friendly economic climate in an effort to protect Texans. Texas is still happy to have the industries, hence the cartoon’s depiction of the Texan giving a warm welcome to the arriving industries; however, if the incoming industries wanted to employ Texans, they must first take care of Texans. The editorial entitled “Southwestern Industry” that accompanied Knott’s cartoon helps provide additional historical context for the events in the cartoon. It explains that while Texas had an abundance of raw resources, “relatively little progress [had] been made in the manufacturing of cotton and woolen cloth” (Southwestern Industry). This meant that many of Texas’ raw materials had to be shipped to industrial centers in other states to be processed, manufactured, and reimported once completed. The editorial goes on to advise that there “should be no welcome sign in Texas for the manufacturer who wants to get away from some other State merely because he is unwilling to pay fair taxes or reasonable wages” (Southwestern Industry). In a nutshell, the editorial maintains that increased manufacturing in Texas would be good for the state, but not at the cost of shoddy work practices coming to Texas with the intent of exploitation. Overall, Knott’s depiction of decentralizing industries coming to Texas provides an overview of the decentralization of jobs to Texas as well as Texas’ concerns with fair work practices.

Beginning in the mid-1930s, the unemployment rate dropped as the US started recovering from the Great Depression (“Miss Perkins Urges Job Security Plans”). Although the Great Depression didn’t completely end until the onset of World War II, Knott’s cartoon and the accompanying editorial were published in 1937 when the economic situation of the nation was starting to improve. While the highly industrialized and centralized areas of the US were only just starting to get back on their feet, Texas’ economy had fared better overall throughout the Depression (Hammons). The hardships faced by Detroit, Michigan, during the Great Depression provides a prime example of how dissimilar the conditions of industrialized and non-industrialized parts of country were. In the case of Detroit, all of the nation’s car production was centralized in a single area to allow the heads of business easy access to all of their production sites. However, when the economy took a sharp downturn in 1929, it became much harder for the average person to afford a car. When car sales tanked, that region crashed (Nystrom). Conversely, the lack of compact industries in Texas “helped to buffer Dallas from the worst of the Depression” (Hammons). Because Texas wasn’t as industrialized, it wasn’t hit as hard. The Depression was still crippling, but comparatively speaking, Texas fared marginally better.

In order to combat the troubles of highly-centralized production, centralized industries began to spread out, decentralizing production to other areas of the country (Southwestern Industry). According to the International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, decentralization “signifies the disbursement of power from the top down… lead[ing] to higher levels of efficiency” (Decentralization 250). To put it in layman’s terms, a centralized company branches out, setting up production in other places to take advantage of the different locations’ benefits, such as cheaper production, looser regulatory laws, cheaper labor, and closer proximity to resources. In this particular time period, decentralization was primarily used to diversify in response to the problems of highly centralized industries during the Depression (Bowman). Highly centralized industries began because of big-name tycoons, such as Ford or Rockefeller, because it was easier for management to oversee all of their productions by having them nearby (Jahn). However, just like the saying ‘having all one’s eggs in the same basket,’ the Depression hit those highly-industrialized areas the hardest, causing the highly-centralized companies to crash. Decentralization was harder on management since moving industries from Chicago to Texas meant no longer having immediate access to all nearby production; however, it was much better for the industries overall. The cheaper production costs and delegation of smaller tasks to other areas let management focus on the bigger picture instead of trivialities of day-to-day production (Jahn).

Due to its abundance of raw resources and available labor source, Texas made for a very promising-looking market for highly-centralized industries looking to decentralize. An especially alluring factor was Texas’ rapidly-growing market, meaning more workers in production and more buyers of finished products (Texas 822). In addition, by relocating branches of industry to Texas, companies didn’t have to pay such high transportation costs to import the raw resources and then ship the finished product from the North-East back to the South. Although Texas had an abundance of natural resources, such as cotton, wheat, wool, and cattle, it lacked the industries needed to process the raw materials, especially in the textile department (Southwestern Industry). By allowing industries centralized in other states to decentralize to Texas, Texas would also gain jobs and a boost to its economy. However, despite all the advantages the added industrial boost posed, both the editorial and Knott’s cartoon stressed the fact that there remained a number of possible drawbacks in allowing out-of-state industries to set up production in Texas.

That is the exactly the argument Knott’s cartoon presents. While the Texan depicted in the cartoon is happily receiving the incoming industries with his arms outstretched in welcome, the sign above the Texan’s head expresses the concern “No exploiters of cheap labor, tax dodgers or fly-by-night industries wanted” (Knott). The meaning drawn from Knott’s cartoon paints a picture of a state that wanted the benefits of industrialization – just not at the cost of adopting the problems that some of the industries brought with them. In looking at poor work practices in other areas of the country during the same time period, namely the case of the Radium Gals, the concern depicted in Knott’s cartoon becomes even more apparent. The Radium Gals were a group of women hired during the 20s and 30s to work at the Radium Dial company painting watch faces with a special radium paint (Suppan). Exploited by the company they worked for, these women were paid far lower wages than men and were slowly poisoned and killed by the radiation from the radium paint (Suppan). With such adverse publicity surrounding cases such as the Radium Gals, the editorial and Knott cartoon cautioned against accepting decentralizing industries that were seeking to exploit laborers or exercise dubious business practices (Gardner). Since companies that utilized shifty work practices were seen as “author of the general misery, … cutter[s] of wages, … and the tax-dodging embodiment of the general irresponsibility that pervades the American business community,” Texas was not keen on hosting industries that were going to exploit Texas’ market and workers (Castranovo 61).

In summation, Come to Texas! is a political cartoon by John Knott that provides commentary on the decentralization of industries to Texas towards the end of the Great Depression. Despite the fact that decentralizing industries presented numerous advantages to Texas, both the editorial and the Knott cartoon emphasize how important it was for Texas to be wary of allowing just any industry to relocate, stressing that if the decentralizing industries wanted to employ Texans, they had to take care of Texans.

 

 

Works Cited

Bowman, Joel. “The Great Decentralization.” Non-Dollar Report. Non-Dollar Report, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://nondollarreport.com/2014/11/economic-evolution-the-great-decentralization/>.

Castronovo, David. “The Artist as a Young Reporter.” Edmund Wilson Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1988. 51-71. Twayne’s United States Authors Ser. 695. Twayne’s Authors on GVRL. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Decentralization.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2nd ed., vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2008, pp. 250-251. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3045300532&asid=c07ec128b7f5c795f9358d1289944f66. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.

Gardner, Virginia. “Former Watch Painter Faints; Halts Hearing.” Chicago Tribune 11 Feb. 1938: 1+. Chicago Tribune Archive. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. <http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1938/02/11/page/1/article/woman-tells-living-death-at-radium-quiz>.

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