John Knott depicts the United States crisis regarding labor unions and striking in a cartoon titled “Chronic Disease” for the Dallas Morning News published on March 23, 1937. The image shows a man sitting hunched over with his hands on either side of his face. He appears very burly and very defeated. He has the word “labor” printed across his shirt sleeve. Behind him is a woman wearing an apron. She is on the telephone and has the word “public” printed on her apron. She is speaking into the telephone. Her quotation bubble reads, “Is this Dr. Roosevelt?” The cartoon demonstrates the disparity between government action and the labor unions.
In the United States history, the Great Depression is regarded as one of the worst economic crisis the country had ever seen. The Great Depression spanned from 1929 with the stock market crash until about 1939. Within these ten years,1937-1938 featured a massive spike of unemployment rates and a decline of industrial production rates (Auerbach, “The General Motors Strike”). These declines were greatly related to the labor unions and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”).
The Congress for Industrial Organization (CIO) was formed in November 1935 (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”) due to an utter need. Companies were overworking and underpaying their employees. (Terrell). Workers congregated into unions and began to fight for a better work environment and more benefits. John L. Lewis along with many others formed the CIO to “organiz[e] framework for [workers’] mobilization and unionization” (Rosswurm, “Congress of Industrial Organizations”). The organization campaigned against employers with strikes and picket lines.
One of the most notable movements that the organization pursued was the sit-down strike movement. A sit-down strike is when workers spontaneously and simultaneously stop working and sit down. The first recorded sit-down strike was in November of 1935 (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). Because of the strike, the workers involved received what they asked for from their management: higher wages. Other workers noting the success began to partake in the sit-down strike movement. (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). By the end of 1937, over half a million workers were involved in sit-down strikes. In 1936 and 1937 over 1000 strikes were recorded (Smith, “The sit-down strikes”). These massive strikes stretched for hours at a time and caused loss of production in completely unprecedented ways (Jones, “Labor and politics”). This began to affect the United States as a whole. Trade levels were decreasing and the country was faced with a lot more than simple unemployment.
As a result, President Roosevelt knew that he could not simply allow for the country to self-destruct. He began to implement laws to ban these sit-down strikes and hopefully cause the country to get back on its feet. President Roosevelt received enormous support from the public (Jones, “Labor and politics”). According to author Thomas Jones’ extensive research, the public saw the strikers as “‘housebreakers’ and elected officials [as] ‘policemen’ who ‘should protect [their] rights’”(Jones. “Labor and politics”).
This is very clearly demonstrated in John Knott’s cartoon. The labor unions (represented by the man) are upset because sit-down strikes are forbidden and the general public (represented by the woman) are pleased because government officials are taking action against the labor unions. The woman is speaking into a telephone and is asking if “Doctor Roosevelt” is there. The public is very pleased with Roosevelt’s actions and thus they call him doctor. This title is highly respected and alludes to the fact that doctors prescribe medicine. The allusion is made that Roosevelt is prescribing laws and policies to these “sick and insane” strikers.
The general public’s true feelings are displayed even further in an editorial published in the Dallas Morning News in conjunction with Knott’s cartoon. The editorial titled “General Strike Threat” gives a specific example of a sit down strike that took place in Detroit. The author comments on this strike as “the spread of [an]…epidemic” (“General Strike Threat”). Not only that, the author notes that the continuation of sit down strikes will certainly lead to a “condition of anarchy” (“General Strike Threat”) in the United States. The author further addresses the ‘epidemic’ by writing about foreign countries’ approaches to striking (“General Strike Threat”). These examples of foreign countries are used to exemplify the perceived excellence in President Roosevelt’s action towards the United States sit down strikes.
John Knott analyzes two sides in his cartoon. He looks at how the labor unions felt towards the sit-down strikes and showcases that with the slumped over union worker and looks at how the general public feels and showcases that with the woman calling ‘Doctor Roosevelt.’
Auerbach, Jerold S. “Sit-Down: The General Motors Strike of 1936–1937. By Fine Sidney. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1969. Pp. Ix 448. $12.50.” Business History Review, vol. 44, no. 2, 1970, pp. 259–260., doi:10.2307/3112371
The political cartoon We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms by John Francis Knott shows the optimism that older generations had in the early years of the Great Depression. In The cartoon there are two men in business attire, one of whom has old-timer written across his belly and the other is a younger man with a worried look. They are having a conversation while wading in waist deep water and avoiding floating debris. In the background there are fallen telephone polls and flooded houses, and depression is written in the thundercloud outlined by two lightning bolts. The old-timer is telling the younger gentlemen “Call this a bad storm? Why I kin remember back in 1873, and 1893–”, he is referring to The Panic of 1873 and The Depression of 1893 (Knott, 2).
The accompanying editorial titled “Survival of the Fit” emphasizes the strength that is needed to survive the depression. It comments on not doing as bad in the depression as other states due to it’s mainly rural population, and the drive of Texas men finding pleasure in a challenge (Editorial Team, 2). Although there are no ships in the cartoon the Editorial refers to the oncoming depression as an “Economic storm”, and makes many nautical references, comparing a ship to a business and it’s crew to businessmen.
The Panic of 1873 was a major depression in the U.S. caused by the Legal Tinder Acts. The Legal Tender Acts authorized the influx of over one billion in paper currency, or Greenbacks (Blanke). These Greenbacks were no longer founded on the gold standard, which was an idea that all paper money could be exchanged for gold. Since they were off the gold standard the actual value of the Greenback went down and the amount of Greenbacks needed to purchase something went up, also known as inflation. At this time a man named Jay Cooke who was a prominent investment banker decided to purchase the Northern Pacific Railroad (Encyclopedia.com). The land that the Railroad was built on was a sixty million dollar land grant from the government. In an effort to make a profit, Cooke sold the land around the railroad to the public for farming. The problem arose when Cooke found the land surrounding the railroad could not be used for farming. As prices for further construction and repairs for the railroad continued to rise, Cooke faced with a tough decision, lied to the public about the value of the land. When Cooke was found out the investors pulled out and with no source of income and no way to pay back investors Cooke sent the U.S. into a depression that lasted six years. However the U.S. beat the depression with the continued growth of the railroad and the influx of immigrant workers.
The Depression of 1893 was again caused by inflation and the reliance on the gold standard. The economy was booming with the massive growth of the railroads, but they were using borrowed money to do it. At this time Europe was invested heavily in American companies, but when the British banking firm, Baring and Brothers, went bankrupt it scared a lot of people, and Europeans began to redeem their stocks for gold. Coincidentally the price of silver began to drop, and since gold was the preferred worldwide currency, people in the U.S. also began to redeem their cash for gold (Sioux City Museum). These things caused the major loaning companies to go bankrupt spiraling the U.S. into a 3 yearlong depression. But the U.S. beat this depression as well by borrowing sixty five million from J.P. Morgan and the Rothschild banking family of England, to get back on the gold standard.
The Great Depression came about because of the rapid growth of the economy, and people investing in the stock market with borrowed money (Procter). Knott uses the depression as an analogy to a storm in the cartoon because like a storm The Great Depression came about quickly and people were not prepared for it. It started on October 24th, known as Black Thursday, it continued into the next week with Black Monday and then to the worst day in Wall Street history, Black Tuesday (Silver). Within one week the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is a “price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange” fell more than twenty percent (Silver). With unemployment exceeding ten percent across the country the president at the time, Herbert Hoover predicted numerous times that the depression would be over soon, that the storm would pass, but it did not (Whitten). Not until the Second World War, which started in 1939, would the economy begin to look up as the U.S. began trading arms.
Knott is using his cartoon to instill optimism in his readers through the old-timer. The old-timer is saying that the storm will pass eventually, and he has been through worse even though he had not. By having the two men wading through water and debris, Knott is making light of the situation, as if to taunt the “storm” further. By referencing the Panic of 1873 and The Depression of 1893 Knott is showing that the old man is at least fifty-eight at this point, and yet, he is out in the storm giving advice to his younger friend. Knott uses this age difference in the men to show if an old man can make it through both of those depressions and still be ok then why can’t the young business man.
We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms was created to show readers that the U.S. has been through depressions before and they have survived all of them. The editorial provides words of encouragement and challenges Texans and Americans alike to face the depression head on. Knott mocks the depression with the old-timer, and the cartoon serves as a political commentary on not only the strength of Texas but the nation as a whole.
Blanke, David. “Teaching History.org, Home of the National History Education Clearinghouse.” Panic of 1873 | Teachinghistory.org. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
Editorial Team. “Survival of the Fit.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 28 May 1931, sec. 2: 4. Print.
Knott, John Francis. “We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 28 May 1931, sec. 2: 4. Print.
“Panic of 1873.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 Nov. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
Procter, Ben H. “GREAT DEPRESSION.” Texas State Historical Association. TSHA, 15 June 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
The Texas Miracle, by John Cole is a political cartoon mocking Texas Governor Rick Perry for his comments on the well being of Texas and his presidential candidacy. It shows a man wearing a white robe and sandals with the word Perry on his robe. He appears to be walking on water, but directly under the surface are children and men holding him up. The people underneath Perry have “education cuts”, “uninsured”, and “Minimum wage workers” written on their shirts (Cole). The cartoon implies that Gov. Perry is not performing any miracles; he is both physically and metaphorically stepping on the groups of people underneath him. The Texas Miracle is similar to the John Knott cartoon, We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, in that the subjects in the people depicted are in water, and this water is oppressing them. The “storm” that Knott used as an analogy for The Great Depression could also be parallel to the flood that Noah and his family escaped in the bible. However in The Texas Miracle the population was unable to escape the flood because of an ignorant deity.
The accompanying editorial, Walking on Water talks about Perry’s recent presidential candidacy, and why he appeals to the “mad-as-heck right-wing base”. The authors also talk about the not-so-miraculous Texas miracle (Editorial Team). The miracle that Perry claims to have caused is just Texas continuing to profit off of a new way to drill for oil called fracking, which harvests the oil through horizontal fractures and drilling (Krauss). The editorial also comments on how well the housing district is doing, again emphasizing that this was not Perry’s doing, “Much of what Perry lays claim to is not the result of his governance, but existed well before he took office.”
You may recognize the Phrase “Texas miracle” from President George W. Bush’s two thousand presidential campaign and his “No child Left Behind” education reform act (Leung). The act was plan to make teachers accountable for their students’ grades, and required standardized testing for all students, while attempting to lower drop out rates in Houston especially. The program had great success in the first year but it was too good to be true. A vice principal at Sharpstown High School, found there were no drop-outs in the two thousand one two thousand two school year, when in fact there were four hundred and sixty two drop outs. The system had made a code for when a student dropped out it was programmed as a transfer or other acceptable reasons, so the miracle was just a lie. Just like Bush, Perry took advantage of the natural strength of Texas and used it for his own benefit. “According to The American Statesman, almost half of the state’s job growth came in the education, health care, and government sectors”, but when the state was faced with a twenty seven million dollar deficit Perry took four billion from K-12 schools. Already suffering as one of the least educated states, Perry stepped on education so that Texas would have less debt, and Texas suffered for it.
Texas’ population was been growing more rapidly than any other state from nineteen ninety to two thousand eleven this is in part due to the oil boom, but Perry found a way to make this benefit him (Plumer). Perry brags that Texas has a low unemployment rate but in fact at the time it was just a tenth lower than the national average, and the majority of those workers are working for minimum wage, which means that they have little or no insurance from their job (Meyerson). To add onto that Perry Doesn’t would prefer the states control of minimum wage and opposes the increase of minimum wage, claiming to be protecting the small businesses (Selby). At this time Texas was also the most uninsured state in the country, with twenty six percent of the population uninsured, Rick Perry still resisted universal healthcare. Perry said “They did not want a large government program forcing everyone to purchase insurance”, which may be the case, but this works well with Perry’s views on minimum wage and his refusal to increase the Medicaid (Benen). You see if Texans make less than four thousand five hundred dollars a year they can apply for Medicaid, but if they make less than eleven thousand six hundred dollars a year they are too poor to buy insurance for themselves (Damico). This is called the Medicaid expansion gap, and Rick Perry walked all over the people in this gap just to make the state more profitable.
A few parallels can be made between The Texas miracle and We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms, the major one being the water. In both cartoons the water is rising, because Rick Perry has no intention of changing his policies and will continue to take money from education. The water is also rising on the two business men while they converse in the storm, which was also brought on by the government’s inflation during the twenties. We’ve Survived Other Bad Storms could also have a religious aspect to it, where Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for The Great Depression, could be seen as an ignorant deity. As he told the public over and over that the depression would pass, doing little or nothing to help the floundering public, while the floodwaters continue to rise leaving the population without an ark. In both cartoons the public is the victim of the governments poor choices and both cartoonists depict their suffering through water.
The Texas Miracle by John Cole is mocking Rick Perry’s foolish attempts to take credit for the relative low amount of debt that Texas is in. The cartoon and editorial both ridicule him for refusing to help those beneath him, calling him a lone star blustering bible thumper. The Texas Miracle illustrates just how unlike Jesus Rick Perry truly is, and what lengths he is willing to go to in order to make a profit for the great state of Texas.
Cole, John. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Time Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Damico, Oct 19 2016 | Rachel Garfield and Anthony. “The Coverage Gap: Uninsured Poor Adults in States That Do Not Expand Medicaid.” Kaiser Family Foundation – Health Policy Research, Analysis, Polling, Facts, Data and Journalism. WordPress.com, 19 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Editorial Team. “John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water.” John Cole Cartoons » Walking on Water. The Times Tribune, 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Krauss, Clifford. “Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 May 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Leung, Rebecca. “The ‘Texas Miracle'” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 6 Jan. 2004. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
Meyerson, Harold. “The Sad Facts behind Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
New World Encyclopedia. “Texas.” Texas – New World Encyclopedia. New World Encyclopedia, 20 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
“Well, I’ll Be Blowed!” is a political cartoon mocking the blow to Britain’s naval pride about the issues they were facing in 1931. The cartoon was illustrated by John Francis Knott and published on September 20th, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News. It was Autumn, 1931. The First World War had ended in 1918 and the roaring twenties followed until the stock market crash of 1929 (History.com). When the economy of the industrial world collapsed, more problems arose for Great Britain to battle. In September of 1931, Great Britain was facing many disruptions due to the start of the Great Depression and a loosening grip on not just their precious empire, but one of their own military forces.
The title of the cartoon, “Well, I’ll Be Blowed!” is an expression that became popular in Great Britain during the turn of the century to mid-1900s and was used to express great surprise, similar to “well, I’ll be darned” (Simpson “well, adv. and n.4.”). The cartoon depicts John Bull, the personification of Britain, with a bewildered expression as he looks at a naval officer representing the British navy, often referred to as the Royal Navy. The naval officer is sitting with Mohandas Gandhi on a blanket labeled ‘Passive Resistance.’ Gandhi, named Mahatma meaning ‘saint’ in Hindi, was the Nationalist leader of the passive resistance protests in India during the late 1920s and early 1930s (BBC News). Gandhi and the navy are sitting on the same blanket of resistance against Great Britain, which is unexpected because the navy was Great Britain’s strongest military force. The military was how Great Britain kept tight control over India and all of the British Empire. In the background of the cartoon, many ships are out at sea, but on shore John Bull stares at the navy sitting the blanket of passive resistance that Gandhi laid out.
John Bull became the popular persona of England and all of Great Britain in the early 1900s. He was commonly depicted as a stout middle aged white man wearing a tailcoat, waistcoat, and boots, all from the Regency Period of the early 1800s. He also usually holds a cane and has a low top hat. John Bull is the personification of Britain in a similar manner to how Uncle Sam represents the United States of America (Johnson). John Bull is supposed to represent the majority of Great Britain and his surprise to what is happening in the cartoon represents the reaction that Great Britain was having at the time.
When this cartoon was published, Britain had been struggling to keep control over India for almost 20 years. India, known as “the jewel in the crown” of Great Britain began non-violent protests for independence in 1920. India had been under the control of the British since they arrived in India in the 1600s (BBC News). Leading up to 1931, Mahatma Gandhi had been campaigning for India’s independence through passive resistance. Gandhi had been working as a lawyer in South Africa during the early 1920’s, but after the the massacre in Amritsar in 1918, where 379 unarmed nationalist demonstrators were killed, Gandhi decided India had to stand up to Great Britain and that they would be better under their own rule (Wolpert). He quickly became a prominent leader in passive resistance against the British rule.
In the Fall of 1930, Gandhi attended the first Round Table Conference in London to discuss a new form of government for India (Trager). In September of 1931, Gandhi was back in England for the second Round Table Conference. He wanted India and Great Britain to “exist in the Empire side by side as equal partners, held together ‘by the silken cord of love.'” As it was worded in the editorial that accompanied the cartoon in the Dallas Morning News, “It is a conflict between an idealism of a far-away future and a realism that sees things as they are.” Although, Gandhi’s desires for the country sounded beautiful, many in Great Britain didn’t think that giving India autonomy to self govern would be good for the Indian people (Dallas Morning News). Also, Great Britain’s Empire was threatened.
Not only was Great Britain having trouble with India, but with their own military, which they used to enforce their power, began protesting against them. Headline in the New York Times read, “NATION SHOCKED BY NEWS”, on September 15th of 1931, the Royal Navy conducted a protest against Great Britain at Invergordon and on the 16th there was another at Rosyth Base (Selden). The Royal Navy was the pride of Great Britain and for the first time in centuries, there was discontent there. Since far before world war one, the Royal Navy had been considered the strongest navy in the world and put much of their resources and manpower into building up their navy and keeping it strong and growing stronger. The Royal Navy became the dominant sea power in 1805 when it defeated the French and Spanish fleets during the Battle of Trafalgar (“Royal Navy History”). When the Great Depression hit them at the end of the 1920’s however, many budget cuts needed to be made and they chose to make 25% pay cuts to the royal navy (Lowry).
With the discussion for an independent India and their protests in the air, the disorder in the navy was a slap in the face that Great Britain should have seen coming. The political cartoon by John Francis Knott laughs at the discomfort that Britain was facing as their grasp on world power appeared to be slipping. Not only was “the jewel in the crown” seeking independence, but the pride of the military was in resistance as well. In the cartoon, John Bull looked surprised and maybe scared and he had reason to be.
Dallas Morning News Editorial Staff. “Gandhi’s Idealism.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas], 20 Sept. 1931, sec. IV, p. 6. America’s Historical Newspapers, infoweb.newsbank.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/iw-search/we/HistArchive/ ?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=Q6EL5CCQMTQ4MDQyNDIwNC40ODI1MTM6MToxMjoxMjguODMuNjMuMjA&p_action=doc&s_lastnonissuequeryname=6&d_viewref=search&p_queryname=6&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:0F99DDB671832188@EANX-104D21319BD1D300@2426605-104D2133809DF0B9@37-104D213D50D94037@Gandhi%27s%20Idealism. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.
History.com Staff. “Stock Market Crash of 1929.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. History.com Staff. “Stock Market Crash of 1929.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook, [ca. 1930-1942], 1952, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Johnson, Ben. “John Bull, Symbol of the English and Englishness.” Historic-uk.com. Historic UK, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/John-Bull/.
Lowry, Sam. “The Invergordon Mutiny, 1931.” Libcom.org. Libcom.org, 9 Mar. 2007. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. https://libcom.org/history/1931-invergordon-mutiny.
“Royal Navy History.” Royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy, 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/features/history-timeline.
Selden, Charles. “Disorder in the British Nave Follow Economy Pay Cut; Manoeuvers Are Cancelled.” New York Times (1923-Current file)Sep 16, New York, N.Y., 1931. http://ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/99307291?accountid=7118.
Simpson, John A. “well, adv. and n.4.” Def. P6. www.oed.com. Oxford University Press, Dec. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Trager, James. “1931.” The People’s Chronology, 3rd ed., Gale, 2005. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 29 Nov. 2016. go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3460601931&it=r&asid=b446869dc318d220d9663e0d9c575d74.
Wolpert, Stanley. “Gandhi, Mahatma M. K.” Encyclopedia of India, edited by Stanley Wolpert, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 119-125. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CCX3446500239&it=r&asid=2b657833b7ab29e7e1e5fd3c8699f99d. Accessed 29 Nov. 2016.
John Francis Knott’s political cartoon titled, “Look!” published on Wednesday, March 31st, 1937, depicts eight anthropomorphized scrolls outside of a building labeled “Supreme Court”. All eight scrolls are seen outside this building, however, three are walking out of the building with a smile on their faces and a big “OK” stamped on their sides, whereas the other five, battered and bruised, incredulously peer up from the side of the stairs. Each of these scrolls, made to look like people, are labeled. Among the injured scrolls, the words “NRA”, “AAA”, and “Guffey Act”, with the others reading: “RR. Labor Act”, “Frazier-Lemke Act”, and “Minimum Wage Law” (Knott 2). In his political cartoon, John Knott is depicting some of FDR’s New Deal acts and administrations that were ruled unconstitutional in contrast to others that were upheld. The cartoon also illustrates the power struggle between Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the United States Supreme Court regarding the implementation of the New Deal. The cartoon indexes to the dynamic between the Supreme Court, FDR, and his attempts at court-packing by increasing the number of justices in the Supreme Court that would sway the balance of opinion (“Court Packing Plan”).
The accompanying editorial, “The Court Decides,” provides background information and context for the cartoon in regards to the decisions made by the Court the previous Monday, March 29th, 1937. It explains how the Supreme Court had been reviewing cases involving the New Deal and had actually sustained and upheld over 60% of the New Deal legislation, contrary to the popular belief that it had struck down most of the laws and acts of FDR’s national recovery plan. It further describes the American public’s trust in the Court and the Court’s dedication to “interpret the Constitution as it stands” as they “do not have their ears to the ground, they keep their feet on it.” (“The Court Decides” 2).
As a result of the Wall Street stock market crash on October 24th, 1929 and widespread panic that ensued, The Great Depression of the 1930s was an economic breakdown that began in the U.S. and ultimately led to a worldwide economic collapse. It is the most severe depression of the Western world to date. The United States alone suffered a 30 percent decline in real gross domestic product and unemployment rate was at around 20 percent at its highest point. The American public was desperate for work and the American spirit was at an all-time low (Romer and Pells).
Upon becoming the 32nd president of the United States in the midst of the Depression in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt did not hesitate to begin working towards nationwide recovery. The United States was in shambles and needed political and economic reform as most of the nation’s banks came to a close, industrial production plummeted, and as many as 15 million people were unemployed. Roosevelt was burdened with responsibilities as he had been elected president to solve the worst economic problem in the history of the United States (“The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945)”). In his first 100 days in office, known as his great productive opening period, FDR worked with the new democratic congress to enact bills that would begin to stimulate the economy and increase public confidence (Freidel and Sidey). With his New Deal legislation, Roosevelt hoped to put an end to deflation, lighten lower-income group debt, and provide employment to those who had become unemployed as a result of the depression (Dickinson). However, the Supreme Court ultimately stepped in between 1935 and 1936 and struck down eleven pieces of New Deal legislation, explaining that they violated the separation of powers and intruded on states’ reserved powers (“The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945)”).
These decisions made by the Supreme Court are ultimately what John Knott is referring to in his political cartoon. The three pieces of legislation depicted on the side of the steps of the Supreme Court building in the cartoon, battered and bruised, are the NRA (National Recovery Administration), AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Act), and Guffey Act. The National Recovery Administration or NRA, was a government agency established to work to implement codes promoting fair-practices. The NRA was an element of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of June 1933 that was intended to work to eliminate unfair trade practices and reduce unemployment. The agency established codes that affected around 22 million workers across several workforces, but came to an abrupt end in 1935 when the Supreme Court invalidated it when ruling it unconstitutional beginning with a specific provision dealing with petroleum industry regulations, but ultimately coming to the conclusion to invalidate the entire act and administration, stating that the NIRA “unconstitutionally extended the power of Congress to regulate commerce among the states to intrastate commercial transactions-that is, business dealings occurring entirely within the boundaries of a state” (Brand).
The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. A prominent feature of the New Deal alongside the NRA, the AAA aimed to aid the agriculture industry by restoring purchasing powers to farmers, as they had experienced before World War I. The act was “designed to restore parity prices for ‘basic agricultural commodities’—initially defined as wheat, cotton, corn, hogs, rice, tobacco, and milk—by reducing supplies in artificial scarcity. Benefit payments would compensate participating farmers who agreed to curb acreage or kill excess livestock” (Chen). This was made possible through a tax levied on processors of agricultural commodities. This tax increased commodity prices by reducing supplies and enhanced famers’ purchasing power, but faced invalidation as the Court stated that it, like the NRA, intruded on the reserved rights of the states to regulate production. The Court used the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution in their argument as it states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” “Assuming that Congress could not directly compel farmers to reduce acreage or cull livestock” (Chen). However, the AAA was rewritten in 1938 and upheld by the Court in Mulford v. Smith in 1939.
The last of the unconstitutional acts portrayed in the cartoon is The Guffey Act of 1935. Originally named The Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, the Guffey Act was named after its sponsor, Joseph Guffey, a Senator from Pennsylvania, and was passed by congress to regulate and bring stability to the coal industry. The act outlined a minimum price for coal and protected the rights of those who worked for the industry. Additionally, this act worked to established wages and improve working conditions as coal mining had a reputation of being a “sick” industry with frequent worker strikes due to unhealthy and dangerous working conditions. However, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional in 1936 as it interfered with private commerce, similar to the NRA and AAA (O’Neal).
Although many of FDR’s New Deal policies fell under the jurisdiction of the Court and bankers and businessmen turned more and more against his New Deal programs, fearing the way he allowed for deficits in the budget, he was re-elected by a large margin in 1936 (Freidel and Sidey). Because of the problems his New Deal legislation faced in the eyes of the Supreme Court, when re-elected, Roosevelt proposed a new plan to change the Supreme Court. His plan, later known as “Court-Packing” proposed that “for every judge over seventy who did not retire (there were five) the president could appoint an additional justice” (“FDR’s Supreme Court”) Roosevelt claimed the purpose in his proposition to be to expedite the Court’s work, but many believed it was an attempt to place justices that would support his programs. He was met with a heated debate and suffered a loss in credibility in the eyes of the public as they had supported the New Deal, but did not agree with the idea of interfering with the Supreme Court.
Although Roosevelt’s New Deal had suffered a lot by the hands of the Court’s rulings, there were some acts that remained as they were constitutional. The acts Knott decided to include in his cartoon are the R.R. (Railroad/Railway) Labor Act, Frazier-Lemke Act, and the Minimum Wage Law.
The Railway Labor Act (RLA) was a very important piece of labor legislation implemented prior to FDR’s New Deal; however, it was amended in both 1934 and 1936 during President Roosevelt’s first term, and later in 1951 and 1966. The act secured the rights of railway workers and employers in light of numerous strikes that began happening in the late nineteenth century. The1934 amendment to the act addressed concerns of railway workers and unions. Criminal penalties were introduced “in the case of violation of the act’s provisions related to collective bargaining” (McCartin). It allowed for workers to choose their collective bargaining representatives and also created the National Railroad Adjustment Board (NRAB), a board of 34 members that equally represented carriers and unions that corresponded with disputes before they advanced to the National Mediation Board. The amendment of 1936 extended the act to apply to common air carriers of both interstate and foreign commerce as well as transporters of the U.S. mail (McCartin). The decision the Court made on Monday, March 29th, 1937, sought to avoid interstate commerce from being interrupted as a result of strikes and disputes between employers and workers that concerned wages or working conditions on the railroads. It upheld and promoted the practice of collective bargaining in which negotiation could be held between an employer and a labor union as it was a “declaration of public interest and policy”.
The Frazier-Lemke Act, also known as the Farm Bankruptcy Act, was named after its sponsors: North Dakota Senator Lynn Frazier and North Dakota Representative William Lemke. It was passed by congress in 1934 as part of FDR’s First New Deal, its purpose was to restrict banks as they began to repossess farms that faced hardship during the Great Depression. This act allowed the federal courts to lower a farmer’s debt to a level proportional to the existing value of his property. They, under certain conditions, could give these farmers a three year stay of foreclosure in which they did not have to begin debt repayment right away. This law was sustained by the Supreme Court on March 29th, 1937 as it was an amended version that secured creditors’ property rights (Bonner and Eriksson).
The Minimum Wage Law referred to in the editorial explicitly claims that it regarded women. In making this reference, one can conclude that Knott’s political cartoon refers to the Court’s decision on West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish made that previous Monday. The court case involved the West Coast Hotel Company and Elsie Parrish, a maid who worked at the Cascadian Hotel in Wenatchee, Washington. Parrish sued the company due to a discrepancy in her pay and the decision the Court made was in her favor as the Court concluded that the state had an authority to interfere in labor contracts if it “appeared that the parties were not equal in bargaining power or where the failure to intervene would endanger public health” (Goble). The Court argued that in denying a woman a living wage was a danger to their health and community, and subsequently warranted the enactment of a minimum wage law for them.
Look! is a political cartoon by John Knott published in the Dallas Morning News that illustrated the constitutionality of different acts of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. As FDR worked tirelessly to implement legislation for the betterment of the American economic system, he was faced with continual backlash from the Supreme Court in terms of unconstitutionality in regards to some of his acts. Knott’s use of portraying the individual acts as men dressed up as scrolls that have either been approved or kicked ‘to the curb’ can show how the “majority of conservative America” had the “utmost confidence” in the Supreme Court’s ruthlessness and dedication to uphold the constitution as well as the continuing power struggle experienced between the Courts and FDR (“The Court Decides” 2).
Bonner, Jeremy, and Erik McKinley Eriksson. “Frazier-Lemke Farm Bankruptcy Act.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 3, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 457. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3401801593&asid=cbc7cb890562d387a1b7746b03d7d431. Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.
Brand, Donald R. “National Recovery Administration.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Ed. Robert H. Zieger. Vol. 5: Prosperity, Depression, and War, 1921 to 1945. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2010. 247-251. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Chen, Jim. “Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933).” Major Acts of Congress. Ed. Brian K. Landsberg. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 9-13. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
“Court-Packing Plan.” The Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties in America. Ed. David Schultz and John R. Vile. Vol. 1. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2005. 244-246. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Dickinson, M.J. (1996) ‘Creating the resource gap: Bargaining costs and the First New Deal, 1933–5’, in Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 45–85.
“FDR’s Supreme Court: How did the Supreme Court Weather the Attempt by Franklin D. Roosevelt to Increase the Number of Justices in Response to Its Rescinding New Deal Legislation?” History in Dispute. Ed. Robert J. Allison. Vol. 3: American Social and Political Movements, 1900-1945: Pursuit of Progress. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. 24-31. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.
Goble, George W. “West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 8, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 445. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3401804515&asid=9a8e9208da11f626b34fcb4d75776ce2. Accessed 15 Nov. 2016.
McCartin, Joseph A. “Railway Labor Act.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide, edited by Neil Schlager, vol. 2, St. James Press, 2004, pp. 166-171. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
“National Recovery Administration (NRA)”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 07 Nov. 2016.
O’Neal, Michael J. “Guffey Act.” St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide. Ed. Neil Schlager. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2004. 407-410. Gale Virtual ReferenceLibrary. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Romer, Christina D. and Pells, Richard H.”Great Depression”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 08 Nov. 2016 <https://www.britannica.com/event/Great-Depression>.
“The Great Depression and World War II (1929–1945).” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics, vol. 2, Gale, 2008. Gale Virtual Reference Library, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=txshracd2598&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3048400016&asid=591a52c4bb42666249bf026343a3ecd3. Accessed 20 Nov. 2016.
The political cartoon, “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More,” was created by John Francis Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on October 20, 1933. It depicts the cotton planters of the United States with regards to the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the economic aspects that accompanied it. The cartoon reveals the economic issues faced by the United States and the twenty million cotton planters depicted in the image. Knott’s cartoon highlights the negative effects that the U.S. government and its New Deal policies – such as the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Commodity Credit Corporation – had on cotton planters nationwide. These negative effects included the acreage reduction’s failure to raise crop prices, the tenant farming system’s lack of productivity, the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931, and the overall economic incongruities which were created.
The Great Depression spanned from the late 1920s to the late 1930s. While the depression was most known for its negative effects on American society and the crash of the stock market, it was also associated with the sharp decline of profitable cotton prices; this was devastating due to the increased agriculture during that time period. Therefore, it was important for farmers and cotton planters to get back into business. In 1933, the U.S. government created a program that financially helped farmers for lowering cotton acreage, which reduced supply and thus created higher prices. The program, known as the New Deal, brought about interesting changes to the agricultural aspect of the nation – it constituted the Agricultural Adjustment Administration which called for a forty percent cotton acreage reduction and the Commodity Credit Corporation which provided a ten cent loan for each pound of cotton as long as planters promised to reduce its acreage in the following year (Golay 204).
“Can’t You Spare a Nickel More” depicts stress on the cotton planter’s face as well as Uncle Sam’s (Knott 2). These difficult times created a bleak outlook for the nation along with its twenty million cotton planters. Even after the Agricultural Adjustment Administration enforced an acreage reduction on cotton, thirteen million bales remained to sustain the world demand for the rest of the year. This countered the goal of raising the price of crops. In addition to this issue, the tenant farming system – a system in which tenant farmers contributed their own land and labor for capital –resulted in wastefulness and inefficiency. It caused trouble for the South’s traditional cash crop and created conflicts between planters and tenants due to its many internal economic problems (Hawkins).
The accompanying article, “The Price of Cotton,” explains the cartoon’s exchange of ten cents profoundly; it questions the unfairness of lending of ten cents per pound of cotton rather than fifteen cents and explicitly states that the discrepancy is inadequate (“The Price of Cotton”). The Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 further emphasized the strains placed upon cotton farmers by requiring that the amount of cotton planted in 1932 and 1933 could not surpass thirty percent of that of the preceding year (Jasinski). The synthesis of these two sources develops the notion that the combination of reduced cotton acreage and lowered payment to cotton farmers only created an increasing lack of sustenance as well as an overall miserable lifestyle.
The humor in this cartoon is evident in the distinct contrast between the two parties depicted and their relation to the underlying meaning of the image. Despite the fact that the wealthier man is not explicitly labeled as Uncle Sam, it can be inferred based on the combination of the cartoon, the article, and knowledge of American popular culture. While the man representing the twenty million cotton planters of the U.S. is illustrated in tattered clothing with a grim expression, the man who appears to be Uncle Sam handing him the ten cent loan looks stern yet well dressed which emphasizes the economic gap as well as the issues which were created by the loans and cotton reduction (Knott 2). The prominent issue that Knott’s cartoon focuses on is the unfair loans given to the cotton planters by the government. The cartoon focuses attention on the twenty million cotton planters receiving a ten cent loan which insinuates that the planters are not receiving sufficient funds for their duties, thus creating a cycle of internal and external economic incongruities.
(1) “The Price of Cotton.” Editorial. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.
(2) Golay, Michael. America 1933: The Great Depression, Lorena Hickok, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Shaping of the New Deal. New York: Free, 2013. Print.
(3) Hawkins, Van. “Cotton Industry.” The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
(4) Jasinski, Laurie E. “Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931-32.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
(5) Knott, John. “Can’t You Spare a Nickel More.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 20 Oct. 1933, sec. 2: 2. Print.
(6) Novak, James L., James W. Pease, and Larry D. Sanders. Agricultural Policy in the United States: Evolution and Economics. London: Routledge, 2015. Print.
This cartoon published in August of 1931, is a raw depiction of a typical southern cotton farmer’s situation during the Great Depression. During the Great Depression era, before President FDR or his New Deal, little was being done to help cotton farmers handle the struggling market. The constant production of cotton at high rates caused the cost of the crop to drastically drop when the Great Depression hit, as consumer demand for these products fell. Farmers were left with copious amounts of unwanted crop that they could not get rid of. At the time, Southern leaders agreed the solution was to diminish cotton acreage, as to reduce the ample supply and therefore raise the market value of the crop. Texas proposed the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931 (TCACL) as the remedy to the cotton problem, and as an example for other Southern states. However, unlike President Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), passed in 1933, the TCACL did not directly offer subsidies to the farmers. Rather, it fined them if they overproduced under the provisions of the law (Jasinski). Knott compares these issues for farmers to the issues slaves had seventy years before with through his cartoon, “Slavery Must Be Abolished.”
The article that accompanies this cartoon, “He Owes Too Much Now,” explains the situation and relationship between the banks and the farmers of this cotton issue as well as sharing the author’s issues with the proposed solution. The article highlights that banks in Texas were not able to finance the large scale reduction of crop production for farms. Big banks were trying to keep a large supply of money in depositories in case of emergencies, and small banks had loaned out far too much to “take on a heavy line of credit” with the cotton industry (“He Owes Too Much Now”). After not receiving financial help from the government and being unable to borrow any more money from private investors such as banks, farmers were forced to sell their farms and lay off workers, including their tenants. Herbert Hoover, the president at the time, attempted to help with the issue by establishing the Federal Farm Board to “supervise agricultural cutbacks and levy a special tax” (Kentleton). Despite Hoover’s endeavors, many felt he was not doing enough to affect much change in the market, typical of his laissez-faire approach to economics (Baughman).
The humor in this cartoon comes from the comparison of the struggles of 1930’s southern farmers with cotton, to the plight of African slaves to their slave owners in America up to the Civil War. The cartoon depicts an elderly man who is identified as “The South” by the writing on his shoulder. It is easy to surmise that he is a farmer by the hoe in his hands, the clothes he is wearing and the barren field he is standing in, specific characteristics of agricultural life during that time period. Knott uses the old man to represent southern farmers and the barren field he is in represents the mandated curtailing of cotton production to reduce the surplus that has slashed the market value. He also shows the farmer chained by the ankle to a bail of cotton, illustrating a metaphor for the fiscal issues southern farms faced with the surplus of their crop. The strongest factor of the humor of the cartoon is easily the title, where Knott points out the ironic parallel between the relationships of Great Depression farmers to their cotton, and pre-Civil War slaves to farmers/plantation owners. The fact that these farmers who are now slaves of their crops were generally the same people that participated in slave culture some seventy-plus years before creates the humor and apathetic message Knott wanted to portray.
Farmers in the south faced a tough situation throughout the Great Depression. Many were forced to sell their land and move, either to support their families or because banks would foreclose on their property. Knott’s cartoon “Slavery Must Be Abolished” creates an accurate depiction of the condition of these farmers. These families had so much invested in cotton as their livelihood, the market crash forced them to cling to whatever assets they had remaining. The farmers were bound to their way of life, and needed to bare through the painful remedy of withholding supply if they wanted any chance of recuperating their businesses.
Author Not Listed. “He Owes Too Much Now.” Dallas Morning News. 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 25 Oct. 2015
Baughman, Judith S. “The Farm Crisis.” American Decades. Ed. et al. Vol. 4: 1930-1939. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.
Britton, Karen Gerhardt and Fred C. Elliott, and E. A. Miller, “COTTON CULTURE,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Jasinski, Laurie E. “TEXAS COTTON ACREAGE CONTROL LAW OF 1931-32,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 02, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 4, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Kentleton, John. “Success or failure? Herbert Hoover’s presidency: he sent the troops against the bonus marchers and gave his name to a shantytown in Washington, but has history been fair to President Hoover?” Modern History Review 14.4 (2003): 7+. General OneFile. Web. 1 Nov. 2015.
Knott, John F. “Slavery Must Be Abolished.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 27 Aug. 1931: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 01 Nov.2015
In the winter of 1931, only a few years after a debilitating Stock Market crash and in the midst of the Great Depression, unemployment was at a staggering sixteen percent and the holiday season was approaching rapidly (Darity, Shmoop). Nearly eighty years later in 2007, the housing bubble popped and the stock market came crashing down once again (Ferrara). In these times of economic calamity, Congress is placed in the spotlight. The pressure was on to pass legislation to help the country’s suffering citizens (“The Hungry Years”). In a cartoon illustrated by John Knott and accompanying article published on December 19, 1931 in the Dallas Morning News, Knott established just how hard Congress had worked to pass relief efforts before the holiday season. However in the midst of the more recent economic problem, this wasn’t the case. In 2012, an article by Amanda Turkel of the Huffington Post described just how unproductive the 112th Congress was. Many, such as John Darkow, a cartoonist for the Columbia Daily Tribune poked fun at Congress for being so lazy and useless. Congress has gone through cycles of productivity, but throughout history one thing has stayed the same: the American people always want them to do more.
The editorial in the Dallas Morning News in 1931 titled “A Disposition to Work” gave an optimistic view of the work congress had done during the Depression. The author clearly held a very optimistic view on how much work Congress had done. Knott’s cartoon reflected the views of the article, illustrating a very productive and obedient Congress. However in the editorial, the author hinted that others were not quite as pleased about Congress. “The notion that Congressmen are numbskulls and scalawags has its humorous possibilities”, hints that even in 1931, people did not trust congress nor the member within it. This is still an ongoing problem, as of October of this year only thirteen percent of citizen trusted Congress to actually do its job (Gallup).
In 1948, President Harry Truman coined the term “do nothing congress” when he bashed the work done by the 80th Congress (“Truman”). While Truman saw the Congress as being slow to act, they still managed to pass 906 bills into law during the session (“Truman”, Terkel). In the 1960’s, in the midst of civil rights activism and the beginning of the Vietnam War, Congress was passing around 1500 bills each session (“Vital”, Baughman). In the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan pledged to cut down big government and passed legislation that often cut funds to government programs (Valelly). Congress passed around 900 bills each session during Regan’s time and public approval for congress hovered around thirty five percent (“Vital”, Gallup).
In 2012, with only a week left until the end of the session, the 112th Congress had only managed to pass 219 bills. This put the congress on track to be one of the least productive sessions of Congress in US history (Terkel). And although there were a multitude of issues during the time which could have used some Congressional intervention, Terkel of the Huffington Post argued that a number of the bills that were passed have not been of particular importance. With “at least 40 bills… [that] concern[ed] the renaming of…public buildings [and] another six [that] dealt with commemorative coins”, it is no wonder that congressional approval ratings dropped below twenty percent (Terkel).
An enduring theme over the decades has been a negative attitude about Congress. Journalists and comedians find humor in the futile Congress, many poking fun at the members being lazy and stubborn. In August of 2012, John Darkow published a cartoon about the 112th congress in the Columbia Daily Tribune. It depicts a robust man labeled “Do-Nothing Congress” with his clothes and briefcase in a pile behind him, jumping into the shallow end of a swimming pool. He is shouting “Five weeks of summer recess! Boy do I need this! fussin’ an’a feudin’ can cause a lot of stress!” “Congress” is about to land on a frightened man in an intertube labeled “issues”. Darkow paints congress in a negative light by portraying him as a heavy man, implying that the US Congress is lazy. The physical size of “Congress” compared to the size of the “issues” makes it clear that “Congress” is about to destroy all of the issues that are important and floating right on the surface. The quote from “Congress” is humorous because it implies sarcasm. Congress has no reason to be stressed, since he has done nothing. “Congress” also uses an unexpected dialect when saying “fussin’ an’a feudin’” which makes him seem undereducated. This pokes fun at the fact that congressmen and elected officials in government are supposed to be elite and educated. Darkow makes it clear that he disapproves of the little work the 112th Congress did by humorously rendering Congress lazy, unintelligent, stubborn, and unable to tend to the issues at hand.
In 1931, some citizens of the US may have seen Congress as “numbskulls and scalawags”, but in the end, they were able to pass bills involving important issues at the time (“A Disposition”). In 1948, Harry Truman may have believed Congress was “do nothing”, but they did manage to pass over 900 bills (Terkel). In the 1960s and 1980s Congress was a little more productive but was still overall disliked by the public. In 2012, the historically disapproving attitude toward Congress became more justified when the 112th Congress had passed less than 300 bills right before the end of the session (Terkel). And although there was a lot of work to be done in the US, many people, like John Darkow, turned to humorously judging Congress. And with approval ratings so low, it is clear that the rest of America was laughing along.
Baughman, Judith S. “The 1960s: Government and Politics: Overview.” American Decades. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Darity, William A. “Great Depression.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Refence USA, 2008. 367-71. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Darkow, John. Columbia Daily Tribune 11 Aug. 2012: n. pag. Print.
Ferrara, Miranda H., and Michele P. LaMeau. “U.S. Housing Bubble and Credit Crisis in the Late-2000s.” Corporate Disasters: What Went Wrong and Why. N.p.: n.p., 2012. 339-42. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“Congress and the Public.” Gallup.com. Gallup Polls, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Knott, John F. “Just Before Christmas”. 19 December 1931. Folder 2, Box 3L317, John F. Knott Cartoon Scrapbook. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Great Depression Statistics.” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.
Terkel, Amanda. “112th Congress Set To Become Most Unproductive Since 1940s.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.
“The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America.” Choice Reviews Online 37.06 (2000): n. pag. BRT Projects. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
“Truman Brands Session ‘Do Nothing’ Congress.” Los Angeles Times 13 Aug. 1948: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers [ProQuest]. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Valelly, Richard M. “Ronald Reagan.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History. Vol. 7. Washington, DC: CQ, 2010. 320-25. Gale Virtual Reference Library [Gale]. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
“Vital Statistics on Congress.” Brookings Institute, n.d. Web.
The United States’ economy took a hard strike in 1929. Since that devastating moment in history and throughout the time frame of economic struggle, the active presidents did what they could, in their opinion, to help the economy from self destructing. The Dallas Morning News’ November 25, 1933 editorial visits one of the methods used to succor the nation in times of hardship. In addition, John Knott’s political cartoon accompanies the editorial depicting Lewis Douglas, the director of the Bureau of Budget and Planning during Fredrick D. Roosevelt’s term in office, trying to cut down the national budget to save the economy. The Bureau of Budget and Planning director primarily inspects government activities, coordinate fiscal estimates, and generally control expenditures. The editorial and political cartoon render an illustration of the vigorous attempt to rescue the United States from its state of penury.
On October 29, 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, the United States fell into the worst economic period of the twentieth century when the American stock market crashed. Due to the Great Depression, banks failed, the nation’s money supply diminished, companies went bankrupt causing them to fire their workers in flocks. President Herbert Hoover urged patience and self reliance and claimed that it was not the government’s job to try and resolve the issue. Thus, 1932 was the blackest year of the Great Depression with one-fourth of the work force unemployed. Once Franklin D. Roosevelt became the nation’s thirty-second president, he acted swiftly to try and stabilize the economy and provide jobs and relief to those suffering. As it turns out, Roosevelt actually created more problems for the government in his attempt to help and by creating the New Deal. Although, not in the beginning. At first, when Lewis Douglas was chosen as the Director of the Bureau of Budget, the nation was contempt with his plans. Douglas was an advocate of balanced budgets and limited government expenditures.
The $2,600,000,000 Budget editorial that is paired with the cartoon voices Lewis Douglas’ plan for the nation. He set a goal of two billion six hundred million dollars for normal annual expenditure by the government. This plan cuts off twenty-five percent in the figure for the fiscal year. The article also mentions how the budget director would have to deal with Congress. Since Douglas’ budget was undoubtedly astray from the normal budget, congress decided to proceed with caution as far as permitting this plan. In contrast, the article articulates that the nation’s taxpayers would love Douglas, for the budget required drastic reductions in pension programs and also economy in all offices. The budget director would not be popular in Washington, but would be worshipped by the tax-bearing citizens.
The political cartoon, Nice Work! by John Knott, a rather rugged man is shown chopping off a portion of a tree log, while another more comfortable looking man is shown sitting on the opposite end of the log. The tree log laid out on the ground is labeled ‘National Budget’ and is already partially cut through. The man holding the ax in the air getting ready to continue chopping the log is Lewis Douglas. His arm is labeled ‘Douglas’ and he is not wearing a coat and has his sleeves rolled up. Douglas is illustrated with a sweaty, frustrated, yet determined face. This portrays how Douglas was hard at work to cut down the national budget. The taxpayer sitting on the end of the log has his hand up and his mouth open as if he is alarmed by what Douglas is doing. Although the taxpayer is not showing any sign of stopping him. Taxpayers are alarmed by this proclamation that the director of budgetary is suggesting because the nation has never seen this done and they are not sure if this will necessarily help their current economy’s issues. The cartoon is ironic since the taxpayer should actually be cheering Douglas on for cutting down their taxes, rather than what Roosevelt has in store for them. The government is the one who should be worrying about this new plan when their salary will be cut down just like the tree log.
In the long run, Lewis Douglas was only awarded with a short term in the spotlight. Roosevelt later downplayed efforts to cut costs and balance the budget causing Douglas’ role to diminish. A month after signing the Economy Act on March 20, 1933 to fulfill Douglas’s expectations, Roosevelt restricted gold imports, signaling his turn toward inflationary measures. Given Roosevelt’s new change in direction for the economy, the government needed more funding than what was available so they increased taxes. The monetary extraction from hardworking America prolonged the depression. Lewis Douglas resigned which magnified the increasing divergence between what Frederick D. Roosevelt had promised during a 1932 presidential campaign and what played out to be even more problems for the economy.
Dickinson, Matthew J. “The BoB and Other Institutional Staff Agencies.”Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power, and the Growth of the Presidential Branch. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996. 59-62. Print.
Hazlitt, Henry. “Lewis Douglas Dissects The New Deal: The Former Director of the Budget Thinks We Are Heading Toward Collectivism.”The New York Times 28 July 1935, The Liberal Tradition sec.: BR4. Print.
Patton, Mike. “A Brief History Of The Individual And Corporate Income Tax.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 Oct. 2015. Web. 06 Nov. 2015.
World War I was an enormous global conflict that completely altered the geopolitical landscape and changed the way the world thought about war. Many societies, including the United States, were astonished by the unprecedented death toll that occurred due to advances in weapons, machines, and trench warfare. The introduction of tanks, the automatic gun, and use of chemical weapons, such as tear gas, led to horrors that had never been seen before. With a generation of young men killed and injured due to the Great War, society was left changed, and the United States’s view of the contributing factors and aftermath of this war were broadcast throughout the nation in newspapers. In the political cartoon There Ain’t No Such Animal, by John Knott from the December 28, 1931 issue of the Dallas Morning News, we see a satirical and politically biting interpretation of the controversial war reparations brought upon Germany by the Allied powers.
Following World War I, at the Paris Peace conferences, the Allied powers had to decide what punishments to divvy out to the Central powers. The Allied powers decided to force the defeated Central powers to pay reparations. However, the other Central powers could not pay reparations because many countries were bankrupt and their governments had broken apart, such as the dissolution of Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, Germany was forced to take sole responsibility for World War I and for the reparations. Many countries recognized there were other contributing factors to World War I and believed the reparations would be too harsh, which would lead to geo-political and economic consequences in the future (Webb, 786). However, France believed Germany deserved to pay all these reparations due to France’s destruction at the hands of German troops. The debate over reparations was a point of contention throughout the Paris peace conferences. Germany had to pay thirty-three billion US dollars to the Allied powers in 1931, which is the equivalent of five hundred and sixteen billion dollars in 2015 (Webb, 793-4). The Allied powers should have had the foresight to see that these penalties were too harsh and would ultimately lead to further tragedy, such as World War II.
In the political cartoon, There Ain’t No Such Animal, we see Uncle Sam passing a store front acknowledging, yet walking away from the ‘Germanese twins’. The title of the cartoon alludes to the idea that this colossal amount of debt and reparations had never been seen before because no war resolution had ever resulted in such large reparations directed at one country. As we see Uncle Sam peering into a window, in shock at the two fat twins, and he is trying to wave at them. Yet, the twins look back angrily through the window. Germany was angry because America was one of the countries that contributed to the reparations, and the German people believed the reparations were unfair and humiliating to their country. The twin’s size illustrates that Germany had a large war debt. Uncle Sam’s facial reaction alludes to the American people’s guilt of Germany’s financial situation. The ‘Germanese twins’ represent the massive war debts and the one hundred and thirty-two billion gold marks of war reparations that Germany had to pay (Taussig, 37-8). Knott employs the use of humor through his characterizations of the two global superpowers. The emblem of Uncle Sam is supposed to demonstrate American military heroism, yet here Uncle Sam shies away from his own actions. The large size of the twins and their angry expressions are literal in demonstrating Germany’s large debts and reparations and their anger about said debts and reparations, and Knott illustrates the humiliation and reduction of Germany as a country by placing the twins behind a glass window. The glass window allows others to ignore their plight and their accountability.
The Basel Report opinion article that is paired with the cartoon explains the economic consequences of Germany’s war debts and reparations. The article states that economists in over eleven nations believed that Germany was unable to pay these reparations due to their “declining business, departures from the gold standard, tariff bars, and heavy interest charges on loans and credits” (The Basel Report). Another issue set forth in the article is that taxes could not be raised to pay the reparations. There was growing fear that Germany’s economic crisis could start a global economic decline. In the cartoon, we see Uncle Sam shying away from the twins, but also staring at them in fear of what troubles they could bring. The issue that the war debts and reparations were part of the same issue and could not be separated is demonstrated in the cartoon by representing them as twins. Basel asks, “If war debts due us cannot be met in full, they should be reduced. Why worry over the loss of driblets, when billions of dollars are being lost annually through the continuance of hard times and unemployment?” (The Basel Report). Clearly the reparations were not the answer to global economic repair, and many people found the reparations to be ridiculous and humiliating, as the cartoon illustrates.
Ultimately, these reparations were unjust and shortsighted because they forced Germany into a financial crisis from which they could not recover. As world renowned economist John Keynes said this was a ‘Carthinagian’ solution that ultimately led to the complete destruction of Germany’s economy and political system. The economic collapse and degradation of the ineffective Weimar Republic led to poor quality of life, rampant poverty, and desperation in Germany that ultimately led the German people to alternatives like the Nazi party to save the country from total disaster.
Bradley, Megan. “Reparations.” The Encyclopedia of Political Science. Ed. George Thomas Kurian. Vol. 5. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011. 1459-1460. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.
Knott, John. “There Ain’t No Such Animal.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed. Print.
Taussig, F. W.. “Germany’s Reparation Payments”. The American Economic Review 10.1 (1920): 33–49.
“The Basel Report.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 28 Dec. 1931, 89th ed., sec. 1: 4. Print.
Webb, Steven B.. “Fiscal News and Inflationary Expectations in Germany After World War I”. The Journal of Economic History 46.3 (1986): 769–794.
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