Wednesday, March 4, 2015

R.C. Bowman on the German Vote

It has been ages since I've posted any cartoons from The Minneapolos Tribune Cartoon Book for 1901: Being a Collection of Over One Hundred Cartoons by R.C. Bowman. So let's take a look at an ethnic voting bloc that you hardly ever  hear about any more:
How Teddy lost the German-American Vote While in Milwaukee.

Clearly, Mr. Bowman was being facetious with this caption; as noted before, he was solidly in favor of the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket in 1900 and would hardly have crowed about a setback to its prospects. Here, the Milwaukee G.O.P., wearing wooden clogs and pants with a pretzel motif, is trumpeting "We're with you, Teddy, man for man" and "Hoo-rah for hoo-rah and high wages!"

Given the party's determination to torpedo wages here in Wisconsin these days, there have clearly been some drastic changes in the state G.O.P. in the last 115 years.

Milwaukee was known as the "German Athens" for its large population of German immigrants, who ranged from farmers to brewery entrepreneurs to outspoken socialists. Generally speaking, German-American voters in 1900 tended to oppose both Bryan's "repudiation" policy (allowing holders of government bonds to "repudiate" the terms of the bond and to demand payment in coin for a bond purchased with paper) and overseas expansion under McKinley as a result of the U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War.
The German American Vote: "Well, wouldn't that jar you? Some old geeser up there takes me for a sucker."

R.C. Bowman here remains confident that the German-American vote will go Republican, rather than be tempted by William Jennings Bryan's proposed 16-to-1 exchange rate of silver coinage to gold, or his campaign against American imperialism. The lure in the cartoon is labeled "16 to 1," and the worm is labeled "Imperialism bait."

Aside from Milwaukee, major German-American communities included Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Baltimore and the Northern Kentucky area along the Ohio River. By 1900, the populations of the cities of Cleveland, Milwaukee, Hoboken, and Cincinnati were all more than 40% German American; and the percentages in Omaha, Nebraska and Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa were even larger. Of the states in which these communities lie, only Kentucky and Missouri -- the ones in the "Solid South" -- went Democratic in the 1900 presidential election.
Carl Schurz: "Mister, don't you want to buy a dog? He's tame as a kitten (if you keep the muzzle on)."
Uncle Sam: "Carley, you may not know it, but you're an awfully funny feller."

German-born American Carl Schurz was a revolutionary who had moved to Wisconsin after the failure of Europe's 1848 liberal revolutions. By 1900, he had been Lincoln's ambassador to Spain, a brigadier general in the Civil War, chief editor of the Detroit Post, Senator from Missouri, and Rutherford B. Hayes's Secretary of the Interior. He was also a frequent cartoon target of Thomas Nast. A liberal Republican "Mugwump," he supported Democrat Grover Cleveland over Republican James Blaine in 1884; and while he did not support Bryan in 1896, he was won over by the Democrat in 1900 for his anti-imperialist policies.

The muzzle in this cartoon is labeled "Republican legislation"; Schurz was not a fan of the economic policies of William Jennings Bryan, who peers out from behind a log in this next cartoon.
"Too old a chick to be caught by chaff."

Those wooden shoes are back as a signifier of German-Americans in this cartoon. Today, they would only be associated with the Dutch, if anyone. I have no idea whether there was some association of pigeons, grouse, plovers, or whatever kind of bird that's supposed to be with German-Americans, but I guess Germans may have tended to walk around Minneapolis wearing poofy hard-billed caps and oversize bow ties.

At least the bird isn't wearing pretzelhosen.

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