Saturday, June 10, 2017

Buy Bonds, Not Booze

Snootfulback Saturday returns to the thrilling days of yestercentury to resurrect cartoons about grain, alcohol, and Liberty Loans.

A few weeks ago, I included a John "Ding" Darling cartoon of not-as-yet-President Herbert Hoover reviewing his "troops," consisting of various foodstuffs. Ding was not the only cartoonist to admire Mr. Hoover; Bill Sykes at the Philadelphia Evening Ledger portrays him here as a watchcat returning to scatter the forces of Waste, Greed, Selfishness and Speculation threatening the nation's food supply.
"Watchful Waiting" by Bill Sykes in Philadelphia Evening Ledger, June, 1917
The prospect of food shortages and profiteering was a concern that predated the U.S. entry into World War I, but concern over them was only amplified once war was declared. Taking advantage of these concerns was the Prohibitionist movement. The temperance and prohibitionist movement dated back decades, its political viability now gaining strength in part because of America's war footing, yet even more due to extension of voting rights to women.
"The Menace" by Joe Murphy in San Francisco Call,  June, 1917
Oscar Cesare illustrates the menace of booze to the U.S. food supply employing a parallel to one of the main issues for the country having entered the war.
"The Mine" by Oscar Cesare in New York Evening Post, June, 1917
I've never seen the issues of prohibition and Daylight Saving Time tied together before; doesn't having more daylight hours in the evening give a guy more time to spend in the tavern after the day's work is done? Or did Harry Murphy count on those early mornings deterring whisky-soaked nights?
"More Daylight, Less Whisky" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, June 9, 1917
Passage of the 18th Amendment was still two years away in 1917, but "dry" municipalities were proliferating all over the country. Cartoonist Ray Handy of the Duluth News-Tribune touted his hometown's aridity in one panel of a two-page spread on Duluth's attractions in Cartoons Magazine.
Detail from "Cities Beautiful 8 - Duluth" by Ray N. Handy in Cartoons Magazine, July, 1917
Meanwhile, June 10-16 was designated as Liberty Loan week, so the nation's cartoonists dutifully turned their pens to the task of inspiring their fellow citizens to lend the government money to fund the war effort. For the most part, the cartoons illustrate my Cartooning Rule of Thumb that cartoons arguing in favor of anything are flat and uninteresting. (So I'm only going to show you seven of them.)

There are only so many ways to cartoon what a swell idea sending extra money to Uncle Sam is, after all. Frank King's "Rectangle" (of which this is only the top half) hit all the bases that Sunday.
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1917
The original Liberty Loan —there would be three more— was authorized by Congress to raise $2 billion toward the $7 billion war credit. Liberty Loans offered a fixed return rate of 3.5%, tax-free, promising greater security than a bank in those days before the FDIC — when no bank was too big to fail. Another $1.8 trillion, however, was to be raised by various war taxes, so getting Americans to lend Uncle Sam even more money was going to take some hard selling.
"We Can't All Play..." by Bill Sykes for Philadelphia Evening Ledger,  June, 1917
Bill Sykes was one of quite a few cartoonists who drew a different Liberty Loan sales pitch every day that week. Certainly, there were several well-drawn cartoons, but most were fairly ponderous. Here's an example of both tendencies.
"Bringing Up the Ammunition" by Robert Carter in Philadelphia Press, June, 1917
There were, of course, occasional attempts at humor.
"C-A-S-H!!" by Brinkerhoff in New York Evening Mail, June, 1917
But one cartoon after another simply harped on the need for citizens to do their public duty.
"Help Her Carry It" by Milton R. Halladay in Providence Journal, June, 1917
On the other hand, the Chicago Tribune's John McCutcheon offered a practical argument based on the Liberty Lender's self-interest (no pun intended); inches away, the front page editor attempted to use civic pride to goad his fellow Chicagoans to do their part.
"This Is Liberty Loan and Marine Corps Week" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, June 11, 1917
In the end, most Liberty Loans were made not by individuals but by banks and investment groups who recognized the investment opportunity. The blunt propaganda from American cartoonists, advertisers and celebrities notwithstanding, the average citizen was uncomfortable with the idea of entrusting his savings to the government — especially given the taxes that he had no choice but to pay.
"A Proud But Touching Parting" by Jay "Ding" Darling for New York Tribune,  June, 1917

No comments:

Post a Comment