Saturday, July 4, 2020

Census Sensibility

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! The parades and fireworks may be subdued or scattered this year, so step back with us to the thrilling days of yesteryear to see what the U.S. was like a century ago.
"Hold Tight, Feller" by Archibald Chapin in St. Louis Star, ca. February, 1920

1920 was a year for the decennial census, mandated by the Constitution as part of keeping our Congress as representative of the people as possible. Crowded onto Archibald Chapin's sled are the seven most populous cities in the United States, none of which were in the west (Los Angeles came in tenth), or the south (unless you count Chapin's hometown of St. Louis, sixth).
"Census Reports" by John T. McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1920
The results of the 1920 census revealed a major and continuing shift of the population of the United States from rural to urban areas. Cities' growth came from rural-to-urban migration as well as from overseas immigration, the newcomers attracted by the jobs in the industrial sector. The most striking example was automobile maker Detroit, whose population had doubled since 1910.
Beginning in 1910, the minimum population threshold to be categorized as an urban place was set at 2,500. 'Urban' was defined as including all territory, persons, and housing units within an incorporated area that met the population threshold. The 1920 census marked the first time in which over 50 percent of the U.S. population was defined as urban.
Having just won Congressional majorities in 1918, Republicans realized that going ahead with the constitutionally required reapportionment process would increase the political influence of urban areas where Democratic machines tended to dominate. Reapportionment legislation would stall again and again as rural interests tried to devise mechanisms to blunt the impact of the population shift. Congress would not pass a reapportionment bill until 1929.
"Just Another 'Bumper Crop'..." by Leo Thiele in Sioux City Tribune, ca. June, 1920
Not being able to see that far into their future, editorial cartoonists largely ignored the political ramifications and instead worried that the decrease in farm labor in rural areas would not be able to feed increasing urban populations.
"Help" by Bob Satterfield for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., ca. June, 1920
U.S. Agriculture Department statistics do show that the number of farm workers began a gradual slide around 1920, even as the total U.S. population kept growing. There were well over 13,000 farm workers in the U.S. that year, working on somewhere around 6,500 farms. Those numbers really head downward after 1940, and are now down around 3,000 and 2,000, respectively.
"Two Viewpoints" by Burt Thomas in Detroit News, June, 1920
Detroit cartoonist Burt Thomas did take note of the mutual resentment between rural and urban citizens. His farmer sees all the benefits of prosperity going to those city slickers, while his urban laborer finds his wages depressed by the hicks in the sticks.
"How Times Have Changed for 'The Poor Working Girl'" by Leo Bushnell for Central Press Assn., May, 1920
Leo Bushnell's take on working women is pretty idealized, but it is true that urbanization and the recently ended war had opened up new roles for women. The Nineteenth Amendment was still a state short of ratification when this cartoon was drawn
"Now, John, When I Was a Young Codger..." by George W. Rehse in New York World, June/July, 1920
The industry behind the population boom in Detroit had effects nationwide, as shown in this George Rehse cartoon and the popularity of "Gasoline Alley" and its imitators.
"Improving the Scenery" by Gustavo Bronstrup in San Francisco Chronicle, July, 1920
Advertisers certainly had taken note of all those people riding around in their automobiles. Within cities, advertisements attached to or painted on the sides of buildings were common; out in the countryside, freestanding billboards proliferated as more and more people took to the roads.

The earliest recorded billboards actually date back to 1867, followed five years later by the founding of the advertisers' lobbying group, the International Bill Posters Association (since renamed the Outdoor Advertising Association of America).

While I appreciate the point he's making about uglifying the scenery, I have some qualms about resurrecting Mr. Bronstrup's cartoon because of its superfluous use of an African-American stereotype on the smokeless tobacco ad — the only face visible anywhere in the cartoon. I can't tell whether he's reflecting a common trope or making a criticism of it; but the thoughtless racism of the day would have rendered such a rude caricature completely unremarkable. Nearly all white cartoonists drew Black people in this way (John Cassel is a notable exception).

Coming around full circle, I'll close with this from Magnus Kettner:
"The Joyriders" by Magnus Kettner for Western Newspaper Union, ca. July 13, 1920
The scarf of the woman in the front seat reads "Extravagance," and I can understand why the farmer might resent her "hollering about the high cost of food stuff." If he feels the same way about the back seat passengers, "High Production" and "Shorter Hours," I guess he must be raising sour grapes.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Q Toon: Assault in the Wounds

Statues were not the only things laid low during last Tuesday's Black Lives Matter protest in Madison.

Tim Carpenter has represented Milwaukee in the state legislature since 1984. He's a progressive Democrat, openly gay, and from what I've read, reasonably well liked and respected among his peers.

Tuesday night, he started to take a video of the protests when two protesters charged at him, punching him to the ground and began kicking him in the head and ribs. After the assault, he started to walk away but collapsed and was taken to a hospital.

As it happened, Donald Berzelius Trump happened to have a Fox News town hall scheduled in Green Bay two days later, and a member of the audience asked him about the incident. Trump ... well, proceeded to be Trump.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Great to have you with us.  My question for you is: With all the unrest we’ve seen across the country, and right here in the state of Wisconsin last night, in our capital city —
THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  — a senator was beaten.  Lady Forward was ripped off her pedestal.  We lost some other statues.  What steps is the administration taking to give us back our streets?
THE PRESIDENT:  So, very strong.  You happen to have a Democrat governor right now.  If you would have had Governor Walker, that wouldn’t have happened.
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT:  Wouldn’t have happened.  (Applause.)  I mean, I’m not saying it.  If Scott were your governor, that would not have happened.  But it did happen, and it was a shame.  And the person they beat up was a Democrat who happened to be gay.  And he was probably out there rooting them on or something, because Democrats think it’s wonderful that they’re destroying our country.  It’s a very sick thing going on.  Nobody has ever seen it.
The rest of his lengthy answer had nothing whatsoever to do with the question, so let's just move on.

"I don't know what's worse, the beating or having someone turn something so personal that happened to you and weaponize it against you," Carpenter told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after their reporter relayed Trump's comments.

If you ask me, the beating ought to be worse. When Donald Joffrey Trump trash-talks you, you're in pretty interesting company.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Toon: Said the Cat, We're All Mad Here

This week's cartoons comprise a triptych of sorts.

Black Lives Matter Protests in Madison turned violent last week after the arrest of a Black male who brought a bullhorn and a baseball bat into a downtown restaurant and allegedly demanded free food. This was not an arrest in which a Black man was killed; but force was used, and video was shared on social media and tempers flared.

The protesters engaged in quite a lot of destruction of property — and there was absolutely no incidence of boogaloo droogs this time — windows broken at the capitol, molotov cocktails thrown into buildings, and two statues were torn down.
Protesters removed two Capitol statues from their pedestals, WPR reported: “the Forward statue, located on the west entrance of the Capitol at the end of State Street, and a statue of Col. Hans Christian Heg, located on the east entrance of the Capitol at the King Street corner of the square…. Protesters took the Heg statue and dumped it in Lake Monona, almost a half-mile from where it was toppled. And the Forward statue “as of early Wednesday morning, was about a block from the state Capitol in the middle of the street.”
We don't have monuments to Confederate generals in this state. "Forward" was a replica of an 1895 statue by Jean Pond Miner Stoneman of a woman gesturing in the direction of the state motto. The original was purchased by women's suffrage organizations and "presented to the state of Wisconsin on behalf of the women's suffrage movement." The copper statue was replaced in 1996 with a bronze one and moved to a museum. The replica was a frequent rallying spot for protests during the Scott Walker administration.

Far from being a slave-owner, Hans Christian Heg was a leader of a citizen militia that worked to thwart slave catchers. When the Civil War broke out, he was appointed colonel in charge of the largely Scandinavian 15th Wisconsin infantry, seeing action in Kentucky and Tennessee. After pursuing a retreating Confederate unit to Chickamauga, Georgia in September, 1863, he was fatally wounded by a shot to the abdomen.

But perhaps more to the interests of the spokesperson for the protesters, Heg was State Prison Commissioner in 1859, pushing for vocational training rather than the punishment of prisoners. I think that's actually one of the demands of this week's protesters. Too bad they never bothered to learn the history of the statue before tearing it down, beheading it, and dumping it in Lake Monona.

The protesters' spokesperson apparently had little to say about the Heg statue, which was a gift from the Norwegian Society of America in 1925, around the time that Confederate statues were spreading across Dixie like kudzu. Instead, she focused her contempt on Ms. Forward:
“We’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards,” said Ebony Anderson-Carter. “This (statue) doesn’t need to be here until we’re ready to move forward.”
Anderson-Carter says she and the other protesters want to see something done about racial injustice in the state, and speak with the state’s Black youth.
“The Capitol is where we solve problems, and nobody’s coming here to solve problems,” said Anderson-Carter.
Statues can be repaired and replaced. But not all of the damage Tuesday night was to inanimate objects. I'll have more on that on Thursday.

Monday, June 29, 2020

This Week's Sneak Peek


For this week's sneak peek, here's a pencil sketch from the rough drafts for my Q Syndicate cartoon.

It won't be the only cartoon I'm posting this week. Check in tomorrow to see if I can manage to crank out another one by tonight.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

To Serve and Protect

I've been hearing a lot from my Minneapolis friends about the stubborn resistance of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation to any sort of reform after the torture and death of George Floyd at the hands (or, more accurately, the knees) of one of their officers.

Union president Bob Kroll has vowed to fight to reinstate the four officers fired and now charged in the homicide, and has repeatedly insinuated that Floyd deserved his fate.

There is a long history of racism in the Minneapolis Police Department. The union is still fighting to force the city to reinstate two officers fired for festooning the fourth precinct's Christmas tree with racist items in 2018.

Serving and protecting the bad apples is not limited to Minneapolis by any means.

Two years ago, the Milwaukee Police Department tweeted out congratulations to two of its retiring officers, John Balcerzak and Dennis Wallich, having served a combined 61 years on the Milwaukee Police force.
If you are about my age and live anywhere near Milwaukee, the name John Balcerzak should ring a bell.

In the wee hours of May 27, 1991, Balcerzak and his squad partner, Joseph Gabrish, responded to a 911 call from three women who found a 14-year-old boy naked and bleeding; the boy had a fresh hole drilled in his head. The boy was Konerak Sinthasomphone, who had managed to leave the apartment of Jeffrey Dahmer while the serial killer and convicted child molester was out getting alcohol from a bar.

Dahmer (white) arrived on the scene before Balcerzak (white) and Gabrish (white). Sinthasomphone (Hmong) was unable to speak English for himself, so Dahmer told the officers that the boy was his 19-year-old boyfriend. The women (black) pointed out that Sinthasomphone was bleeding, but the officers told them to "butt out," wrapped Sinthasomphone in a towel and took him back to Dahmer's apartment. Where, by the way, the body of Tony Hughes lay rotting in the bedroom from three days earlier.

Failing to check either Dahmer's or Sinthasomphone's IDs, Balcerzak and Gabrish left the boy with his murderer and drove off, joking with the police dispatcher about those silly faggots. Dahmer would go on to kill Sinthasomphone and four more young men before a fifth intended victim managed to escape and flagged down two police officers (who were not Balcerzak and Gabrish).

Balcerzak and Gabrish were fired over their professional malpractice, but their union got them reinstated to MPD on appeal. Balcerzak was even elected president of the Milwaukee Police Association in 2005.

This has been a very difficult time for unions around the country, but not for police unions. When Scott Walker and his Republican army swept to power in Wisconsin ten years ago, they targeted every state employees union with the exception of their supporters in the police and firefighters unions. Lest you think this was purely a law and order issue, you should note that the prison workers union was not safe from Republicans' full-bore assault.

In light of this year's sustained Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, Democrats may not be as loath to follow Republicans' playbook on union-busting as you might think.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Read All About It

"It's Your Next Draw" by Jay N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, June 18, 1920
Like the Republicans before them, when the 1920 Democratic National Convention met June 28 to July 6, there was no clear front runner among the possible candidates.
"Anybody, Good Lord" by Gustavo Bronstrup in San Francisco Chronicle, June, 1920
San Francisco hosted the Democrats, so here's a cartoon by the hometown cartoonist, Gustavo A. Bronstrup. There were at least fourteen active Democratic candidates for the nomination, and several states sent delegations that weren't committed to any of them. It was anybody's game.
"It Took the Whole Family to Chloroform It" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, July 3, 1920
If there was any candidate in the front of the pack, it was Former Treasury Secretary William MacAdoo. But MacAdoo was stymied by his father-in-law, incumbent President Woodrow Wilson, who clung to the unreasonable hope that the party would overlook his extremely poor health and nominate him for a third term.
"It's a Long, Long Way to San Francisco" by Albert Reid in The National Republican, ca. June 14, 1920
Another hopeless aspirant was three-time loser William Jennings Bryan, an advocate of U.S. neutrality in World War I who had quit as Wilson's Secretary of State in 1915. Republican Albert Reid's cartoon greatly overstates Bryan's differences with Wilson's foreign and domestic policies; Bryan had put his doubts about the League of Nations aside to give it public support. He and Wilson agreed on pushing for laborers' 8-hour workday (Bryan believed more strongly on their right to strike than Wilson did), and both came around to favor female suffrage.
"Outside the Convention Door" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in Collier's Weekly, July 3, 1920
The issue most associated with Bryan in 1920, however, was Prohibition. Bryan's push for the strictest possible party plank in favor of Prohibition put him dead set against "Wet" candidates such as Governors Al Smith of New York and Edward Edwards of New Jersey.
"Little Hans Stopping the Hole in the Dike" by J.N. "Ding" Darling in Des Moines Register, June/July, 1920
Bryan stood adamantly against the "Wets" calling for total repeal of Prohibition, and also against "Moist" planks allowing the production and sale of cider, light wines, and 3.2% alcoholic beer. It may or may not have been the most contentious issue at the convention; it certainly was of great interest to newspaper reporters and cartoonists.
"The Substitute" by Gustavo Bronstrup in San Francisco Chronicle, July, 1920
Hometown cartoonist Bronstrup suggested that if Bryan had his way, the Democratic party might need a new cartoon symbol to replace its donkey. Bryan's "Bone Dry" plank met defeat, however.
"They Never Saw Him" by Burt Thomas in Detroit News, July, 1920
The Democratic platform passed without any statement on Prohibition; it also settled for wishy-washy platitudes in support of the people of Ireland and Armenia.

I haven't been able to find any cartoon delving into as many platform issues as the one on the GOP platform by John McCutcheon, so here's one by Orville Williams bemoaning the Democrats' plank in favor of Wilson's League of Nations. (In case your screen is too small, that's Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson levitating back there.)
"Off the Trail" by Orville P. Williams in New York American, June/July, 1920
After 44 ballots over four days (including July 4), the convention finally agreed on a presidential candidate at 1:40 a.m. Pacific Time on July 6: Governor James Middleton Cox of Ohio.
"What, Another One?" by Dennis McCarthy in New Orleans Times Picayune, July, 1920
That both major political parties' presidential nominees were Ohioans was fodder for the immediate batch of editorial cartoons.
"An Awkward Moment for Mother" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1920
"Centering Right Over Ohio" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, July, 1920
The cartoonist for Cleveland, Ohio's socialist weekly, however, was not particularly impressed.
"Introducing the 'Peepul's Choice'" by Keas in The Toiler, Cleveland, OH, July 9, 1920
Not only were Harding and Cox both from the same state, they both also came to politics after starting their careers in newspapers: Harding as publisher-editor of the Marion Star, and Cox as a copy editor at the Dayton Daily News.
"The Political Ouija" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, July, 1920
(Ouija boards were all the rage among editorial cartoonists in 1920. I must have come across hundreds of cartoons about them.)
"Competition Among Ohio Newsies" by Harry Keys in Columbus Citizen, February, 1920
In his congratulatory message to the Democratic nominee, Warren Harding took note of the above cartoon Harry Keys had drawn for the Columbus Citizen the previous February: "I recall a much remarked cartoon which portrayed you and me as newsboys contending for the White House delivery. It seems to have been prophetic."
"Why Not a Newspaper Cabinet?" by Daniel Fitzpatrick in St. Louis Post Dispatch, July, 1920
Daniel Fitzpatrick has a bit of fun with the coincidence, casting a number of newspaper comic strip characters as the cabinet of the future president.
"Going to Press with the Second Edition" by Claude Shafer in Cincinnati Post, July, 1920
After all, what is the point of having a newspaper without any cartoons?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Who You Calling Non-Essential?

Remember that Singapore Sunday Times poll asking its readers to rate how important certain professions are against each other? The one that rated artists the least important of all?

Over in Spain, they've been conducting a controlled experiment on what life would be without artists. Here's what you get when, to restore a classic painting, instead of an artist, you hire a more essential worker —
— in this case, a guy who varnishes furniture for a living.