Friday, August 13, 2010

The cartoons of R.C. Bowman

After my Aunt Barbara died in 1989, her family found a copy of The Minneapolis Tribune Cartoon Book for 1901: Being a Collection of Over One Hundred Cartoons by R.C. Bowman among her possessions and figured that I would probably be interested in it. I've never been able to find out much about R.C. Bowman*; he isn't referenced in Maurice Horn's The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons, or Stephen Hess's and Milton Kaplan's The Ungentlemanly Art. Two of his 1898 cartoons about the Spanish-American War do appear on page 101 of Syd Hoff's Editorial and Political Cartooning, however.

The cover of the paperback book my aunt left me has been deteriorating, and the binding is almost non-existent, but the pages are in good condition. In the interest of posterity, I plan to post some of R.C.B.'s cartoons here from time to time. I can make no claims that he was a great cartoonist, but I think it's interesting to see these old cartoons from the heartland.
(Bryan: "You better run on home now, Charley. Me and Adlai will take care of your little dolly baby.")
The book begins with several cartoons in a series called "The Meanderings of Willie and Little Steve." William Jennings Bryan (Willie) ran his second unsuccessful presidential campaign against William McKinley in 1900 with Adlai Stevenson (Little Steve) as his running mate. Stevenson had been Vice President in the second Grover Cleveland administration; I'm not sure why Bowman drew him wearing a dress.
(Charley Towne to Willie Bryan: "I don't want to play wid you's chumps/ Aw, go wan, you make me sore./ I'll go home and start a new boom./ You's can't con me any more.")

Charles Towne was a Republican Congressman from Minnesota from 1895 to 1897; he lost his reelection campaign running in 1896 as an Independent. He was a contender for the People's Party (commonly called the "Populists") Vice Presidential nomination in 1900 but ultimately turned it down. A divided Populist Party split between endorsing Democrat Bryan for a second time or running its own candidate, Wharton Butler. (Towne would be appointed to fill Minnesota's senate seat as a Democrat in December, 1900 upon the death of Cushman Davis, serving only eight weeks until his elected replacement, Moses Clapp, was sworn in. He was a Democratic Congressman from New York from 1905 to 1907.)
(They get into some poison ivy.)

The Populists were based in the agrarian south and southern plains states, started by people who thought that big banking interests in the northeast had too much influence over both the Republican and Democratic parties. There initially were Populist politicians who wanted to unite the interests of poor whites and poor blacks, but by 1900, the voices of white supremacists carried more influence within the party. The Democrats, whose coalition included Southern establishment politicians, already had a significant white supremacist base.
(Stevenson: "Jump on him again, Willie. It's the only way we can carry North Carolina.")

Coming soon: What the hell was the Ice Trust?
* In later posts, I do have more information about him.

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