Saturday, July 30, 2016

100 Years Ago: Britannia Riles the Waves

Welcome to yet another installment of Spitback Saturday Goes to War, your trusted source for the very latest century-old news!

Aside from the occasional pacifist work, the American World War I cartoons I've posted here up to now have been entirely pro-British, so today we look at another side of the coin. In the summer of 1916, England hardened its line against neutral countries' trade with the Axis powers.
"Mailed Fist" by Evans in Baltimore American, July, 1916
Americans were already chafing against English censorship of intercontinental mails and cables when, in the summer of 1916, Great Britain passed the Trading With the Enemy Act, resulting in sanctions against some 80 American firms. This is well before the U.S.A. became the world's dominant nation, calling the shots around the globe; with its navy and far-flung empire England was arguably the strongest of the world's major powers at the time and well able to interdict transAtlantic trade.

American cartoonists took a dim view of the British blacklist:
"The Road Hog" by Jay N. "Ding" Darling for Des Moines Register and Leader, July, 1916
George Washington Rehse (1868-1930) drew for St. Paul Globe, St. Louis Republic, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press up to the early 1910's before Pulitzer's New York World lured him away to the Big Apple. A self-taught artist, Rehse transitioned from the pen-and-ink style in vogue at the turn of the century to a crayon technique becoming popular in later decades.
"Notice to Neutrals" by George W. Rehse in New York World, July, 1916
I'm somewhat surprised at the harshness of this next Winsor McCay cartoon. McCay produced a lengthy animated propaganda film (1918) about the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, exhorting his countrymen to avenge the murder of innocents which he showed bobbing in the water and sinking beneath the waves. The British blacklist hardly seems to be in the same league, but McCay goes there anyway.
"Walking the Plank!" by Winsor McCay, July, 1916
McCay pays such close attention to detail, in his editorial cartoons, in his animations, and most famously in his Little Nemo in Slumberland. His is one of the greatest names in cartooning history, and I've got a couple more of his editorial cartoons waiting for Labor Day weekend. I have to say, however, that people in water in his cartoons just don't look as though they are in any particular danger. Keeping one's head above water requires a considerable amount of effort, but "American Foreign Commerce" and "American Mails" appear able to walk to shore.

On the other hand, they say that drowning people don't look as though they are drowning, so perhaps McCay watched some people drown and took notes.

Robert Brinkerhoff has a much more bemused take on British blacklist:
"Wish I Knew Where He Was Comin' Out" by Robert M. Brinkerhoff for Boston Journal, July, 1916
And then, on August 3, England executed Sir Roger Casement for his role in Ireland's Easter Rising. Many American newspapers condemned the execution of the diplomat who had been an advocate of human rights in such far-flung places as the Congo and Peru. His devotion to the oppressed has been linked to his homosexuality, although that aspect was not widely reported on this side of the Atlantic.
"A Stain That Will Cling Forever" by Harry Murphy for Chicago Examiner, August 4, 1916 

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