Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Toons of 1917

We're busy wrapping presents, fattening geese and wassailing all over town here at Spruceback Saturday, but we've thrown together assembled some Christmas-themed editorial cartoons from the U.S. and Canada for your holiday cheer.

The famed "Christmas Truce" of 1914 was not repeated for the following yuletides, as all sides grew literally and figuratively entrenched in their mutual hatred. Cartoons Magazine resurrected this John Darling cartoon from 1916 in its December, 1917 issue, no doubt because of the practical matter of not having more up-to-date Christmas cartoons in time for the magazine's November publishing deadline. Surely, however, the sentiment was even more poignant to its American readership now that the U.S. was in the war Over There.
"It Seems Almost Heartless to Be Happy" by John "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, December 20, 1916
If the editors of Cartoons Magazine imagined that they could just file the Christmas, 1917 cartoons about the war for the next December's edition, they were to be happily mistaken. American soldiers spent only one Christmas fighting The Great War, and would leave Europe to settle its own disputes for another 24 Christmases.

The caption of this next cartoon seems likely to have been added by newspaper or syndicate editors, since the cartoon itself clearly depicts children of Romania, France, Serbia and Armenia in addition to those of Belgium. British and German forces were battling each other on Belgian soil as winter set in, which was covered extensively in the American press; but then, so were other fronts in the war. (Romania, by the way, signed a truce with the Central Powers on December 10.)
"How Santa Claus Finds Belgian Children" by Bob Satterfield fin Cleveland News, December, 1917
It is true that in the early months of the war, German soldiers, fearing insurrection by Belgian citizens, burned whole villages and executed tens of thousands of men, women and children. Those tales of German atrocities in Belgium were used well after the fact to whip up anti-German sentiment and to promote sales of U.S. Liberty Bonds.
"Christmas in Belgium!" by A.D. Condo in Cleveland Press, December, 1917
Meanwhile, national elections in Canada pitted the incumbent government of Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden against the Liberal stalwarts of Wilfrid Laurier. At the outbreak of the war, Canadians of all stripes gave enthusiastic support to the war effort; but by 1916, new volunteer recruits were not keeping up with war casualties. The war was especially unpopular in French-speaking Québec. While some Liberals joined Borden's Union government in supporting institution of the draft, Laurier was afraid of losing Québec to anti-conscription Francophones led by Henri Bourassa.
"Christmas, 1917" by James Fergus Kyle (?) for Canadian Liberal Monthly, Ottawa, December, 1917
Laurier's campaign charged that the war only benefited the rich, whereas everyone else was forced to bear the burden of the fighting overseas and shortages at home. Borden's campaign warned that if Laurier's party were elected, he would merely be a tool of Bourassa and would pull Canada out of the war. The latter argument carried the day, Unionists winning a decisive victory in the December election.
"A Disappointed Santa Claus" by Sam Hunter in Toronto World, December 25, 1917
I can't read Santa/Bourassa's face outside the doorway, but to me, Kaiser Wilhelm appears to be the more disappointed one. (Again, some editor must have felt obliged to add a headline to a cartoon that didn't need one.)

At the Chicago Examiner, Harry Murphy devoted a lot of ink to his publisher's various holiday-themed charity drives.
"Where They Meet" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, December 21, 1917
And I'm not just referring to his customary love of cross-hatching.
"The Good Fairy" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, December 8, 1917
Across downtown at the Tribune, John McCutcheon offered much the same sentiments, although not explicitly for the Trib's sponsored activities. "Will he give needless gifts," McCutcheon asks, "Or will he give needed ones?"
"His Christmas List" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, December, 1917
The scan quality here is terrible, so I'll explain that the gentleman's list reads "Wife, Children, Servants." The figures behind him in the second panel are "Destitution Abroad," "Soldiers' Christmas Fund," and "Local Charities."

So, with malice toward none and charity for all (whoops, sorry, wrong war), let's close out with Harry Murphy's cartoon for Christmas Day.
"Christmas Bells" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, December 25, 1917
And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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