Saturday, July 14, 2018

Life During Wartime

After two Saturdays in a row rummaging through my own cartoons, it must be time to turn the clock back a full century and see what the Committee on Public Information's Office of Cartoons was suggesting to American editorial cartoonists in the summer of 1918. Let's see which issues that would survive World War I were showing up in these wartime cartoons.
"An Efficiency Expert at Work" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1918
McCutcheon's printing is tiny no matter how much you embiggen these cartoons, so here's a summary. Mr. Efficiency Expert recommends putting convicts to work making equipment for bridges, insane asylum patients to work in the ship camouflage department, and schools vacated during the summer to use teaching English "to every citizen who can't speak it." Lastly, for "the distillers and brewers likely to be closed next Jan.," he suggests putting them to work making liquid flame for the Kaiser.
"All Highest Has the Influenza" by John McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1918

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed anywhere from 50- to 100-million people worldwide between January 1918 and December 1920. Kaiser Wilhelm was not one of them, but I wanted to include these cartoons just to be able to mention what remains one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history.
"Germany Suffers from the Grip" by John Cassel in New York Evening World, July 11, 1918
We don't know for sure where the pandemic started; various theories have pointed to Austria, northern China, and Haskell County, Kansas — but probably not Spain. (In Spain, the disease was nicknamed "el soldado de Nápoles.")  What is certain is that the wartime confluence and dispersal of soldiers and sailors is responsible for spreading the contagion to every continent and some of the remotest locations on Earth.
"Not Fatal" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 12, 1918
In a typical epidemic, the sickest patients stay home and don't spread the disease much farther than their own family; but in this instance, soldiers with the worst cases of the flu would be sent from the front in crowded trains to equally crowded field hospitals, facilitating widespread dispersal of the most virulent strains.

Moving on to lighter subjects:
"Snapshots" by Maurice Ketten (né Prosper Fiorini), in New York Evening World, ca. July 15, 1918
The characters in Ketten's slice of life cartoon regularly confronted the shortages and cultural changes brought about by the war. In this July cartoon, he poked fun at the price of shoe leather, women taking over jobs traditionally performed by men, and the peculiar if short-lived attempt to popularize what were called "cloth-saving suits" for men. This last measure was necessitated by shortages of wool; Germany dealt with the problem with the invention of paper-based fabrics. After the war, American and Britain would (pardon the expression) follow suit.
"Fall Styles, 1918" by Harry J. Tuthill in St. Louis Star, ca. June, 1918
Sending so many young men (and not-so-young men; the draft now included men in their 40's) off to the trenches, ships and airfields abroad meant that women were needed to take their place in the labor market. Harry Tuthill didn't foresee Rosie the Riveter just yet, but turning urban housewives into household breadwinners completely undercut one of the last remaining arguments against extending women the vote.

"The False Patriot" by ? (Al Zere? Eugene "Zim" Zimmerman?), ca. July 8, 1918
I recently heard an interview with the author of a new book about Herbert Hoover; the author believes that Hoover got a raw deal from other historians because he is judged solely for his response to the Great Depression. Hoover isn't mentioned in these particular July cartoons, but his name was intimately associated with wartime rationing and belt tightening measures. In a way, this must have set him up for the popular resentment when that austerity returned under Hoover eleven years later in peace time.
"Fight Behind the Lines" by John Cassel in New York World, June 24, 1918
Meanwhile, back in 1918, the Office of Cartoons surely recommended combating any discontent such as illustrated in "The False Patriot" (if I find the name of that cartoonist, I'll correct it here) with cartoons illustrating the reported bread shortages among the Central Powers. The Entente press played up accounts of demonstrations protesting food shortages, especially in Austria.
"Felix Fake May Be an Edison Yet" by C.F. Naughton in Duluth Evening Herald, June 12, 1918
Americans aren't much for hardship, but we'll put up with a lot as long as some enemy has it worse.
Front page notice in Duluth Evening Herald, July 13, 1918
But, oh, no! Not the free promotional copy of my newspaper!

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