Saturday, May 15, 2021

Noises Off

Last Saturday's centennial retrospective reported on the month-by-month demise of Cartoons Magazine as it was taken over by light fiction magazine Wayside Tales. Today we take a look at the sort of editorial cartoons that your great-grandparents would no longer find in Cartoons Magazine.

"Der Seiltänzer" by "L" in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, May 1, 1921

And not just because of the salty language. Nor because of the German language; even during the Great War, Cartoons Magazine occasionally printed German cartoons. (I wonder how they would have translated "Eiffelturmspiße.")

"Warren Gamaliel Harding" by Arthur Johnson in Kladderadatsch, Berlin, May 1, 1921
Perhaps because Germany had no delusions that "normalcy" was returning, German satirical publications continued to thrive while American ones withered away. Just the same, German-American cartoonist Arthur Johnson had high hopes for the new U.S. administration as President Harding made good on his campaign promise to keep out of the League of Nations. Johnson depicts the League as a monstrous hybrid of the British lion and French rooster in this cover illustration for Kladderadatsch.
"Der Amerikanische Rettungsring" by Erich Wilke in Kladderadatsch, May 8, 1921
Only a week later, Johnson's fellow cartoonist at Kladderadatsch, Erich Wilke, presented a considerably less heroic depiction of the new president, throwing Deutscher Michel a worthless life preserver. That's a much more recognizable Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes in the back of the lifeboat.

"Off with the Old..." by Dorman H. Smith for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., ca. May 24, 1921

It hadn't taken long for U.S. cartoonists to begin showing some sympathy for Germany's post-war plight. Notwithstanding the high anxiety about German-American saboteurs during the war, Americans tended not to harbor the same degree of animosity toward the German people as did the British and French. American vitriol was focused more on Kaiser Wilhelm and family than on their subjects.

"If France Insists on Having Beefsteak..." by Elmer Bushnell for NEA, ca. May 6, 1921

French demands on occupying the Ruhr valley threatened to rekindle the war, and found little support from this side of the Atlantic. For now, however, Germany was unwilling to call France's bluff.

"The Shock-Proof Public" by John T. McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1921

Instead, Germany fought to suppress an uprising of ethnic Poles in Silesia, a mineral-rich and ethnically mixed region that had been part of Germany before the war. A League of Nations-sponsored plebiscite to determine which country the region should belong to narrowly favored Germany, so Poles took up arms in May as the League members dithered. 

"If He Could Only Catch His Tail..." by Elmer Bushnell for NEA, ca. May 23, 1921
Italian, French, and British forces would be drawn into the Silesian conflict, even as rebellion against Britain heated up again in Ireland. As violence in Ireland escalated that May, the IRA killed 15 policemen and burned Custom House, headquarters of the Local Government Board for Ireland.
"The Apt Pupil" by Harold "Hal" Coffman for Int'l Feature Service, ca. May 20, 1921
Hearst cartoonists in particular railed against allowing Britannia and Japan to rule the waves.

"Speaking of Disarmament" by Bill Satterfield for NEA, ca. June 2, 1921

The figure pushing "disarmament polish" on President Harding is Senator William Borah (R-ID), a progressive who proved a thorn in the side of presidents of both political parties.

"Alla Camera Nuova" by Gabriele "Rata Longa" Galantara in l'Asino, Rome, May 22, 1921
As long as we're looking abroad, I don't want to lose sight of political events in Italy between the wars. This month 100 years ago saw Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti call for parliamentary elections. Concerned over gains in popular support for Italian socialists, Giolitti brought fascists and nationalists into his governing coalition. He thought that this would instill a degree of reason and responsibility into the far right. 

Apparently that never quite works.

"The Supply and the Demand" by Harry Murphy for Star Company, ca. May 17, 1921

Mainstream U.S. cartoonists eschewed socialism, and seized every opportunity to predict the downfall of Lenin's Bolshevik government in Russia. But every now and then (primarily in the Hearst fold), someone would notice that the U.S. market might do well to sign the Soviets on as paying customers.

"I Can't Hear You" by Carey Orr in Chicago Tribune, ca. May 30, 1921

By and large, however, Carey Orr had an accurate sense of how Americans felt about foreign affairs in 1921.


Nachtrag:  I ran across the word Eiffelturmspiße in a book on aerodynamics after posting this. The translation there was "Eiffel Tower spike," which makes a whole lot more sense than what every goddamned on-line translation site gave me.

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