“The New York City Election” (undated, ca. 1900)
by John Tinney McCutcheon (1870-1949)
14 x 15 in., ink on drawing board
On the Purdue campus, where he was a student, McCutcheon (class of 1889) is memorialized in a coeducational dormitory, John T. McCutcheon Hall. The lobby displays an original of one of his drawings, a nearly life-size drawing of a young man.
After college, McCutcheon moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he worked at the Chicago Morning News (later: Chicago Record) and then at the Chicago Tribune from 1903 until his retirement in 1946. McCutcheon received the Pulitzer Prize for Cartoons in 1932.
I suspect this is an early piece from McCutcheon. First let’s look at the symbolism.
The term “Knickerbockers” traces its origin to the Dutch settlers who came to the New World – and especially to what is now New York – in the 1600s. Specifically, it refers to the style of pants the settlers wore…pants that rolled up just below the knee, which became known as “Knickerbockers”, or “knickers”. In 1809, legendary author Washington Irving solidified the knickerbocker name in New York lore when he wrote the satiric “A History of New York” from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. Later known as Knickerbocker’s History of New York, Irving’s book introduced the word “knickerbocker” to signify a New Yorker who could trace his or her ancestry to the original Dutch settlers.
With the publication of Irving’s book, the Dutch settler “Knickerbocker” character became synonymous with New York City. The city’s most popular symbol of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was “Father Knickerbocker”, complete with cotton wig, three-cornered hat, buckled shoes, and, of course, knickered pants.
Tammany Hall was the name given to the Democratic political machine that dominated New York City politics from the mayoral victory of Fernando Wood in 1854 through the election of Fiorello LaGuardia in 1934. Tammany was usually depicted as a Tiger, based upon Thomas Nast’s 1871 caricature of Tammany Hall as a tiger killing democracy in the coliseum of New York politics, and represented the reign of “Old Bosses” in the machinery, particularly referring to Boss Tweed (1856-1873).
From 1902 until his death in 1924, Charles Francis Murphy was Tammany’s boss. Murphy wanted to clean up Tammany’s image, and he sponsored progressive era reforms benefiting the working class. Murphy always advised that politicians should have nothing to do with gambling or prostitution, and should steer clear of involvement with the police department or the school system.
With Murphy cleaning up the Tammany image, and McCutcheon’s larger ink/brush works being more associated with his early career, I tag this as early in McCutcheon’s career.