“Dig it Out and Let the Sun Shine In” (June 25, 1938)

“Dig it Out and Let the Sun Shine In” (June 25, 1938)
by Frederick Little Packer (1886-1956)
15.25″ x 22.25″, ink on paper
Coppola Collection

End of the New Deal

By 1937 the economy had recovered substantially, and Roosevelt, seeing an opportunity to return to a balanced budget, drastically curtailed government spending. The result was a sharp recession, during which the economy began plummeting toward 1932 levels. By the middle of 1938 the crisis had passed.

By mid 1938 the New Deal was also outliving its welcome. Conservative Southern Democrats openly opposed its continuation, and Roosevelt’s attempt to defeat several of them in the 1938 Democratic primaries (September 1938) not only proved unsuccessful but also produced charges that the president was a dictator trying to conduct a “purge.” In the congressional elections that year the Republicans gained 80 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate.

Another major threat to FDR came from Father Charles E. Coughlin, a radio priest from Detroit. Originally a supporter of the New Deal, Coughlin turned against Roosevelt when he refused to nationalize the banking system and provide for the free coinage of silver. As the decade progressed, Coughlin turned openly anti-Semitic, blaming the Great Depression on an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers. Coughlin formed the National Union for Social Justice and reached a weekly audience of 40 million radio listeners. He also caught the attention of the Nazis.

Roosevelt was criticized for his economic policies, especially the perceived shift in tone from individualism to collectivism with the dramatic expansion of the welfare state and regulation of the economy. Critics would complain of being oppressed and under attack by “the CIO-PAC, Eastern reds and pinks.” The CIO, predecessor to the AFL-CIO, was the first Political Action Committee. Reds and pinks were the direct accusations to being communist sympathizers as it would for years. And the ALP was a small but influential political party (American Labor Party) populated by liberal Democrats and threw its support towards New Deal candidates who supported progressive social policies.

“Are You Just a Shadow Boxer?” (May 20, 1940)

“Are You Just a Shadow Boxer?” (May 20, 1940)
by William (Bill) Crawford (1913–1982)
22″ x 19″ in., ink and crayon on heavy paper
Coppola Collection

Crawford joined the Newark News as an editorial cartoonist in 1938 and his work was widely distributed (to over 700 newspapers).

Don’t just complain about the system, get out and vote! The Crawford cartoon here hinges on noticing that the fellow doing the air boxing is complaining about the Hague machine, and this turns out to be a reference with a lot of connectedness to the political fortunes of FDR and his reelections.

Because of their populations and political connectedness, the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas were important to FDR.

One of the most influential political figures in the region was Frank Hague, the major of Jersey City, who was a mob boss by any other name. Corruption, bribery, and election fraud were his stock in trade, but he also parlayed a lot of incoming support for his constituents and stayed in power for years. He had a meager public salary and an extravagant life. During the height of his power Hague’s political machine, known as The Organization, was one of the most powerful in the United States controlling politics on local, county, and state levels.

Hague initially opposed FDR’s run for the presidency in 1932, but blew with the wind, as it was clear that Roosevelt was a winning hand.

The Great Depression and the New Deal forged a mutually beneficial alliance between FDR and Hague. Each needed the other. Hague benefited from the federal funds he was allocated by the New Deal relief agencies. Channeling this government assistance through his political machine and ultimately become the dominant figure of the Democratic Party in New Jersey. In return, Hague pledged to secure New Jersey for Roosevelt in his reelection campaigns. For FDR, this necessitated a policy of willful indifference (plausible deniability, sir) towards Hague’s corrupt ways.

Hague was skilled with voter support, having been a strong and early advocate for Suffrage and peddling influence in other urban areas, particularly in Chicago.

Hague’s influence not only made him the most powerful Democrat in his state, it helped nominate FDR and delivered New Jersey’s electoral vote to Roosevelt in all four presidential elections in which Roosevelt ran. Critics condemned Hague as the “Hitler of Hudson County,” where he was also accurately called “the law” (and saw himself that way).

Roosevelt wanted to prosecute the machine’s criminals, but he also wanted to provide Depression relief and New Jersey’s electoral vote, both of which the mayor controlled. This reality proved crucial to Roosevelt’s election to an unprecedented third term in 1940. Thanks to 173,000 ballots produced by the mayor in Hudson County, Roosevelt overcame Wendell Willkie’s lead of 101,500 and won the state’s electoral vote by a plurality of 71,500. Although most of the ballots were legal, critics complained of extensive fraud.

A report from the New York Times summed it up this way:

Monday, May 20, 1940

Last week, as New Jersey prepared for its primary, Democratic Boss Frank Hague wore the innocent expression of a gambler with a sure thing. Mr. Hague has come so close to running both parties that he has nearly reduced New Jersey to a one-party State.

The secret of Boss Hague’s success is as simple and austere as arithmetic. He holds tight control of Hudson County, where he is boss and mayor of Jersey City. New Jersey, outside of Hudson County, normally votes Republican; but year in, year out, populous, Democratic Hudson County holds the balance of power in New Jersey, and Boss Hague has Hudson County tucked in his neat derby hat.

What a Headache We’re Building Up

“What a Headache We’re Building Up” (July 5, 1941)
by Grover Page (1892-1958)
9 x 11 in., ink on drawing board
Coppola Collection

Page was born a few days after the election of Grover Cleveland to the presidency. That’s how the future cartoonist got his name. He decided at age ten on his calling and began drawing at the Gastonia public schools. He completed his formal education at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Page became an editorial cartoonist at age eighteen with the Baltimore Sun. After working for the Nashville Tennessean for two years, Page moved on to the Louisville Courier-Journal. He spent the next thirty-nine years there drawing pointed and strongly opinionated cartoons.

The year 1941 was a critical one in WW2. The Germans had turned on Russia, with Operation Barbarossa, on June 22, and the Nazis were carrying out the heaviest bombings on England with the heavy threat of invasion in the wind. The initial thrust of the invasion of Russia was strong for the Germans, and by July 3, Stalin made a broadcast calling on the people of the Soviet Union to pursue a scorched earth policy and conduct guerrilla warfare against the invaders.

Still sequestered and under the sway of the isolationists, FDR made an Independence Day broadcast warning that “the United States will never survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel desert of dictatorship. And so it is that when we repeat the great pledge to our country and to our flag, it must be our deep conviction that we pledge as well our work, our will, and, if it be necessary, our very lives.”

There is contemporary evidence that Stalin might have been planning his own invasion of German territory, particularly boldened by a strong air force, but the long-planned Barbarossa quashed that immediately. Churchill reached out to Stalin as soon as Bararossa started, and, by July 12, he was in Moscow to sign a cooperation pact with Stalin. Still months before Pearl Harbor would bring the US into the conflict, the blueprint for Germany’s reach exceeding its grasp was being laid down.


This cartoon, from the day after FDR’s address, reinforces the critical neglect displayed by the US as country after country had fallen to the Nazis, and now, early in the invasion of Russia, there is a commentary of fear that Stalin will fall, also, as had those before him.

The Man Who Caught the Wildcat

“The Man Who Caught the Wildcat” (December 22, 1939)
by Bill Saylor
10 x 12 in., ink on drawing board
Coppola Collection

Bill Saylor was the editorial cartoonist at the Houston Post, was a Corporal in the Marines during WW2, and retired from the Houston Post in the late 70’s.

The Battle of Summa was fought between the Soviet Union and Finland, in two phases, first in December 1939 and then in February 1940. It was part of the “Winter War” and was fought near the village of Summa (now Soldatskoye) along the main road leading from Leningrad to Viipuri.

The village of Summa was a gateway to the city of Viipuri. The Finns had built 41 reinforced concrete bunkers in the Summa area, and the defense line was stronger than elsewhere in the Karelian Isthmus. However, the Finns had made mistakes in planning and nearby Munasuo swamp, east of Summa, had a kilometer-wide gap in the line. At least 20 tanks drove through the line in the first day of battle, but the Soviets did not have proper co-operation between branches of service; tanks, artillery and troops fought their own battles. The Finns stood still in trenches and allowed the Soviet tanks to move behind the defense line on December 19th, as they did not have proper anti-tank weapons. After that the Finns repelled the Soviet main troops. Soviet tanks cut-off behind the line aimlessly attacked Finnish strongpoints, but once these were eliminated the threat was over. The Finns won the battle on December 22.

So Am I!

1940.10.08 “So Am I!” (October 8, 1940)
by Bill Saylor
10 x 13 in., ink on drawing board
Coppola Collection

Bill Saylor was the editorial cartoonist at the Houston Post, was a Corporal in the Marines during WW2, and retired from the Houston Post in the late 70’s.

With the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, the US government began to try to enlarge the size of the regular army through normal, voluntary means. Conscription was still not a viable option, especially given that the United States had not yet entered the war. General Douglas MacArthur captured the sentiment of the American people when he said during this era, “The traditions of our people [permit no] compulsory military service in time of peace.”

Nevertheless, less than a year later, on September 16, 1940, a draft law that put in place the first peace time draft in the United States was passed. Like the World War I draft approach, this new system was implemented locally in order to cultivate a feeling of familiarity and community associated with military service. The registration system also developed quotas based upon the population of each designated zone.

Men were first selected after a national lottery based on age, then through local selection depending on men’s “marital status, dependency, occupation, education, and physical condition.” The World War II draft was not met with the same opposition that the Civil War draft was in large part because it was a gradual process – people were given time for the idea of the draft to set in, then time to register, and finally time to be in the army without having to participate in any fighting.

Roosevelt was mentally preparing the American people for war, he was also well aware that the United States was not equipped with the manpower it would need to fight in World War II. Though the plan originated in the army, Roosevelt formally declared his support for a draft on August 2, 1940.

“For purposes of defense, we have to have men who are already trained beforehand. In doing that we save lives – we save human lives. That is the important thing… you cannot get a sufficiently trained force of all kinds at the front, in the output, you cannot get it by just passing an Act of Congress when war breaks out, and you cannot get it by the mere volunteer system.”

Roosevelt’s logic rested on the assumption that the United States would inevitably be entering the war soon and that the draft was needed to defend the nation. The debate over a peace time draft raged throughout the third session of the 76th Congress. Those against the draft were ardent believers in the liberty of American citizens and their case rested upon their faith in freedom. In a radio broadcast from the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman John C. Kunkel of Pennsylvania argued: “My experience is that most people tend to overlook the very real dangers which are presented by either alternative [volunteer recruitment or conscription]. People who oppose peacetime conscription have a tendency to ignore or minimize possible future danger from Hitler. People who favor conscription tend to take the view that we can adopt totalitarian methods and shed them at will, yet history in man, many instances has indicated that this can rarely be done.”

Ed Sullivan (signed) Celebrates His 9th Anniversary

 “Ed Sullivan (signed) Celebrates His 9th Anniversary” (September 23, 1956)
by Eddie Germano (1924 – )
14.25 x 15.5, ink on board
Coppola Collection

A native Bostonian, Germano became a full-time cartoonist in 1948, at age 24, after serving in WWII. Among other positions, he worked as the editorial and sports cartoonist for the Brockton Enterprise from 1963-1990.

Germano handled the TV beat for a few years. He (or his editor) was able to get hand-written notes from the featured subjects to integrate into the 3-column Sunday illustrations.

In this one, from 1956, celebrates the 9th anniversary of the Ed Sullivan Show, which ran from 1948 to 1971. Ed muses about Elvis, Bing Crosby, and Jayne Mansfield. The Beatles are still 8 years off at this point.


Jimmy and His War Bride

“Jimmy and His War Bride” (August 8, 1920)
by Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937)
12 x 14 in., ink on paper
Coppola Collection


Frederick Burr Opper is perhaps my favorite of the first generation of cartoonists. I like his loose style, and the obviousness of his ink strokes, and the way he depicts the common people of the day.

Forming the League of Nations after WW1 was not embraced by the growing isolationist movement in the US. The Senate turned down the Treaty of Versailles on November 19, 1919 (55-39), spurning the formation of the League. The Senate reconsidered the treaty once more, with reservations, on March 19, 1920. That vote, 49-35, fell seven votes short of the required two-thirds majority. In 1921, Congress passed the Knox-Porter Resolution, formally ending the war with Germany. By then, the treaty was widely seen as lifeless.

Article X of the Covenant of the League of Nations was the section calling for assistance to be given to a member that experiences external aggression. It was signed by the major Peacemakers (Allied Forces) following the First World War, most notably Britain and France. But due to the nature of that Article, Wilson was unable to meet his obligation to join the League of Nations, as a result of strong objection from U.S. politicians.

James M. Cox, Governor of Ohio, was an outspoken advocate for the League, and his support was used by his critics.

During the period for the selection of delegates to the Democratic Convention at San Francisco in 1920, Cox gave a signed interview to the New York Times, in which he reviewed the controversy concerning the League of Nations and outlined two reservations which he believed would satisfy every reasonable objection. In part, he said:

“If public opinion in the country is the same as it is in Ohio, then there can be no doubt but that the people want a League of Nations because it seems to offer the surest guarantee against war. I am convinced that the San Francisco Convention will endorse in its vital principles the League adopted at Versailles. “There can be no doubt but that some senators have been conscientious in their desire to clarify the provisions of the treaty. Two things apparently have disturbed them. First, they wanted to make sure that the League was not to be an alliance, and that its basic purpose was peace and not controversy. Second, they wanted the other powers signing the instrument to understand our constitutional limitations beyond which the treaty-making power cannot go.”

He was chosen as the Democratic nominee for president on the forty-fourth ballot of the 1920 Democratic National Convention.

The Governor’s position on the League was amplified in his Address of Acceptance at Dayton on August 7th, 1920, in which he said: “We are in a time which calls for straight thinking, straight talking and straight acting. This is no time for wobbling. Never in all our history has more been done for government. Never was sacrifice more sublime.”

Running on a ticket with future President Franklin D. Roosevelt as his running mate, Cox suffered the worst popular vote defeat (a 26.17% margin) in presidential election history.

Bernard Baruch was a long-time financial powerhouse and advisor, and would predict the market crash of 1929, advising Will Rogers, among others, to pull their money (which Baruch had started to do in 1927).

Opper’s text gives great contextual insight:

Our hero, realizing that he can’t shake his bride, tries to make the best of a bad job. He stages a thrilling tableau entitled “Don’t Best the Heart of the World,” with his bride as the Angel of Peace. But – she crabs the scene by appearing with a pair of boxing gloves and big club. Article ten also gets it all wrong. It was tough! How can you give a serious show when the whole audience is laughing? Look for the next installment. We hate to brag, but it’s simply – to be continued.


He Must Be Dead… My Mind Just Went Blank!

“He Must Be Dead… My Mind Just Went Blank!” (Sept 23, 1971)
by Paul Francis Conrad (1924- 2010)
11 x 14 in., ink on board
Coppola Collection

With a 50-year career in editorial cartooning, mainly at the LA Times, Conrad picked up three Pulitzer Prizes for his work. In one amusing story, his cartoons about Ronald Reagan, while Reagan was Governor of California, started a campaign of phone calls from Nancy Reagan to the Times’ publisher, complaining that Conrad’s cartoons were ruining Ronnie’s breakfast. The publisher finally just needed to stop taking the calls.

In July 1971, President Nixon made the momentous announcement that he would be visiting China, so there was suddenly a great uptick on US attention to the affairs of the still-isolated PRC. As we have seen, when these secluded leaders disappear for a while, the death rumors begin, and this happened with Mao in September 1971. On September 22, 1971, Beijing issued a strong denial about the rumors, but no habeas corpus. On September 23, this cartoon appeared. I think the sentiment is an absolutely timeless commentary on the perception of authoritative leadership and the accusation of cult-like devotion that accompanies it. You can quite easily swap the characters into any setting (North Korea… Moscow… the US Capital on January 6, 2021) and keep the dialog the same.

Every piece I buy, I buy to preserve the story and give it a little voice. This one is well deserving.

“Zap!” (April 29, 1984)

“Zap!” (April 29, 1984)
by Charles Phillip Bissell (1926 -)
10 x 15, ink and wash on board with color overlays
Coppola Collection

In 1960, Boston Globe cartoonist Phil Bissell, working for $25 a day, was handed an assignment that would change his life—and the lives of fans of the brand-new AFL football team coming to Boston. “Sports editor Jerry Nason came to me and he said, ‘They’ve decided to call the team the Boston Patriots. You better have a cartoon ready for tomorrow’s edition.’” Bissel’s “Pat Patriot” cartoon was the Patriot’s logo from 1961-1992.

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a proposed missile defense system intended to protect the United States from attack by ballistic strategic nuclear weapons (intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles). The concept was first announced publicly by President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983.

The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was established in April, 1984. James Abrahamson, a NASA Administrator, was appointed as the first SDIO Director on April 15.

Now we have a “Space Force.”

“Ladies Day” (July 15, 1952)

“Ladies Day” (July 15, 1952)
by Burris A. Jenkins, Jr. (1897-1966)
14 x 20, ink and wash on board
Coppola Collection

Burris Jenkins Jr. was the son of a prominent Kansas City minister, war correspondent and newspaper editor. Jenkins Jr. was a popular sports cartoonist, whose work appeared in the New York Journal-American from 1931. His humorous published verses were also popular. Although best known for his sports themes, Jenkins was also a skilled courtroom illustrator and editorial cartoonist.

Jenkins was not afraid to provoke, and he has some strong WW2 examples, including one of the rare direct commentaries on concentration (death) camps. Among his best-remembered cartoons are his angry piece on the discovery of the dead Lindbergh baby, and his sentimental image of Babe Ruth’s farewell to Yankee Stadium.

He was fired from his first job at the Kansas City Post for a series of pessimistic Christmas cartoons, a firing that prompted his father’s resignation from the same newspaper.

His father was an interesting guy. Jenkins, Sr (1968-1945) was ordained in 1891 and served as a pastor in Indianapolis. He received advanced degrees from Harvard and went on to serve as a professor and president of the University of Indianapolis and president of Kentucky University. He left Kentucky to return to Kansas City as pastor of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church. The church burned in 1939, and Jenkins chose Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect for the church’s new home overlooking the Country Club Plaza.

Jenkins served as editor of the Kansas City Post from 1919 to 1921, hoping to fight for the establishment of the League of Nations. The Jenkins, Sr., biography tells the story about his leaving the Post slightly differently that for the son: “After two years, it became necessary for him to choose between the newspaper and his pulpit and, without hesitation, he resigned from the Post.”

“Live dangerously!” Jenkins would thunder from the pulpit, embracing his own philosophy against all adversaries. Unconventional in nearly every aspect of his chosen field, Jenkins often preached from non-Biblical texts, such as the latest book or his travels abroad. The church frequently hosted motion pictures, dances, card games, and fundraising boxing matches. These activities led to opposition to Jenkins and his Community Church from other churches in the city.

The concept of a “Ladies Day” at traditionally male dominated events, particularly sporting events, was widespread in the post-WW2 era, as the rise in numbers of women as independent consumers grew.

From the 1920s through the 1950s, older women were members of a generation that still sometimes associated the prerogative of voting with male citizenship. Prior to 1920, anti-suffrage groups had drawn both men and women to their ranks in an effort to “protect the home.” Thus, it is not surprising that (especially) some older women did not choose to vote once the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified.

Women were slow to use their new voting privilege. This is typical of any newly enfranchised group.

Of the 1952 election, Louis Harris commented: “It raises the real possibility that in the future there will be a ‘woman’s vote’ quite separate from the men’s”

The Eisenhower campaign was one of the first presidential campaigns to make a major, concerted effort to win the female vote. Many of his radio and television commercials discussed topics such as education, inflation, ending the war in Korea, and other issues that were thought to appeal to women. The Eisenhower campaign made extensive use of female campaign workers. These workers made phone calls to likely Eisenhower voters, distributed “Ike” buttons and leaflets, and threw parties to build support for the GOP ticket in their neighborhoods. On election day, Eisenhower won a solid majority of the female vote.

Eisenhower campaigned by attacking “Korea, Communism, and Corruption”—that is, what the Republicans regarded as the failures of the outgoing Truman administration to deal with these issues.

Here, following the Republican Convention of 1952, a emerging notion of “Ladies Day” in a voting bloc, even if the oh-so-stereotypical “uprising housewife,” angry with men and going after them with her rolling pin, is still the prevailing image.