The Antitrust Issue


 “Hunting the Octopus”
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 6, 1900, p. 929

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
On September 18, William Jennings Bryan’s official letter accepting the Democratic presidential nomination emphasized the antitrust issue. The fact that the nation was undergoing a period of extensive business consolidation led the Democratic nominee to charge that the Republican Party was the “sponsor at the cradle of more trusts than ever sprang into existence before.” However, the issue failed to gain significant traction because of the economic prosperity that the nation had been experiencing for three years. In addition, President William McKinley had already taken a firm antitrust position on September 8 in his letter officially accepting the Republican nomination.

Finally, as this cartoon exemplifies, it was not a winning issue for Bryan because of his association with prominent Democrats who were tied to controversial trusts. Here, Bryan carries a “Repeating Winderbuss” (a pun on his long-windedness) to hunt the “octopus”—a common metaphor for business monopolies, connoting their multiple, powerful, grasping, and slimy tentacles. Yet, the gun-toting octopi are marching right beside the nominee (right-left): William A. Clark of Montana, a former and future senator from Montana who was part of the Copper Trust; Senator James K. Jones of Arkansas, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and member of the Cotton Trust; and, most prominently, Tammany boss Richard Croker, a member of New York City’s Ice Trust. (Rogers misspelled Clark’s last name in this cartoon.)













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