The Trusts and Fundraising


 “The Last Straw"
  Cartoonist:  Udo J. Keppler
  Source:  Puck
  Date:  October 19, 1904

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

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This cartoon from Democratic Puck incorrectly predicts that numerous burdens borne by the Republican Elephant during the 1904 campaign will be more than it can bear. The crown of “imperialism” symbolizes President Theodore Roosevelt’s supposedly authoritarian rule and aggressive foreign policy. The latter is also referenced by the “Big Stick.” The basket of goods labeled “Odellism” after New York Governor Benjamin Odell Jr. (1901-1905) suggests his distribution of patronage. He had recently wrested control of the state Republican machine from Senator Thomas Platt.

The box of “Gloves & Gaunts” alludes to a scandal in which a firm owned by Congressman Lucius Littauer, a New York Republican, sold gloves to the War Department in violation of a federal law prohibiting members of Congress from making contracts with agencies of the federal government. The Roosevelt Justice Department decided not to prosecute him because of a technicality. The cartoonist may have meant to use the word “gauntlet,” which is a medieval military glove. The Philippines question mark regards the Roosevelt administration’s colonial policy for the island chain gained by the U.S. after the Spanish-American War of 1898. The large mailbag symbolizes a scandal in the U.S. Post Office. In 1902-1903, an investigation uncovered numerous incidents of blackmail, bribery, extortion, overcharging, and other illegal activities in the postal service leading to the firing or indictment of several officials.

The cannon also emphasizes the Roosevelt administration’s advocacy of a large military and its ready willingness to use it. The burden of trade protectionism singles out the Republican-sponsored Dingley Tariff of 1897, which raised the average rate to 46%. In the Republican Elephant’s driver’s seat, and “The Last Straw” that broke its back, is the personification of large business corporations (“trusts”). In the final weeks of the campaign, Democrats and the press played up corporate contributions to the Roosevelt campaign and reported that it was the result of Republican National Committee Chairman George Cortelyou blackmailing company executives in return for favorable treatment. No evidence was produced, several of the firms were later prosecuted by the Roosevelt administration under antitrust laws, and the story had little effect on the election results.













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