Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Chicken in Almost Every Pot: Otto Soglow's New Deal

A series of magazine covers done by cartoonist Otto Soglow for Judge in 1938 offers some insights on how Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal was embraced by the press. The covers are all intensely colorful economic parables of the Great Depression executed against a plain white background. The four recurring characters are second-term Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt, a farmer, a worker, and a capitalist, each trying to cope with the dire economic situation. Many an American president might be depicted as the advocate of agriculture, of labor, or of business, but it's unusual even during hard times for a president of either party to be depicted as the champion of all three.

On the April 1938 Judge cover, FDR is drawn as an acrobat on the flying trapeze executing a breathtaking midair catch of the farmer while immobile business and labor look on aghast. The May cover shows the three branches of the economy tangled around the maypole, with the capable President clearly taking charge of the awkward situation. The June cover alludes to the famous political promise of a chicken in every pot, one often incorrectly attributed to Herbert Hoover and embraced by the Republican party back in 1928 during more prosperous times. Note also that each cover depicts the President as physically vigorous and able-bodied, with no reference to the braces he required to stand or the wheelchair he required for mobility.

Otto Soglow
Judge, April 1938
Otto Soglow
Judge, May 1938
Scan by Dick Buchanan
Otto Soglow
Judge, June 1938
Scan by Dick Buchanan

Note:  Once again I offer my thanks to Dick Buchanan for providing Attempted Bloggery with two Judge cover scans from the legendary Dick Buchanan Cartoon Clip Files. The April cover comes from Mike Lynch Cartoons to which Dick regularly contributes, most recently a post entitled, "Dick Buchanan's Favorite Gag Cartoons 1946 - 1964." See what magazine readers were laughing at during the postwar years with the Depression long behind them.

Otto Soglow was a prolific cartoonist who was especially at home with the wordless gag. Readers are encouraged to contribute scans or photos of original art or of rare published cartoons. I am especially eager to know whether there are any more Judge covers in this FDR series.

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  1. Unrelated, but maybe of interest:

    ("A rare India ink drawing of young reporter Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy has been sold for almost $500,000 (£380,000) at auction in Paris.")

    1. Off-topic for today, but not off-topic for this blog. It's fascinating.