The Great Depression in Cartoons, Part 4:
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2009, at 12:43 pm, by Cadwalader Crabtree.

The Great Depression brought forth a number of dismal economic phenomena that people still associate with it today, including bread lines, apple sellers, homelessness, and panhandling. Life published so many cartoons on these iconic topics that we can hardly reproduce more than a representative sampling. Most are fairly self-explanatory.

This cartoon by William Kemp Starrett appeared on November 28, 1930.

'The food's nothin' extra - but you meet some awful nice people.' Cartoon by William Kemp Starrett from Life, November 28, 1930.

Many of the cartoons were little more than silly gags, like this one by Ed Graham, which appeared on December 19, 1930.

The origin of the idea. Cartoon by Ed Graham from Life, December 19, 1930.

Or this one by Frank Hanley, which appeared in the same issue.

'Well, my pets have to eat as well as I do.' Cartoon by Frank Hanley from Life, December 19, 1930.

Ed Graham’s cartoon of a ruined but still-hopeful stock investor was published on January 2, 1931.

Apple seller with stock ticker machine. Cartoon by Ed Graham from Life, January 2, 1931.

This cartoon by Richard Decker appeared on January 30, 1931.

'I wonder if you could spare a piece of cake, lady - today's my birthday.' Cartoon by Richard Decker from Life, January 30, 1931.

This one signed by “Trent” dates from February 20, 1931. Note the apple seller in the background.

'Madam, will you please help a poor man pay his club dues?' Cartoon by Trent from Life, February 20, 1931.

The spectacle of the formerly rich and powerful thrust into new circumstances was usually good for a laugh, as in this cartoon from April 10, 1931, by William Steig (author of the children’s book Shrek! [1990]).

'Whom do you think you're calling 'buddy'?' Cartoon by William Steig from Life, April 10, 1931.

This cartoon by Chauncey “Chon” Day appeared on April 24, 1931.

'Shine yer apples, Mister?' Cartoon by Chon Day, April 24, 1931.

Finally, this one by Don Herold appeared on June 12, 1931.

'You're better off than I am, my man. I'm two hundred thousand in debt.' 'Well, it wouldn't hurt you much to go another ten cents in the hole, would it, Mister?' Cartoon by Don Herold from Life, June 12, 1931.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the sorry state of business in the early 1930s, as seen by Life’s cartoonists.

Comments (closed):

tina aka forrestina vintage wrote on August 26, 2010, at 8:40 pm:

These are all so great. I found your blog today conducting research on a set of vintage note cards illustrated by William Steig featuring The Lonely Ones. Thanks for the entertaining post!

Cadwalader Crabtree wrote on August 28, 2010, at 11:41 am:

Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you enjoyed the cartoons.