The Great Depression in Cartoons, Part 3: Hard Times

Posted on Friday, January 23, 2009, at 12:52 pm, by Cadwalader Crabtree.

Although Life was a humor magazine, its cartoonists did not ignore the unprecedented levels of unemployment and the gut-wrenching misery that accompanied the Great Depression. The Christmas issue for 1930, published on December 5, thus included this stark Madonna and child by Charles Dana Gibson. Presumably the famous Gibson Girl of the turn of the century had never imagined that her daughter and grandchild would be reduced to such a state.

Anno Domini - 1930. Cartoon by Charles Dana Gibson from Life, December 5, 1930.

Victor C. Anderson’s cartoons for Life at this time consistently relied on pathos for their effect, as with this one from December 12, 1930.

'Mama, it's so nice to have Daddy home all the time now.' Cartoon by Victor C. Anderson from Life, December 12, 1930.

Or this one from July 17, 1931.

'an' what did you want to be when you grew up?' Cartoon by Victor C. Anderson from Life, July 17, 1931.

Or this one from the December 1931.

We are compiling a record of the class graduating in 1917 so please fill out the blank giving present occupation, annual income . . . - Cartoon by Victor C. Anderson from Life, December 1931.

On January 2, 1931, Frederick Strothmann took a somewhat more lighthearted view, albeit one that retains a certain bite.

'Just think, Mike, if we was outside we'd probably be unemployed.' Cartoon by Frederick Strothmann from Life, January 2, 1931.

This cartoon by Ed Graham, published on December 12, 1930, lampoons the imagined hardships of the relatively well-to-do.

'Hard times! Why we've been using guest towels at our house for two whole months now!' Cartoon by Ed Graham from Life, December 12, 1930.

Finally, this wistful effort by John Cassel appeared on July 17, 1931.

Personal: Dear Prosperity Come Home. A welcome awaits you. - Cartoon from Life, July 17, 1931.

In our next installment we will examine Life’s take on the iconography of the Great Depression.