Hoover’s November 5, 1938 Address Inspires A Political Cartoon

By Thomas F. Schwartz

In an address delivered to a joint Republican organizations in Spokane, Washington, November 5, 1938, former president Herbert Hoover rebutted President Franklin Roosevelt’s claim of “his success in creating economic stability, prosperity and security for the average man.”  Hoover pointed out that President Roosevelt failed to mention, “the 11,000,000 unemployed or farmers’ prices, and some other instabilities and insecurities.”  Hoover main complaint was a fear that New Deal policies were undermining free enterprise and leading America into a planned economy with all the attendant dangers. “With beguiling phrases,” argued Hoover, “Mr. Roosevelt has mixed some of the working parts of these coercive systems into American life.”     Whether it be “government forced monopolies in the N.R.A.” or government price fixing, restricting production, or government run enterprises such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Hoover claimed these ideas mirror ones found “along the Berlin-Rome-Moscow axis.”  He ended his speech urging a return to unfettered free enterprise and “trust 130,000,000 free people in the United States to have more sense than a dozen starry-eyed boys in Washington.”


Cartoon drawn by Clarence Hillsmith, November 1938.

Seven days later, Hoover received a fan letter from Clarence Hillsmith commending Hoover on his fine speech of November 5.  The letter included a hand-drawn cartoon by Hilllsmith “suggested by your speech.”  The cartoon is entitled “This Number, The ‘12 Starry-Eyed Boys’ in their Alphabet New-Abun-Dance.”  As coins fall from the sky, figures representing the New Deal alphabet agencies perform a dance line while President Roosevelt serves as a conductor of the pit orchestra playing “silver threads among the gold.”  Applauding are figures representing the socialist/fascist leaders of Stalin, Mussoulini, and Hitler while John Q Public is unimpressed by the show and declares “Aw-Let’s Go Over to Herb Hoover’s and shoot some pool!”

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