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tv   American Artifacts Puck Magazine Cartoons on Congress  CSPAN  July 6, 2018 7:37pm-8:03pm EDT

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president trump will announce his choice for supreme court monday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern. you can find the announcement on our companion network, cspan. cspan, where history unfolds daily. a public service by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house. the supreme court. and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c span is brought to you by your cable and satellite provider. you're watching american
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artifacts. joining us in our studios is michael alexander kahn. thank you for being with us. what was puck? >> puck was the most important weekly political cartoon magazine of its time. it was the innovator of political cartoon magazines and was widely read and very influential. >> we'll talk about the publication. let me talk about you and your involvement in the book. why did you do it? >> i came to washington for ucla. and my professor had on a cartoon. he said, this cartoon decided the election of 1884. it was a beautiful cartoon and i was hooked. and since then, i collected the magazines, literally, for over 40 years. >> we're going to talk about the magazine. first, let's talk about the
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media. for a century, late 1900s. early 20th century, what was it like? >> there was no tv. there was no internet. the newspapers, a lot of newspapers, but they weren't very colorful, they weren't very fun. when puck came in, it was the first magazine of its kind to have full color cartoons talking about politics. and it really filled a vacuum, very famous guy commented that it was more influential than all of the newspapers combined in terms of influencing the population. >> let's begin with some of the images. this is one from your opening chapter on the history of puck from september 1876. we should point out, it is in german. why was it in german? >> this is the very first issue of puck. it was in german, because kepler was german. for the first 20 years, he also
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published a german version. it was so popular, they sold 20 ,000 copies an issue. and here, if you take a look at the top right hand corner, you can see mr. punch and other characters from famous european political cartoon magazines and puck was standing up on the table. throwing out his cartoons and he is saying, i'm going to now join new york and be a part of the new york publishing community. this is the very first puck. >> it is also a reminder of the immigration in the country in the late 1800s. >> absolutely. a very strong german population. and a side note, kepler was famous for being in the theater. interestingly, he uses uses the theater motif for his cartoon. >> explain what we're looking at. >> so to the left is kepler.
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he's the cartoonist. the person to the right, he was the printer. and the fellow sitting is the guy named brunner. he was the editor. they were terrific. between the three of them, they were the force behind puck for the first 20 some years. >> where was it published and what was the readership like? >> by 1884, published 125,000 copies each publication. and puck magazine was passed around. 125,000 copies were sent, the influence was enormous. >> what we're looking at right now is a symbol of puck. who is he or she? >> well, it's no the a he or a she. it was modeled after kepler's daughter, but neither he or she. it's an it, and people refer to puck as a he often, or a she. and puck is the mascot for the
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magazine. appears in hundreds and hundreds of cartoons and the magazine speaks through the voice of puck. >> and the subtitle, america's first and most influential magazine of color political cartoon. why was it so influential? >> i think because of the color. it was very innovative at the time. in about 1880, they had used a process where they literally used multiple stones and they produced beautiful color cartoon, which we'll look at later. it was the first of its kind in america. people saw them and they were very impressed by the image, the message, and those messages stayed with the people. >> the first publication in german in march of 1877. the english version came out. and we see the symbol of an egg emerging with puck coming out of that egg in had the corner. explain what we're looking at. >> so puck is all around puck, you can see the other major
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figures of the new york publishing community. so the bottom right hand side, that is the famous cartoonist. over to the left, you see frank, and all of the different representations, the chickens in the chicken house are welcoming the new puck who was hatched from the egg and he is saying there's a stir in the roost. a mother chicken has come. >> why that line? >> i don't know. i think kepler likes to have allegories in his humor. he would have animals. references of the bible. in this particular case, i guess he was saying, that really is the new york publishing community is like a house of chickens. >> if joseph kepler were here today, could you compare him to a current editorial cartoonist? >> i would say not necessarily. kepler had a wide ranging interest and he was much more
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issue focused than he was -- today, cartoonists are more specific. i don't think there would be any comparison of anybody currently. >> there's a building you are familiar with known as the puck building. where specifically is it and why is that important to understand this publication? >> for the first seven or eight years, puck was in 23 different buildings all around southern manhattan. it was so successful that they could afford to build the largest house, there it is, the building. that's the largest building in the world for printing. and puck was so successful financially, that it used the entire building, published puck magazine and other magazines. puck, the building is located at lafayette in southern new york. and this illustration shows
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president theodore roosevelt at the white house. looks like the brooklyn bridge, and the puck building. what does this represent? >> well, what happened was, puck liked roosevelt at the beginning, and then decided roosevelt was too big for his bridges and he endorsed. so this cartoon is published the week after roosevelt won reelection in 1904, and this is shaking hands and making up cartoons. >> we're going to come back to that in a moment. hunting ground, how he made a game of the politicians. this is 1885, and this is right after the election of 1884, and this is puck's idea of bragging. in the election of 1884, puck had supported the democrat, cleveland, and opposed the republican blame in the big- time opposition. you can see puck is standing and hold ago carcass. the head of the carcass is james blaine, who ran against cleveland. you see the dog on the left.
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the collar satire. what puck is trying to say, satire -- the republican party. this is the first time in many, many years that the democrats won an election. so puck was justifiably proud of himself. >> was joseph kepler viewed as revolutionary? >> in the united states, yes. however, there were quite a few european magazines that had similar kinds of art. in the united states, kepler was clearly revolutionary. in europe, not so much. >> you look at this today, in the 21st century, what do you think? >> i rarely open a puck cartoon without seeing today. if you look through our book, hundreds of cartoons that you could publish tomorrow and the readership of today would say, oh, i recognize that. this issue is still going on. >> one of those issues is
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money and politics chapter 4. throughout its history, puck complained tirelessly about money on elections and government. it objected to the need for money to conduct presidential campaigns. it campaigned against the political interference of millionaire businessman who attempted to manipulate the agenda. sound familiar? >> absolutely. i know it's hard to believe, but actually, money was the worst problem then than it was now. there was no limitations, no restrictions, and the state legislatures elected the senators, not the population. so, basically, money ran all politics and puck objected to it greatly. >> do you find the issues resonate today? >> very much so. the same issue of inequality of income, the same issue of the much greater influence of the rich on the electoral process.
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>> let me take you back to this image, the monkey revenge. explain what this represents, what it symbolizes, and how it resonates today. >> so, this represented the republican party in the 1880 period. and the republican party was splitting apart. much as it may be today. the middle branch of the republican party was the one in power. you could see the president garfield and blaine are in charge. over to the right, a fellow named rosco, republicans were fighting among each other. what puck was saying was, the republicans were not being able to get along. they were acting like monkeys and they were going to destroy their franchise. if you take a look at the right, the democrats, a pathetic group of donkeys out of power and have absolutely no influence. and one could see some kind of an analogy to the situation
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today, where the internal fight of the republicans are where the game is and the democrats are in the hinderlands, hoping to get there at some point. >> the average citizen looked at this in 1881, would they understand immediately what it meant? >> they would recognize. also recognize the president and they would recognize the fact that these are the faces of politicians and the thing they would like most is these really powerful people are depicted as monkeys. they are depicted as acting foolishly, out of control. and that's the kind of humor that puck likes. >> how did you research this book? >> i have a very large collection of puck cartoons of my own. and i read a lot of history books. what i did was, i took a lot of history books, and took their references to puck cartoons.
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i took a collection of them. i took the cartoons that were most featured and put them in the book. >> uncle sam's neglected farm and it reads as follows. new and independent party, look here, uncle sam, isn't it about time you got rid of those fellows and gave the job to me? take a look at the right. the republican party and the democratic party, democratic party is depicted. the democratic party was associated with the irish, which that was a typical prejudiceable image of the irish. and the republican party is depicted as being involved with corruption. there were bad scandals. what puck is saying is look, democrats and republicans are horrible. we need a new political party. that sounds familiar, i'm sure. and you have of course, the wonderful image of the farmer who is looking at uncle sam and
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saying, look at this terrible problem. we should have a third party. of course, agriculture and farming was dominant during this time period. >> absolutely. that's exactly right. we're going to move on to the next cartoon. this is from 1887. it shows a paris tariff monster. >> taxes that are added to goods that are added. you add a tariff and now the chair costs $40. interestingly, at this point in time, the united states had no income tax. the major income source of the united states was tariffs. and the united states is really good at it. take a look at the cartoon. it shows that by the mid 80s, there it was a huge surplus, mid 1880s, a huge surplus in the american budget. i know that's hard to believe. no one could tax, yet america was running a huge surplus because of the tariffs. it's the surplus that was viewed as a problem.
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puck published cartoons in this way, because puck was against the tariffs. they thought tariffs were taxed on the working man. you can see they are making the point that the surplus is a terrible problem. >> we now have a $20 trillion debt in this country. roughly, back in the 1890s, what was the u.s. federal budget and what was the surplus? >> oh gosh, it was in the low hundreds of millions. i think the surplus was less than $100 million. the numbers are amazingly small compared to today. >> let's look at the speaker of the house from this period. not a very complimentary look. why? >> well, puck was a democratic magazine. and this is a series of republican speakers starting from as far west, a guy named james blaine. he was involved in a lot of scandals. all the scandals of the red tape have the names of the
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scandals written on them. the guy above him was the next house speaker. and then the guy to the right was thought to be a fool. and the person at the bottom is a gentleman named reid. he was the speaker of the house. very, very powerful person. and puck's point was, that every one of these republican speakers was immoral and their leadership was corrupt. >> how many time did joseph kepler spend on these images? how long would it take him to come up with these editorial cartoons? >> he had many ideas. he would come up with ideas, have a staff meeting. they would decide which ones to use. he would then draw them, and then they would be put on stone. it really didn't take long for him to do it. >> what was he like? >> he was very, very energetic. very entrepreneurial. he was a terrific businessman and he had many, many projects.
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he actually, in 1883, worked himself to death. >> how old was he when he passed away? >> he was in the mid 50s. >> this next image. they hate the light, but they cannot escape it. what are we looking at? >> we could be looking at yesterday, somebody was interviewed by the united states congress. and none of us know what happened. it was in private. this is what happened in the united states senate, over 100 years ago. they would hold hearings in private. the press, i'm sure as a member of the press, you want to find out what happened yesterday and you would have preferred if the interview was in public. this is what they are complaining about. the press in the 1880s and 1890s, the senate should not meet in private. they were trying to shine light on the behavior. the implication is, sinister and terrible things are happening in congress behind closed doors. >> you are referring to the
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president's communications director, meeting behind closed doors. we should point out, we want to show the process as it unfolds. >> you would be the gentleman and lady's shining light in that cartoon. this next one is building the tariff for the republican farrows. explain this. >> the main legislative activity of the republican party was the tariffs. and a fellow named william mckinley was a congressman from ohio. he was the main tariff guy. and here, puck is suggesting that the tariffs are a terrible thing, but mckinley is causing them to happen. if you see mckinley as the farrow. and portrayed as the farrow's wife, doing his bidding in congress. the point that puck is making,
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they are -- >> he would go on to become president. >> yes, sir. >> let's look at this next one. it's a familiar theme. throwing the bums out. there was an election in 1892. the democrats won. and uncle sam was portrayed as the american people. the hope for puck was that people in the democratic party and republican party who had contributed to the bad policies that puck didn't like would be sifted. you mentioned thomas reid. this is from 1897. he was the speaker of the house at the time. explain why. >> the speaker became such a target. >> so, this was a different era in congress. congress has much more consolidated power. the speaker of the house could decide who was on the committees, many more rules than they have today.
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this is an illustration of the fact that speaker reid runs the congress, but he is the congress. and this occurred for many speakers, speaker reid, they were inside holsters. speakers that were very, very powerful. >> i mention the speaker deficit. that became an issue in 1927. >> so, what happened was, in 1892, the democrats won, and a big recession. and revenue stopped coming in and then the republicans came back in, in '96, and the tariffs did not have the effect they wanted. they did not raise revenues. and so all of a sudden, congress was hit with a deficit. the deficit was $44 million. maybe as much as we pay a baseball player today. but that was a large number
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those days. and you have the deficit of talking to making the paint. your crummy tariff resulted in this bad result. was carnige the bill gates of his time? >> i think so. he wasn't the richest man. rockefeller was richer. morgan was more powerful. but i think carnegie was more fill philanthropic. what puck is saying, the policies of the government are making the richest people in the country even richer. on the right, you have activities by congress. on the left, you have the workers and they are filling the pockets of people like carnegie. ironically, the last couple of days, the task in the $29
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billion reward. so you could have put mr. buffet right there. >> and along those lines, the influence of money and politics and industry titans. >> this is one of the most famous ever. you take a look at the top left. people entrance closed. this is for the monopolies, by the monopolies. puck is saying, this was a very, very famous cartoon, that the senators are really the senator from the steel truck. standard oil, and all the senators are, are just representatives of the special interest and all our government is, is the government of the special interest for the special interest. and at the time, the big bugaboo was monopolies. that's who they represent. >> and our final image is from september of 1918. explain what we're looking at. >> sadly, this is the final
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issue. and i think it's self-evident. we look at the political cartoons and by september 1918, puck had converted. it was much more a magazine of art. it was much less political. it featured pictures of pretty women. we are still in world war i. and this is a representative of a wave. this was the final issue. at the time, the magazine was owned by the hersh organization. >> we'll end on this note. the story of puck. michael alexander kahn, thank you for being with us. >> thank you. and for the next five minutes, c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service. by america's cable television
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company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. hear president trump will announce his choice for the supreme court monday night at 9:00 p.m. eastern. you can see the announcement live on our companion network, c-span. want to -- want to in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house. the supreme court. and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider.
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to mark the 50th anniversary of robert f. kennedy's assassination in los angeles, arlington cemetery held a ceremony commemorating rfk's life and legacy. the organization founded in 1968 to honor his memory, hosted this event. ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the invocation by father matt malone. let us pray. we meet up in a moment of mourning, but in an hour


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