|NDN | Photo Gallery | Documents | Classroom | Search|
The cast of characters in the Court Packing fiascoand newspaper cartoonists were inclined to consider it a fiasco of the first magnitudeproved a wonderful foil for political cartoonists on either side of the issue. While some presented Roosevelt in stark terms, as heroic or evil, most took advantage of the foibles of all the participants in the struggle. Political humor is best when it punctures the pretensions of the powerful, and in that season there were plenty of egos in need of deflating.
Cartoonists used topical information to enhance their message. A Presidential boating or fishing trip became a metaphor for the Court Packing crisisRoosevelt might be portrayed as a reckless helmsman or as a fisherman going on about "the big one that got away." Or, like a teacher returning to an unruly classroom, FDR might return from vacation to find that Congress had been acting up in his absence. (see Cartoons from March 22 and April 30, and May 10.)
In the editorial cartoonists' eyes, the struggle between the three branches of government took on the dimensions of a refereed sporting event. Even before Spring training had begun, editorial cartoonists seized upon baseball as the ruling metaphor for the Court Packing crisis, and it is easy to see why. The "nine old men," the Supreme Court "bench," and the similar decision-making responsibilities of Judges and Umpires made for easy cartooning. And as the Court Packing controversy stretched into the Summer it competed with the 1937 baseball season for the attention of the American public. Baseball, however, outlasted the Court Packing crisis by several months. And, as Babe Ruth once said of President Hoover, the New York Yankees had a much better season than FDR; that Fall they defeated the New York Giants in five games in the 1937 World Series.
The New Deal Network has digitized 125 editorial cartoons from the Basil O'Conner Collection at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library. They are organized chronologically, beginning with a selection of cartoons commenting upon the Supreme Court and the Roosevelt Administration (from 1933-1936). Thereafter they are organized monthly, from February to July 1937. Each page includes cropped images of the cartoons in question to facilitate searching the collection. As with the cartoon images in the rest of this Feature, clicking on cropped images will take you directly to the full cartoon. Those with slow internet connections or those who wish to view the entire selection of cartoons arranged chronologically may wish to visit the image-free Index Page.
A more comprehensive online archive of editorial cartoons from the Basil O'Conner collection, created by Niskayuna (NY) High School's AP Computer/Math and United States History classes, can be found at the FDR Cartoon Archive: 1937The Supreme Court. This section from the Cartoon Archive contains cartoons devoted to the Court Packing controversy, organized by month.