POLITICAL CARTOONIST ROLLIN KIRBY’S SOLUTION FOR THE 1931 NATIONAL DEFICIT
KIRBY, Rollin. Original signed drawing of the editorial cartoon “Lost Excise Revenue (Now Escaping into Bootleg River).” [New York: World-Telegram, 1931]. Single sheet of illustration board (13 by 19 inches). $450.
Original signed cartoon drawing for the New York World-Telegraph, depicting “Bootleg River” dammed up by the “18th Amendment” (Prohibition), which prevents the irrigation of the “Treasury Deficit.”
“The Treasury deficit resulting from the prolonged depression brought to the Congress of 1931-32 the problem of balancing the budget in order to maintain national credit. The annual report of the Treasury, submitted in December 1931, stated actual and prospective deficits and proposed additional revenues and a reduction of expenditures to meet the situation… The House Committee recommended increased income and estate taxes, added a gift tax and omitted the automobile tax, trying without success to substitute an excise tax on manufactures generally” (American Economic Review). One hundred and forty years earlier, in 1791, in order to create a steady source of revenue Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton proposed an excise tax on whiskey produced in the United States, and Congress instituted the levy— the Whiskey Rebellion notwithstanding. Up until the implementation of the 18th Amendment in 1921 prohibiting “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors,” the excise tax on whiskey was alternately repealed and re-instituted. From 1873 to 1915, for example, “revenue from taxes on alcoholic beverages exceeded revenue from all other internal sources combined” (Adam Gifford, Jr.). The loss of this stream of revenue at a time of severe national deficits is the subject of Rollin Kirby’s ingenious political cartoon “Lost Excise Revenue,” appearing on the editorial page of the World-Telegram for July 9, 1931. Working at four of New York’s major newspapers, Kirby established himself as America’s leading political cartoonist after World War I and won the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning in 1921, 1924 and 1928. He invented the long-nosed, sour Mr. Dry, who became widely known as the symbol of Prohibition.