This is an original ink drawing by the prominent illustrator Louis M. Glackens, prepared in March 1906 as a proof to be published within Puck magazine, the first successful, mainstream American humour periodical.
The piece is a fun work of political satire. To set the background, after the United States conquered the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War (1897-8), the islands were made U.S. possessions and governed under something of a colonial arrangement. While most Filipinos were perhaps not thrilled about this new reality, the Americans promised that the Philippines would be given a free trade agreement with the U.S., which would potentially lead to an economic boom in the islands.
However, the U.S. business oligarchs, many of them owners of near ‘monopolies’ were not enthusiastic about the prospect of free trade with the Philippines, fearing that cheap Filipino products, such as agricultural goods and hardwood lumber, would swamp their captive markets. They used their immense influence upon the U.S. Senate to ensure that free trade bills were repeatedly made dead-on-arrival as soon as they were entered into the congressional docket. They succeeded in derailing the U.S.-Philippines Free Trade agreement until the passing of the Jones Act in 1916.
The present satire, made in 1906, entitled “The Monopoly Alley” likened the theatre of attempting to pass a Free Trade treaty to a bowling alley. The Philippines, represented by the gentleman in the foreground, seems to have carefully set up the bowling pins in a neat row (just as one would have prepared a draft bill for the Senate) that when properly aligned would read ‘Free Trade’. However, the American business monopolists, shown as fat, smoking good ole’ boys, have effortlessly thrown a ball strait down the alley, thus scattering the pins and shattering any hopes for a Free Trade deal.
Louis M. Glackens (1866 – 1933) was one of the leading American illustrators of the era. Originally from Philadelphia, he was the elder brother of the famous realist painter William Glackens. From the mid-1890s until 1914, Glackens worked for Puck magazine, making many of America’s most popular political images. Puck was founded in St. Louis in 1871, but later moved its operations to New York to be in the thick of the action. It became the first nationally read and financial successfully American humour magazine and remained in business until 1918. It hired many of the country’s best illustrators and the bitingly humorous illustrations that graced each issue were the key to Puck’s success. The magazine closed just before news was to be increasingly conveyed by moving reels, and so it is fitting that after departing Puck, Glackens spent the rest of his career as an illustrator for the silver screen.
The present drawing was made specifically to serve as a proof for a printed illustration within an issue of Puck. On the verso is a paste-down label from the magazine’s editorial room, plus a stamp reading “Overaly Dept A.M. Wed Mar 27 1906”, with times of the day scrawled in pencil to the left. While we have not been able to confirm for certain that this drawing was published within an issue of Puck, the overlay stamp strongly suggests that this was indeed the case.
Original manuscript artworks by Glackens appear only rarely on the market, and this satire is especially fun and interesting.