Wow. This one could have been written yesterday.
About four months before this cartoon appeared, a teacher was shot dead in a Minnesota public school. The preceding ten years had seen six shooting incidents in schools resulting in six deaths and one injury. These are certainly not as severe as have been seen in recent years, but that may be largely because of the advanced weaponry now available to shooters. For an individual to do much damage in those days required not only guns but explosives, lots of explosives, and required days of secret on-scene work to implant explosive devices.
On May 18, 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan, guns, bombs hidden in the school, and a truck loaded with shrapnel and explosives were used by Andrew Kehoe to kill 38 elementary schoolchildren and six adults. At least 58 other people were injured.
So, massive and insane murderous acts were not unheard of a hundred years ago, they were just more difficult logistically.
This cartoon was published about four and a half years after the Bath massacre. It’s puzzling to me how this could be the stuff of humor in a daily comic strip of the day.
It’s actually not intended to represent the stuff of humor in any way. It is an appeal to law and order, and a plea for the protection of our children. What’s amazing is that this cartoon was done in the prohibition era and so well illustrates the quality of life we have today in the twenty-first century. We really haven’t come all that far.
As to whether humor is intended? What about the kids continuing to sing under their desks? I don’t doubt that the cartoonist may have had a serious intent with this particular strip, and I know that arguments with his editors over the political content of his work more than once led to strips pulled or jobs lost. But, irony granted, there’s a basic set up and delivery, a punchline with emphasis on punch. Also, given the context of weeks and weeks of cute kid gags, what would daily readers have been expecting… and what did they think of what they got?
I guess I am not reading it as a punchline, more just a delivery, the irony this is their country they are singing about, hiding under their desks.
“Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
Perhaps a bit of sardonic irony.