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Satirical Cartoon Published 120 years today, December 21, 1895, on the cover of the weekly magazine Judge (New York): Take home lesson - Money and Profits always trump principles or obligations!  

December  21, 2015

Special to Groong by Eugene L. Taylor and Abraham D. Krikorian



This brief notice deals with a political cartoon published during the height of the Hamidian massacres.  It may appear peculiar that it was published a few days before Christmas but that was so and why will become apparent in a moment.


On pg. 5 of 31 December 1895 issue of the New York Times an article captioned:


“Appeals to civilization.  The Armenian Relief Association [based in New York City] pleads for help. – Money sent, but something more than money needed – England urged to stop the massacres.” 


A detailed overview of the massacres as well as the content of a cable from the Armenian Relief Association to The London Times and The London Daily News are provided and read as follows:


“To the Editors of the London Times and The Daily News: Sir: Europe pushed Armenia into the mouth of hell and turned to celebrate Christmas (emphasis ours).  If the Continental powers are dead to honor and conscience, can England forget justice?  Does she not believe in Almighty God, that she waits for help before stopping the wholesale assassination of Christian ministers and their flocks and the ravishing of maidens?  We send thousands of pounds to Grosvenor House Committee.  But what avails food when fire and sword exterminate?  Shall we advise Armenians to apostasize?”signed J. Bleeker Miller, Chairman, Herant M. Kiretchjian, General Secretary, Armenian Relief Association.” (See also the exceedingly rare Armenian Relief Association Bulletin No. 1 and 2, Oct. 1895-Dec. 1895.)


Some insights into this sordid matter may be gained by relying on a British politician who ‘told it like it was.’  He laid things squarely and bluntly on the table.  ‘The Armenian peasant has no rights.  He huddles amid plenty in an inhuman poverty.  He works from grey dawn to sunset for the tax-collector, the brigand, and the Turkish landlord.  One only wonders what splendid obstinacy has kept him to his Christian faith, what masterful hope persuades him to rear sons for serfdom and daughters for dishonor…. — We persuaded ourselves that if only we stole Cyprus and sent out a few travelling consuls to tell the Kurds that they were splendid fellows, but they really mustn’t kill so many Armenians, everything would go well.  We led the Congress of Berlin and we guaranteed the most sweeping reforms, and then we had a Commission appointed to draw them up.  They contained on paper all that an enlightened people could ask, unless it were that they omitted female franchise.  From that day to this we have done nothing to fulfil our promise or enforce our reforms. …We cannot wash our hands of our work without disloyalty.  Our written pledges stand, and the “simple plan” of doing nothing is a policy of repudiation and dishonor.’    


We have identified a framed cartoon from our collection that underscores this very succinctly, and reflects fully what one can read above. 



The imagery needs no detailed explanation or interpretation.



The ruthlessly blunt caption states:- “John Bull hated to drop his bundle.  That’s why the Turk always laughed at the idea of Christian retribution.”  Some say that this essentially “savages” John Bull (England) who is clutching a huge bag bearing the label “England’s Commercial Interests in the Orient.”  Armenia, on her knees at the right pleads with John Bull.  Under her sash we read “Armenia.”  The heads on pikes merit no special elaboration.  The Turk at the left may or may not be a caricature of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, or merely a rendering of the what came to be stereotyped as the “Unspeakable Turk.”



This graphic example of pictorial satire art work was drawn by New York artist Frederick Victor Gillam (b. 1865- died 29 January 1920). (Both he and his older brother Bernhard Gillam (1856-1896) were cartoonists. Although Bernhard is described as being more prolific than brother Frederick, the latter was stated to have been a better artist.  Their father, Sewall Gillam brought them over from England when they were quite young.  While his brother was alive, Frederick signed his art Victor but after the passing of his brother he used the surname Gillam. Since this art work derives from 1895 Victor may be seen on the lower right hand corner.


We need not say much here about Judge.  It was lunched 29 October 1881 and continued for quite a few years well into the middle of the next century.  The political cartoons are usually excellent and are much sought after by collectors.


We provide below as well an image of Frederick Victor Gillam from an article issued in 1894 (see Munsey’s Magazine volume 10 (1894) pgs. 538-550 [at 547] entitled “Our caricaturists and cartoonists” by Harold Payne)







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