Opper’s 1883 “The Monopoly Pharaohs Building Their Tombs”: Wall Street Frauds Make Wonderful Cartoons, Part 35
From the December 12, 1883 issue of Puck magazine, today we present The Monopoly Pharaohs Building Their Tombs, by Frederick Burr Opper. It parodies the two greatest stock market manipulators of the latter 19th century — Jay Gould and William Vanderbilt.
In the background to the left, can be seen Gould, dressed as a priest, gesturing towards the entrance to his temple/tomb, whose dome is a stock market ticker tape machine (upon which changing stock prices were printed, years ago). $ signs flank the entrance (as well as decorating Gould’s clothes), in addition to watering cans to either side above the entrance — a reference to Gould’s practice of “watering stocks” — i.e., falsely inflating their value, then selling out his shares when the price got high. On the side of Gould’s temple is written: “Watch (the Market) and Pray!”
In the foreground, Vanderbilt oversees the construction of his pyramid/tomb. Each worker has a label, such as “Wall St. Victim”, “Ruined Speculator”, ”Ruined Broker”, “R.R. Slave” (Vanderbilt had a monopoly on railroads), “Widow”, etc. Above the entrance to Vanderbilt’s tomb, are enshrined his infamous words (which we’ll say more about in future posts, as the day’s cartoonists never let him forget them), “The Public Be Damned!”
Click on picture, to see an enlarged version.
Finally, a curiosity: on the side of Vanderbilt’s tomb entrance, is drawn a horse, with “Maud S.” beside it. Maud S. was a famous race horse, owned by Vanderbilt. Thirty years after this cartoon, Opper created a weekly color comic strip about a mule, titled And Her Name Was Maud. Whether he was thinking of Vanderbilt’s horse at the time, would be pure speculation.
Click here to find both the prior Wall Street Frauds Make Wonderful Cartoons entries, and related I.T.C.H. posts. This series will continue, while the debate on financial reforms continues in Congress (except Mondays and holidays, on which I already had other material planned).