Saturday, November 24, 2012


Herriman Saturday

Tuesday, March 24 1908 -- Sorry, folks, this one has me more than a little confused. I don't know why Herriman, out of the blue, feels the need to point out that the Great White Fleet will eventually visit Japan months from now. I don't know why the Japanese fellow says "Sayonara To Sin". I don't know why the buried hatchet vignette is accompanied, as best I can tell, with the words "Nic Jacet". I don't know why the sailor refers to the Japanese woman as "Eey Yo San". I don't understand why the fleet's visit to Japan made Union Pacific stock rise.

I'm real confused.


It's not "Nic Jacet" but "Hic Jacet," Latin for "here lies." As in here lies the buried hatchet.

As for the Union Pacific stock, it should probably be remembered that a few months before this cartoon came out, in October-November 1907, there was a major bank panic which caused stock prices to fall dramatically. Union Pacific, being a bellwether stock, suffered heavily. Between May, 1907 and June, 1908, there was a fairly serious recession. Any outbreak of peace would be good for stock prices, including Union Pacific. Union Pacific, of course, was one of Los Angeles' largest companies.

There had been fairly serious, just-below-the-surface tensions with the Japanese empire about this time -- there had been anti-Japanese riots in San Francisco just months before; the Great White Fleet visit was a show of muscle (the fact that we could send a fleet around the world and have it in good nick, unlike the Russians during their recent war) beneath the good will. Hence why there's a lot of "peace" imagery here.

The fleet, by the way, hit Yokohama in October of 1908, some months after this cartoon.
Further note: as to "Eey Yo San," one possible explanation is that this is an allusion to the Puccini opera "Madama Butterfly." It will be recalled that Cio-Cio San [pron. Cho-Cho, the Japanese word for Butterfly], the heroine of the opera, is romanced by Pinkerton, a U.S. Navy officer. (Spoiler: the opera doesn't end well.)

The opera had its world premiere in 1904, and had its U.S. premiere in 1906. The last revision, creating the standard version, came in 1907. Thus, the opera would have been well-known at the time of the cartoon.
One of the arias in the second act of Madama Butterfly is: "Ah! M'ha Scordata?" [Italian: Ah! He has forgotten me?] In this context, Herriman's use of the term "forgotten" is highly suggestive.
Eric hit the high points, but I can add to the "goodby to sin" question. The Japanese announced that they would provide hospitality for the US sailors, including geisha girls. The US press, thinking there was no difference between geisha's and prostitutes freaked out and denounced the Japanese for basically providing an orgy. The Japanese were bewildered because the geishas were supposed to full-fill their traditional role of providing music, preform some traditional dances, laugh at the sailor's jokes, and otherwise entertain the men in a non-sexual fashion. Of course geishas often did form sexual relationships with regular, favored customers, but that was not their primary public role. The western nations, however, tended to emphasize erotic fantasies about foreign "exotic" women (see, for example, the many 'harem' paintings and stories from North Africa that were popular in Europe) and so only paid attention to the sexual role geishas could play. In order to pacify the bluenoses in the US the two nations agreed that sailors would be entertained in less controversial ways, hence the "goodby to sin" joke.
Hi Eric and Woodrowfan --
Wow, admitting my dumbitude in this post paid off really well! Thanks fellas for your very interesting explanations of this (to me) highly inscrutable cartoon!

Great fun! Let have more of these cartoon treasure hunts! Try a few Billy Ireland's from the same time period, please.
Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]