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The Trust Brute
They Laugh Best Who Laugh Last


HerculesA recurring theme throughout this—Davenport’s second collection of cartoons—is the Trusts. A trust or corporate trust is a large grouping of business interests with significant market power, which may be embodied as a corporation or as a group of corporations that collude with one another in various ways. In Davenport’s day, the term trust is often used to refer to the monopolies and near-monopolies in the United States during the Second Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and early 20th century. These Gilded Age constructs were a prime target of William Randolph Hearst’s brand of journalism.

In this cartoon, Davenport introduced his famous “Brute” character to personify these monopolistic corporate entities. As Dollar Mark Hanna, President McKinley and Sen. Tom Platt look on, the brute flings “the people” towards the bones of the “small dealer.” He claimed his inspiration was a statue he saw while touring Europe in 1897:

In St. Mark’s Square in Venice ... I came across a statue of Samson throwing some man or other — I forgot his name — to the ground. The abnormal size of the muscles of the figure struck me at once. Turning to my wife who was with me, I said, “The Trusts.” – HCD

Antonio CanovaHowever, after searching in vain for a statue of Samson from Venice, we switched to other mythic muscular characters, and we soon found the statue of Hercules and Lichas in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome. No doubt this is Homer’s “Sampson.” Originally created by Antonio Canova (1757–1822; right), between 1795 and 1815, In Greek mythology, Lichas was Hercules’ servant, who brought the poisoned shirt from Deianira—Hercules’ wife—to Hercules, because of Deianira’s jealousy of Iole, which killed him. The story is recounted in Ovid’s Metamorphoses written in 8 AD:

So, in his frenzy, as he wandered there, he chanced upon the trembling Lichas, crouched in the close covert of a hollow rock. Then in a savage fury he cried out, “Was it you, Lichas, brought this fatal gift? Shall you be called the author of my death?” Lichas, in terror, groveled at his feet, and begged for mercy–“Only let me live!” But seizing on him, the crazed Hero whirled him thrice and once again about his head, and hurled him, shot as by a catapult, into the waves of the Euboic Sea. Lichas was innocent but due to a big misunderstanding Hercules threw him into the sea.

As you will see in the following pages, Davenport’s “Trust Brute” is applied and multiplied onto the myriad menagerie of the Gilded Age corporate excesses. Like the Tammany Tiger and Uncle Sam, the Brute joins Davenport’s toolbox of hyperbolic personifications, drawn to order.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  They Laugh Best Who Laugh Last