The Dollar Octopus, 1942

High time for another cartographic cephalopod. This one by Dutch artist Louis Emile Manche (1908-82) arrived in the shop just too late for this year’s London Map Fair, but I’m still pleased to have located an original example.

Compare and contrast with Pat Keely’s Japanese octopus, made to boost morale among the Free Dutch in 1944, which I blogged about last December: http://timbryars.tumblr.com/post/14821537264/the-indies-must-be-free-japan-is-cast-as-an-especially

Lou Manche designed a number of posters for the NSB (Dutch National Socialist party) and his octopus carries a pro-Axis message. In the immediate postwar period Manche found himself interned with other Dutch collaborators in Kamp Vught, the former concentration camp.

A dollar symbol represents America’s financial power, and the tentacles bear the dates of American expansion, formal and informal, from the Mexican-American War onwards. The tentacle linking the US with the Philippines (dated 1898 for the Spanish-American War) has already been severed by a samurai sword, bearing the rising sun on its grip. Japanese aircraft menace the west coast, and indeed the only air raid on US soil (by a single aircraft) took place in September 1942. Submarines, both Japanese and German, were more of a problem. The German U-boat menace to US shipping off the east coast was real and is well-documented.

There are at least two settings of the text. This version casts the US as an imperialist power, accusing it of sheltering behind the Monroe Doctrine (which sought to exlude European powers from expanding/regaining colonies in the Americas) when convenient, but actually obeying the law of the jungle, and planting the US flag wherever ‘the Yankees’ feel like it. That deals with the tentacles. The US is also accused of fighting with dollars, not bullets, and profiting from European wars; the dollar is at the heart of the last paragraph: ‘the gold of the international plutocracy [a phrase used here with anti-semitic connotations], concentrated in Fort Knox, is besieged by the irresistible armies of the young [ie Axis] nations, by the armies of the workers’.     

The poster was approved by the Propaganda Section of the Department for People’s Information and the Arts, located in Den Haag. A Dutch friend tells me that Dutch artists were required to sign a document declaring allegiance to the fascist regime. Many refused, and many were interned for the duration in Kamp Vught; the artists who signed, like Manche, exchanged places with them at the end of the war.

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