A Stay Of Proceedings.

Item Description

Jacquelyn Ottman. Chromolithograph. Puck. May 11, 1887.

In this cartoon, the illustrator represents the toil of the farmers at the hands, or more appropriately, foot of the railroad industry during the Gilded Age. By abusing monopolistic power, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the monopolist in control of the railroad industry, forced upon settlers unfair rates and fares as well as preferred customer policies to maximize his own profit. These corrupt policies brought about a slew of problems for settlers who relied on the railroad as a form of transportation. In desperation, such settlers, represented in the cartoon, beckon the government for help.
Government help came from the “Hand of Cleveland.” His hand, which grabs Vanderbilt’s collar but fails to prevent Vanderbilt’s foot from stomping on the settlers suggests that Cleveland can only make an empty threat. This minimal help failed to enact any change but instead led to what the cartoon describes as “A Stay of Proceedings,” where the government and the monopolies remained at a standstill while the settlers continued to suffer. The theme of corruption and the Vanderbilt family is also explored in the cartoon in this exhibit titled, Our Merciless Millionaire.