May 29, 2015 – An early cartoon by Dr. Seuss is up for auction, but be sure to read the fine print before bidding. Actually, just read the print. The illustration done in 1929 for Judge magazine, entitled ”Cross-Section of The World’s Most Prosperous Department Store,” displays various scenarios in which wealthy (white) men can ironically purchase items to make their lives more difficult including what many consider an overtly racial slur.
The four-panel drawing includes things like “a fly for your ointment” and a “monkey wrench for your machinery.” The final and largest panel displays a crowd of men drawn in blackface, with dark skin and red lips, being presented to a caucasian shopper. A sign reads: “A nigger for your woodpile.” Horton Hears a WTF?
A nigger in the woodpile or fence is a dated English figure of speech meaning “some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed—something suspicious or wrong.” Commonly used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, usage has declined since then, and use of the phrase by public figures has often been followed by criticism over the offensiveness of the term “nigger.”
As the item has come to market, negative reaction to the Dr. Seuss cartoon is starting to flow: