The Dollar Octopus
- The Dollar Octopus
- Full Title:
- De Dollarpoliep [The Dollar Octopus]
- Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection
- Manche, Louis Emile
- Other Creator(s):
- Propaganda section, Department von Volkslichting en Kunsten [German-occupied Holland]
- Date posted:
- ID Number:
- World War II
- (cm, H x W) 42 x 57
- Collector's Notes:
- A powerful anti-American propaganda poster produced by the Nazis in the Netherlands in the summer of 1942. The U.S. is portrayed as an avaricious octopus, with 11 tentacles encircling the Americas and reaching west in the Pacific and east across the Atlantic. Each tentacle is labeled with the date of American acquisition, from California, New Mexico and Texas (1848) to portions of South America (1941). A Japanese samurai sword dated 1942 is shown severing the tentacle that had previously surrounded The Philippines. The Pacific is dominated by Japanese aircraft and submarines, and the Atlantic by German U-boats, along with three sinking American ships. See generally Curtis 2016, 147-49.
The text in the panel at the upper left is a quote from Henry Luce, founder of Life, Time and Fortune magazines. Luce was an internationalist and a powerful voice for American involvement in the war: "In 1919 we had a golden opportunity, an opportunity unprecedented in all history, to assume the leadership of the world - an opportunity handed to us on the proverbial silver plate. We did not understand that opportunity. Wilson mishandled it. We rejected it. The opportunity persisted. We bungled it in the 1920s and in the confusion of the 1930s we killed it. To lead the world would never have been an easy task. To revive the hope of that lost opportunity makes the task now infinitely harder than it would have been before. Nevertheless, with the help of all of us, Roosevelt must succeed where Wilson failed."
The panel at the left declares that "America lives by the law of the jungle. America for the Americans signifies that every country where the Yankees want to plant their flag, suddenly they are acting upon the Monroe Doctrine. The history of America is of imperialist plunder, where dollars were fired instead of bullets! It is the traditional policy of America, through the exploitation of European wars, to enrich themselves with the European possessions in the Atlantic and in the Pacific Ocean. Roosevelt also plans to use this war to benefit American world domination! [America] is seizing what the dying England has sacrificed!" The text at the bottom concludes, "But for the first time, America has miscalculated! Japan and Germany are encircling America in both Oceans. The Pacific fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor. In the Atlantic, warships and merchant ships are falling victim to the deadly underwater war. The tentacles of the Dollar Octopus will be cut. The gold of the international plutocracy, gathered in Fort Knox, is now surrounded by the irresistible armies of youth and the armies of labour." (Translations Curtis 2016, 148.)
Louis Manche was a talented Dutch artist who became a Nazi in the 1930s and produced a number of works of political propaganda during World War II. Ibid.
There is another, more common version of this poster, oriented vertically and with substantially less text. See, e.g., https://search.socialhistory.org/Record/846082, accessed October 3, 2016.
The octopus is a persistent trope in persuasive cartography. It first appeared in Frederick Rose's "Serio-Comic War Map For The Year 1877," ID #2272, about the Russo-Turkish War. "Once Fred W. Rose had created the 'Octopus' map of Europe, it proved difficult to rid propaganda maps of them." Barber 2010, 164. "The prevalence of the octopus motif in later maps suggests that the octopus also spoke to humanity's primeval fears, evoking a terrifying and mysterious creature from the depths (the dark outer places of the world) that convincingly conjured a sense of limitless evil." Baynton-Williams 2015, 180.
The octopus has frequently appeared in satirical maps of territorial expansion and war, including the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 (ID #1145), British imperialism in the North Indian Ocean (ID #2149), World War I (ID ##1185, 2286), World War II (ID ## 1318, 2123, 2169) and the Cold War (ID #1388). It's also been used on maps attacking a wide range of intended social and political targets, including a "reactionary" journalist (ID #1253), the Standard Oil Monopoly (ID #2140), “Landlordism” (ID #2285), and world Jewry (ID #2111). These works show the use of the octopus by mapmakers from Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the U.S.
- For further information on the Collector’s Notes and a Feedback/Contact Link, see https://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/content/about-collection-personal-statement and https://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/content/feedback-and-contact
- For full details on references, see http://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/content/references.
- Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
- For important information about copyright and use, see http://persuasivemaps.library.cornell.edu/copyright.
About the collection
This is a collection of “persuasive” cartography: maps intended primarily to influence the opinion of the viewer -- to send a message -- rather than to communicate geographic information. The collection reflects a variety of persuasive tools: allegorical, satirical and pictorial mapping; selective inclusion or exclusion; unusual projections, graphics and text; and intentional deception. Maps in the collection address a wide range of messages: religious, political, military, commercial, moral and social.