Louis D. Brandeis Versus the New Haven Railroad, Part II

05May16

This post is less of a sequel to my previous post on Brandeis’s fight against the Charles Mellen and the New Haven Railroad and more of a side note. One of the revelations that came from the ICC’s hearings was that Mellen authorized the expenditure of New Haven money to fund various publications to tell their side of the story. One of the more notorious of these was a magazine ironically named The Truth. The Truth‘s attacks on Brandeis were particularly vicious, often bordering on anti-Semitic.  The articles make for incendiary reading, but it must be said, they had some good artists on their staff. The cartoons collected in Brandeis’s scrapbooks (and I have reason to suspect that there were others that did not make it there), despite their offensiveness, are some great examples from the early days of editorial cartoons, as well an illumination into some of the issues surrounding the New Haven fight.

The first cartoon is a nice piece of caricature from the December 14, 1912 issue that lampoons what they perceived as Brandeis’s hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness.

Louis D. Brandeis caricature in The Truth magazine December 14, 1912

I have to apologize for the next one and a couple of the later ones. The original copy is very large and in poor shape and so I had to scan the image from a microfilm reel, and the set up of the reader made it impossible to capture the whole thing. It is from the February 15, 1913 issue. There was a lot of talk around this time about whether President Wilson was going to appoint Brandeis to a cabinet position. The Truth is making hay here with the fact that until Wilson’s candidacy, Brandeis had always been a Republican. There was certainly true if a little misleading. The Republican Party before this time had been filled with Progressives. But Brandeis had become disenchanted with Theodore Roosevelt and (especially) Taft, particularly with their economic policies. As a result, Brandeis was not only a supporter of Wilson’s, but he was also a key adviser during Wilson’s campaign on economic issues.

Louis D. Brandeis in the February 15, 1913 issue of The Truth magazine.

The right portion, which is missing in the scan, reveals a child shining a spotlight on Brandeis.

The next cartoon is from the March 15, 1913 and is fairly self-evident. It also is a little clipped on the right  hand side.

Louis D. Brandeis in the March 15, 1913 issue of The truth magazine.

The next two cartoons are from the May 3, 1913 issue which came out during the ICC hearing. The first depicts the Boston Fruit and Produce Exchange’s dismissal of Brandeis as its counsel during the ICC’s hearings. Of course, there is no indication of the pressure the New Haven put on the Exchange to accomplish this.

Louis D. Brandeis in the May 3, 1913 issue of The Truth magazine.

The next one is missing the left side, which is a real shame because a lot of the meaning of the picture is left out as a result. This cartoon depicts an accusation the New Haven made repeatedly: that Brandeis was not the altruistic citizen he claimed to be. Instead, they charged, he was attacking the railroad for the financial gain of other parties. You can see Brandeis dressed up in traditional robber’s garb and stealing New Haven stock certificates from a figure representing New England (dressed up as a Pilgrim, no less!) whom he has just knocked out. What you cannot see if that he is also passing the stocks to a shadowy figure in the missing left frame who is labeled “New York Banking Interests.”

Louis D. Brandeis in the May 3, 1913 issue of The Truth magazine.

The final drawing is significant in a number of ways. It is from the cover of the April 25, 1914 issue of The Truth. This is almost a year after the ICC hearing was over and after Mellen had been ousted from the board of the New Haven and four months before the US government finally forced the company to divest itself of its control of the Boston and Maine Railroad. It is presumably one of the last issues of the magazine (I have not been able to verify this yet) and interestingly this is the ugliest of the drawings from the magazine I’ve seen. I wonder if the poor artwork is a sign of the troubles of the railroad and the magazine. Maybe with less money to spend they could no longer afford good artists? Another interesting thing about the drawing got cropped out in the scan. Right above the drawing there is a handwritten note to Brandeis’s secretary: “Miss Grady – This is an outrage (MAW?)”

A drawing of Louis D. Brandeis and Jacob Schiff in the April 25, 1914 issue of The truth magazine.

This drawing repeats the accusation of the previous one. Here, however, the mastermind of the whole plot is “revealed” to be Jacob Schiff, a prominent Jewish New York banker. The subtext, of course, is that since both Brandeis and Schiff were both well known Jews the campaign against the New Haven was some sort of Jewish conspiracy.

It’s hard to tell if the directors of the New Haven really believed these charges or whether they invented them to undermine Brandeis’s arguments. If Mellen really did believe it at one time, there is evidence that he changed his mind later on. The New Haven fight was brought up during the Senate hearings over Brandeis’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Senators hostile to the nomination invited Mellen to testify in support of the claim that Brandeis had been the agent of outside interests. To everyone’s surprise, Mellen declined and instead sent a telegram that read: “I am absolutely without information as to anything that I would be justified to testify under oath. I think it would be a waste of the committee’s time and mine for me to go to Washington to testify. I am not at all unfriendly to Brandeis, and I know nothing about his career except hearsay.”

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2 Responses to “Louis D. Brandeis Versus the New Haven Railroad, Part II”

  1. 1 Jon D. Levy

    Are there transcripts of the proceedings available (in particular, Brandeis’ cross-examination of Robbins)?

    • 2 pscamp01

      There are no transcripts here in our collection of Brandeis papers which leads me to suspect that there isn’t (although that certainly isn’t conclusive proof.) There were a number of transcripts and reports from the ICC that were published by the Government Printing Office, but I’m having trouble finding any transcripts for this hearing. You can find a volume of evidence exhibits from the hearing on Google books, but unfortunately to transcripts.


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