Baer Attacks "Big Biz"
November 10, 1918
Believing that a picture is worth a thousand words, A.C. Townley has enlisted the services of a very talented cartoonist to put the NPL’s message into visual form. Each issue of the Nonpartisan Leader carries an illustration from the pen of John Miller Baer.
Baer first met Townley after the cartoonist moved to Beach in 1909. A graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, Baer was managing his father-in-law’s 5,000-acre flax farm when he was introduced to Townley who also was in the flax business. In 1913 Baer was appointed Beach’s postmaster and also served as secretary of the town’s commercial club.
Townley liked Baer’s drawing skills and his liberal political views. In 1916 Townley convinced Baer to resign his postmaster’s job and to become a full-time cartoonist for the NPL’s newspaper.
In his cartoons Baer depicts the North Dakota farmer and the NPL in a very positive way. In contrast the League’s opponents, “Big Biz” and “Crafty,” are evil, bloated characters who are always out to cheat and rob the farmers. To Baer, the farmer is the most important producer of wealth; on the other hand “Big Biz” and “Old Guard” politicians are overstuffed windbags who are out to crush the farmer and the NPL.
Baer’s cartoons have made him one of the most popular leaders of the NPL. Just this year North Dakotans elected him to a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now a cartoonist represents North Dakota in Washington. Baer’s comment about his election: “I caricatured my way into Congress.”
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.