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.

John Miller Baer. Courtesy of D. Jerome Tweton.

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.

Nonpartisan leader of February 18, 1917. Courtesy of North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies.

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.

Grade Level

3-5, 9-12

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change