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Dutch ‘Cartoonist’ Louis Raemaekers’ Poster of 1916 entitled “The Lord Mayor London’s Appeal for Help for the Armenian People”: filling in some details, and a call for input as to where ‘Originals’ might be located.

Armenian News Network / Groong
October 26, 2015

Special to Groong by Abraham D. Krikorian and Eugene L. Taylor



Referring to the 15,000 marks prize that the Kaiser [Wilhelm II] has put on Raemaeker’s head, M. Mithouard [President of the Municipal Council of the City of Paris] said: “You have risked your life for your chosen cause, and though this cannot augment our admiration for your talent, the esteem in which we hold you has grown warmer.  Your pencil is a sword whose every blow strikes true, and wounds.  You are a force, cruel but beneficial:” [emphasis ours] [Endnote 1]



We have learned, albeit belatedly, that is to say well ‘after the fact’ that there is an area of study that is referred to by specialists as “public history.” [2] The approach to public history is stated to be that of making history relevant in the public sphere.  This is a laudable goal it seems to us.


Some years ago, we encountered in the Literary Digest for April 12, 1919 pg. 16 a full page image entitled “Some Cartoonists Who Helped Win the War — Caricatured by Themselves.” [3]


Anyone who has looked at and studied some of the cartoons associated with the various Armenian “persecutions” will appreciate these caricatures for they help one to understand how these talented individuals saw themselves. [4]  





These men, while all exceptional each in his own way, are said to not have been as well known or perhaps as effective as Dutch cartoonist Louis Raemaekers.  This may well be a matter of opinion but that is not a particularly important point here.  Raemaekers was certainly best known in Europe; certainly enough to inspire the ire of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  Among other things he was described as the man with a “poison pen.”  It was also said Raemaekers’ heart “breaks under the suffering of war’s innocent victims.” [5] The American cartoonists were very instrumental in galvanizing the public against the Germans.  What Raemaekers did has been discussed in great detail. [See references given in Endnote 1.]





Reproduced from an article in The Literary Digest vol. 55, August 11, 1917 pgs. 24-25.



Recently, our friend from England Peter Muir visited us and we took advantage of his immense expertise in photography to get a good quality photograph of one of our framed ‘relief posters.’  This chore was especially challenging since the one that we wanted to cover in this posting is behind glass, and behind a cluttered desk.  Thanks to his efforts, it came out very well and the printing beneath it, oftentimes obscured in cases of poor photography or even cropped off, was perfectly readable.  We tried to be good students and learned a lot.  At the bottom of the Raemaekers’ Lord Mayor’s Fund poster we can read: “Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Ltd., LITH.[ographers]  DONATIONS URGENTLY NEEDED TO REBUILD HOMES OF THE ARMENIAN PEOPLE BEFORE THE COMING WINTER.  Hon. Treas: THE ARMENIAN REFUGEES (LORD MAYOR’S FUND, 96 VICTORIA STREET, London, S.W.  “A limited number of Signed Artist Proofs of this Picture (which has been specially drawn for the fund by Mr. LOUIS RAEMAEKERS) price ₤2 2s. each, and unsigned copies at 10/6 [10 shillings sixpence], may be obtained at the above address.” (Emphasis is ours).






We have seen photographic copies of this poster published in a number of places.  One fairly recent (2003) thick, soft-cover issue of a French journal uses the image without any of the accompanying printing given here in ‘our’ poster and says ‘dessin de Raemaker [spelling should Raemaekers], 1922. D.R. Affiche pour une campaigne d’humanitarian de la mairie de Londres.” [6] A severely cropped copy of the Raemaekers image is to be found on the cover of Jo Laycock’s Imagining Armenia: orientalism, ambiguity and intervention (University of Manchester Press, 2009).  The date of the poster based on what the Imperial War Museum has supplied that author is 1917. The drawing was certainly complete by 1916.  Raemaekers name has been cropped off the poster drawing, and none of the other printed material is shown, again due to the severe cropping. (More on this later at the end of this paper.)


The date is certainly very wrong on the French work—five years off is not insignificant.  Apparently it was a low priority for those who selected the photograph for use to check this out.  The designation of 1917 by Dr. Laycock is perhaps pardonable because who might have thought that an error in dating would exist in the IWM database?  [That is other than individuals the likes of us!]  In the October 1918 issue of the journal The World Court. A Magazine of International Progress pg. 576 the Raemaekers image is included, again without any caption but that which is drawn on the poster itself – namely ARMENIA.


The New Armenia (New York) periodical uses the image on the back cover of the December 1917 issue.  The poster is on one side of a page and a ‘cartoon’ showing Uncle Sam digging into his pocket to help a weeping mother and child is on the right hand side. [7] The name of the artist who drew the poster image is recognized with some difficulty as Louis Raemaekers. The name of the artist/cartoonist who did the image on the right, while apparently given, is too small to make out, even on a copy that is as good as one can get from an original scan of the issue. (We thank the Center for Research Libraries for making an original print copy available for our research through the State University of New York at Stony Brook libraries.)





Enlargements of the two sides of the page follow.


Note signs of ruined buildings such as churches (upper left) and burned, collapsed structures (upper right).






The Raemaekers image is also used on a back cover of another issue of the New Armenia, this time with some coloration, seeking funds for the “Armenian Liberty Fund” operating out of Boston, Massachusetts.  We have attempted to reproduce the exact color seen on a print copy of the relevant issue.





The most informative write up that we have encountered in a magazine or journal, or anywhere else for that matter, was published in Ararat. A Searchlight on Armenia (London) vol. 4, no. 37, July 1916. (emphasis is ours) [8]   The description reads  pgs. 17-18 “LOUIS RAEMAEKERS’ LATEST POSTER, SPECIALLY DRAWN FOR THE ARMENIAN REFUGEES (LORD MAYOR’S) FUND.”  The text (no authorship is given) accompanying the poster reads. “Raemaekers’ cartoons are appearing regularly in Le Journal of Paris, where his talents are much appreciated. They also appear in England in the Daily Mail, which was not slow to realise his genius and to secure his services.  The cartoon that he has specially drawn for the Armenian Refugees (Lord Mayor’s) Fund, and which we give in our illustration, is an appeal in itself. He has taken figures of actual refugees, even to the extent of delineating with his unique force their garb and posture. These were obtained from photographs recently received from the Russo-Turkish frontier, being actually taken during the flight (emphasis ours).  He has expressed the wish that the original should be sold for the benefit of the above Fund.  Offers have already been made for it, but it has been decided that it should be sold to the highest bidder.  Copies, however, of the original in a size suitable for framing can be had at the Fund’s office for half a guinea each [10/6, shillings and pence for those who do not remember or know the old system of English money]; while a limited number, signed by the artist himself and struck off from stone specially touched by him, will be sold for two guineas each, the entire proceeds of the sales going to the Fund.  Here we have an instance of a genius devoting his talents to the urgent needs of a deserving cause!”


Our own copy, stains and all, which were so expertly photographed by Peter Muir, bears the ‘faux signature’ of Louis Raemaekers.  [It is not really a signature; rather the name in neatly hand-printed.  See photo of ‘our’ poster.] The poster bears no indication of an original signature, say in pencil, on the release.  (For a large frontispiece photograph of Louis Raemaekers with his ‘real’ signature underneath see, for instance, Raemaekers’ Cartoons: with accompanying notes by well-known English writers (Doubleday, 1916).  To top it off, we have never seen anything that bears even a hint of it being a ‘numbered print.’  ‘Our’ poster, like the others we are aware of, is a lithograph, and it states just that at the bottom “Vincent Brooks, Day & Son, Ltd. LITH.”  If anyone owns or knows of an ‘original’ ‘signed’ copy please be good enough to share that knowledge with us.


To continue, and as seems to be “par for the course” with us whenever we seek to learn more about photographs or other images, it has not been easy.  We have wondered if we could track down any “really signed” posters, rather than what we thought were “faux signature-bearing ones.  The answer to this, in part at least, came to us due to our knowledge that the Louis Raemaekers Archives are at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. 


Below we show a scan from a letter from the Raemaekers Collection, box 2, folder 22.  The letter is dated 12 September 1916 and states “Very many thanks for your kindness in signing the proofs of the Poster engravings.  The Committee wish to express their very sincere gratitude and hope to realise a nice little amount for the Fund from the proceeds and sales.  Yours very faithfully, Rita Detmold, Secretary” [as an aside it will be noted that he lived in South East London’s Sydenham Hill section.]





The Imperial War Museum in London lists the poster from 1917. [9] From the letter we see that it was ready for signature in September 1916. 


And, as an interesting follow-up letter dated 21 May 1917, we read “The Committee of the Armenian Refugees (Lord Mayor’s) Fund are delighted to understand you have been so kind as to offer to color the splendid design you drew for them, and beg to thank you very warmly for your kindness.  I will have the original sent down in a few days, and should we be able to sell it for the benefit of the Fund, I will let you know.  Believe me, Very faithfully yours, Rita Detmold, Hon. Organizer” [Again as an aside, his residence changed but he was still at Sydenham Hill.]





It is not yet possible to make a definitive statement on whether the coloring of the print referred to is the only example of what we present below.  It will be noted that color has been employed in the page advertising “The Armenian Relief Fund.”  If we were to venture an ‘educated guess’ we would say that the colored poster is the one shown. [9] We say this because there are a couple of libraries in the USA that have copies of the colored poster, e.g. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and certainly this poster exists in a few private collections.





 Some pins were released of the Raemaekers poster.  A couple of these have been reproduced here. [10]









Finally, we may ask whether there were other posters drawn by Louis Raemaekers relating to Armenians.  The short answer is “No.”  But, one of his drawings of a more generic nature, but initially drawn in connection with the German atrocities going on in Belgium, was used in connection with fund raising efforts for Armenia as well.  We show the ‘cartoon’ in the photographs below.







The page below giving greater detail of the scene portrayed on the right hand side of the double page scan above, was scanned from our copy of Cartoons Magazine vol. 8, no 1, July pg. 149.   We also own a post card (not shown) entitled at the top right “La Guerre Civilisatrice.” [The Civilizing War.]  The bottom left says in English, “The “Kultur” has passed through here.”  On the lower right it reads in French “La “Kultur” A Passé par ici.”  On the back, there is a statement that the card is being sold for the benefit of the French wounded [Se vend au profit des blesses de France”].





Finally, comments have apparently been made by some readers of Jo Laycock’s book on the decided appropriateness of the selection of the Raemaekers’ image for use on the cover of her work Imagining Armenia.  Just why it is so appropriate escapes us.  There is no text provided to go with the poster.  It even lacks the original heading The Lord Mayor’s Appeal for Help, and no mention is made whatever of Armenia on the drawing.  It seems that the prime purpose of using it was not to convey a desperate need at a pivotal time and defining moment in the country’s history.  Indeed, in our opinion, it does little to evoke any realistic sympathy for Armenians in distress.  One might even be tempted to say that the females in the image hardly appear to be especially needy. The karakul lamb hat on the younger girl and what appears to be her ample scarf and her untattered coat hardly project need.  What then is the purpose of the Raemaekers’ image used in the context of Laycock’s book?  Are we to be imaginative or perceptive enough to figure out that the ‘Mother figure’ on the right in her more traditional peasant garb, gayly or gaudily colored outer garment and kerchief, strikes a pose of grief and lament.  Her daughter, if indeed she is her daughter, may be seen as representing a more modern generation, more stylishly dressed.  One that is less grieving or lamenting, but perhaps a bit more introspective but still quite worried as to what the future will bring.  Whatever.  Just as Humpty Dumpty said about words, one can perhaps say about pictures, namely “It means what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less” (Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll, 1872).  We obviously do not subscribe to the viewpoint that we can make images, especially of that period of national tragedy, into whatever we wish.


More and more we see that nominally scholarly books are evaluated positively based on how attractively and engagingly they are written rather than what they accurately communicate due to original and hard-won research, even if a much more useful book that emerges from new fundamental truths that have been gained from serious investigation is structured and written in a less engaging fashion.  That is probably why so few copies of scholarly books that constitute real contributions are sold today, and prices are so high.  Even so, prices tend inevitably to be high whether the book will remain important or not long after it has run its course.





We again thank Hoover Institution at Stanford for allowing access to the Raemaekers materials.  We thank Peter Muir once more for the great photography job.  We thank Pamela Apkarian-Russell for giving us access some years ago to the Raemaeker pins from her collection, and for having sold us the Lord Mayor of London Raemaekers poster in the first instance!  The CRL made print copies of the New Armenia available for study and we are grateful for this.  This would not, of course, been possible without Stony Brook University’s membership in the Center for Research Libraries.  We rely heavily on the Stony Brook University Libraries, and sincerely offer them our thanks.




[1] Madame Bernardini-Sjoestedt (1916) “Louis Raemaekers.  The arch enemy of the Kaiser.”  Ca­­­­rtoons Magazine 9, no. 5, 775-780, at 775.  We have gleaned from the internet that “The German government offered a reward of 12,000 guilders for Raemaekers, dead or alive and forced the Dutch government to place him on trial for 'endangering Dutch neutrality'.  A jury acquitted him and he escaped to England.”  See also Ariane de Ranitz’ and Liesbeth Ruitenberg’s Louis Raemaekers: armed with pen and pencil: How a Dutch cartoonist became famous during the First World War (Roermond: Louis Raemaekers Foundation, 2014.)  For access to the appendices on this hard to find volume see http://louisraemaekers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Annex-in-English-3.3.pdf


[2] For some additional details on what constitutes “public history” see the National Council on Public History website at http://ncph.org/cms/. 


[3] n.a. (1919) “Some cartoonists who helped win the war – caricatured by themselves”.  The Literary Digest for April 2, 1919 Vol. 61, 16.


[4]  See for example our “Conceptualizing the Attempt to Annihilate the Armenians of Turkey: two 1915 cartoons by William Charles Morris.”  These were posted for us on April 23, 2014 on Groong Armenian News Network at http://www.groong.org/orig/ak-20140423.html.


[5] n.a. (1915) “The War’s greatest cartoonist.”  The Literary Digest for September 11. Vol. 51, 526.  Raemaeker’s dates are 6 April 1869 to 26 July 1956.


[6] n.a. (2003) “Ailleurs, hier, autrement: connaissance et reconnaissance du génocide des Arméniennes.”  Revue d’histoire de la Shoah. Le monde juif (Paris) No. 177-178 Janvier-Août 2003, 593 pages of this special (and excellent) issue (636 pages in all) are devoted to the Armenian Genocide.


[7] (1917) The New Armenia (New York) Vol. 9, no. 22 (December).


[8] (1916) “The cartoonist and his power.”   Ararat. A Searchlight on Armenia (London) vol. 4, no. 37, July, 1916, pgs. 17 - 18.


[9]  The Imperial War Museum data on these posters may be found at:-  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/22376.  Interestingly, in a book review in the Daily Telegraph (London) by Helen Brown of the 2007 Constable printing of Taner Akcam’s book A Shameful Act: the Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility captioned “ ‘The River flowed with blood’ Helen Brown applauds a scrupulously researched history of human liquidation that makes a legal case for genocide” we encounter another dating.  A reproduction of the Raemaekers poster, minus the part at the bottom giving the address and particulars, offers the dates, “…campaign poster, c. 1915-1916.”  We thank our friend Nicolaos Hlamides, living in England, for sending us this review soon after it came out.


[10] We thank Pamela Apkarian-Russell for access to these pins from her collection.


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