Biting Commentary

Posted February 4, 2003 at 12:59pm

Political stunts are often the best way to call attention to an issue — even in 1921. Just consider this photograph.

After World War I ended, the nation fell into a brief post-war recession. However, as the economy recovered, inflation soared, sending the nation into one of the country’s three worst economic periods of the 20th century. By 1921, unemployment in the United States had hit nearly 12 percent, with millions of people out of work.

It was those conditions that brought this man, identified only as Sailor White, to the East Front of the Capitol on a beautiful fall day in October 1921. In this photo from the archives of the White House News Photographers’ Association, White uses his teeth to pull a bus, dubbed the “omnibus,” as cameramen capture the feat on film for newsreels around the country. White, called the strongest man in the Navy, was trying to draw attention to the plight of his unemployed buddies.