Lou Hirshman

“John L. Lewis” – 1939

Click on image for an enlargement.

As the economic woes of the 1930s continued, the adjective “Great” was added to the term “depression.” Although Hirshman worked alone, he was nonetheless, at least in his younger years, a supporter of unions. And in terms of personalities, “union” meant John L. Lewis, the hero of the (non) working man. Lewis’s hair of coal was a reference to his unionizing of coal workers; his cap face a Hirshman tip-of-the-hat to his connection to a union of millinery workers; a hammer tie for his ties to steel workers; and his bushy bottle-washer eyebrows perhaps relating to his union work with glass workers.

But most prominently in Hirshman’s interpretation of this no-nonesense organizer was his portrayal as a hard wall of man, a choice that reveals a little personal inside joke: over Lewis’s left shoulder is a bit of penciled graffiti (although hard to see in this low-resolution photo) with the phone number and name of Hirshman’s future wife, 19-year-old Betty Price.

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