New Zealand’s colonial economy was heavily reliant on manual labour. The popular view was that workers with brawn were more valuable than those with brains. The unskilled but beefy farm labourer was the most prized worker; the least prized was the educated but emasculated city clerk. In reporting a surplus of clerks and deficit of farm labourers and navvies (road workers), this 1907 cartoon supports this perception by having the clerk (right) wish he was a navvy. The caption reads:
Education a failure. Farm labourers and navvies are at a premium this Christmas, and some big cheques have come to town. Clerks are at a big discount, and numbers are eagerly seeking employment. – Labour report.
Unemployed Bank Clerk: Isn’t this sickening – that great hulking, uneducated crew living on the fat of the land this Christmas, while I’m starving? There’s no room for brains here. Why wasn’t I brought up a navvy?
Te whakamahi i tēnei tūemi
National Library of New Zealand, Papers Past
Reference: Observer, 5 January 1907, p. 16
Permission of the National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.