‘Zoot Suit’ and History – Part 3

Zoot Suit Duck

In March 1943, Disney studios released “The Spirit of ’43,” a cartoon in which Donald Duck is forced to choose between saving his money for “taxes to bury the Axis” (aided by a thrifty proto-Scrooge McDuck)  and spending his paycheck on frivolous fun (encouraged by Zoot Suit Duck). In the cartoon, saving money is patriotic and spending money is …. evil.

Zoot Suit Duck

Zoot Suit Duck is, in fact, in league with Hitler and wears a swastika bowtie!

Zoot Suit Duck

And like all right-thinking cartoon characters in uniform,  Donald beats up Zoot Suit Duck! Please remember, this cartoon was released three months before the Zoot Suit Riots.

In Part 1, we saw that The Times initially treated the zoot suit as a youthful fad, but the attitude changed once zoot suits were outlawed by the War Production Board to conserve fabric.

In Part 2, Times columnist Timothy Turner provided some more sympathetic insight (zoot-suiters aren’t all criminals and delinquents) that was a surprising counterpoint to the mainstream opinion.

In Part 3, we’ll take a look at the events leading up to the Zoot Suit Riots of June 1943.

March 7, 1943, Zoot Suits

March 7, 1943, Zoot Suit

March 7, 1943: Justice of the Peace E.P. Woods forbids Valentine Valdez and Adolph Vargas to wear zoot suits or ducktail haircuts.

March 8, 1943, Zoot Suits

March 8, 1943: More violence is blamed on zoot suit gangs.

Feb. 27, 1943: There is some attempt to understand zoot-suiters. Father Flanagan of Boys Town tells columnist Lee Shippey:

Feb. 27, 1943, Zoot Suits

April 20, 1943, Zoot Suits

April 20, 1943, Zoot Suits
April 20, 1943, Zoot Suits

April 20, 1943: There is an effort by educators to understand the motivation of zoot-suiters. Also notice the reference to the growth of the African American population in a segregated Los Angeles. Little Tokyo, left vacant by the internment of Japanese Americans, was transformed into an African American settlement known as Bronzetown.

May 10, 1943: More violence between zoot-suiters and servicemen. Notice the false report that a serviceman had been stabbed to death.

May 10, 1943, Zoot Suits

May 12, 1943: And when a spectacular blaze destroyed a Venice landmark, zoot-suiters were suspected of arson in reprisal for the previous arrests.

May 12, 1943, Zoot Suits

May 25, 1943: Zoot-suiters are conducting a “reign of terror” across Los Angeles, according to The Times.

May 25, 1943, Zoot Suits

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1943, Art & Artists, Columnists, Comics, Crime and Courts, Downtown, Film, Hollywood, LAPD, Latinos, Lee Shippey, Nightclubs, Zoot Suit and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ‘Zoot Suit’ and History – Part 3

  1. Stacia says:

    Fascinating stuff. Seeing the intolerance and violation of basic civil liberties reminds me too much of what some people nowadays would like to be able to do to cultures they don’t approve of.


  2. Even back then, it wouldn’t have been the first time that film propaganda led to racially motivated violence. And alas, not the last.


  3. Eve says:

    The fact that Zoot Suit Duck is wearing an entire suit (and, give him credit, that swastika bow tie can not have been easy to tie!), makes the fact that Donald is pantless even more disturbing.


  4. Pingback: ‘Zoot Suit’ and History – Part 4 |

  5. Sam Flowers says:

    Good thing we had the LAPD to keep the servicemen, who were risking their lives in service, apart from the Zoot-Suiters or there would be fewer former Zoot-Suiters around today.


    • Stacia says:

      You may wish to read up on the Zoot Suit Riots. Per Wikipedia (their sources is the Los Angeles Almanac), LAPD accompanied the servicemen as they attacked Latino, black, and zoot suit-wearing youth but were under orders not to arrest the soldiers. However, they did arrest 500 of the people the servicemen were attacking.


  6. Pingback: ‘Zoot Suit’ and History — Part 5 |

  7. you have some great archives here. great job


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