ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Brief History of Political Cartoons

Updated on June 26, 2012
Speaking About the Unemployment Situation
Speaking About the Unemployment Situation

Political cartoons are nothing new. They’ve been around since cavemen learned how to sketch or chisel on a flat surface. These cartoons have been described as an art form portraying government programs, policies, and personalities in humorous ways, often with exaggerated caricatures, satire and parody. They usually contain a political or social message relating to current events.

It’s been said they are a spinoff of graffiti and composed of two elements: caricature and allusion. Caricature parodies the individual, while allusion creates the situation into which an individual is set.

The modern era of political cartoons began in Great Britain around 1735, but they entered their prime in the 1800s and continue to wield influence in the political arena today. Political cartoons have become an integral part of revealing the climate of history at any given point in time.

However, to understand political cartoons of the past, one has to have a working knowledge of historical events, persons involved, public sentiment and political atmosphere of the times. Otherwise, one is liable to miss the point by reading into it today’s meaning of words and symbols an artist used when they may have changed. Knowing this shows how our cultural and political landscapes have changed since.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with drawing and publishing the first political cartoon in the American colonies. In 1747, his publication "Plain Truth" displayed a man kneeling and praying to Hercules who is sitting on a cloud.

William Tweed

His 1754 cartoon of a snake chopped into pieces, each bearing a colony's name, advised the colonies to "join or die." The message meant to unite against their common enemies. Franklin used the image of a chopped up snake because at the time American folklore held a cut-up snake could rejoin its parts, become whole again and live.

Perhaps the most famous American political cartoonist was Thomas Nast, a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist who is considered to be the "Father of the American Cartoon.” During the Civil War, he created some of the most recognizable images in U.S. politics, including Uncle Sam, the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey. He is best known for his scathing illustrations of corrupt New York City politician William Tweed, (1823-1878) better known as “Boss Tweed.”

Tweed led a group of corrupt Democratic politicians who gained power in 1863, when Tweed was elected “Grand Sachem” of the Society of Tammany Hall. It was originally a fraternal organization formed in 1786.

Tweed primarily exercised power through his ability to appoint supporters to jobs in New York City government.
This group of crooked politicians became known as the “Tweed Ring.” Nast’s cartoons exposed Tweed and his cohorts for the thieves they were. Tweed eventually fled the country, but was captured and returned. He died in prison.

Editorial cartoons mostly use visual metaphors and caricatures to explain complicated political situations. In this way they send a message to the public with the goal of influencing their opinion. Today, it seems two styles are being used.

The traditional, using visual metaphors and described as the “nasti” style, named after Thomas Nast. The other is a linear style giving its message in a comic strip format.

Today, political cartoons remain a part of newspapers’ editorial pages although their influence has waned due to competition from TV and the internet. Their use is also strongly controlled by advertisers and publishers, who can on a whim, drop them simply because they don’t agree.

However, it’s a safe bet that as long as politicians continue to make blunders, neglect human rights, and start wars, there will be political cartoons, in one form or another.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)