America’s First Political Cartoons

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We’re roughly a year away from elections and it may be argued that the political season is in full swing for the 2016 race. It just felt right for me to scour the web and find an interesting collection of America’s first political cartoons that graced the pages of Puck magazine, America’s first satirical magazine to portray politics and social issues of the day.


The Modern Collossus of (Rail) Roads


Illustration shows William Henry Vanderbilt, president of the New York Central Railroad and several other railroads, Cyrus West Field, of the New York Elevated Railroad Company, and Jay Gould, of the Union Pacific Railroad and other western railroads.

Year: 1879


The Duty of the Hour


Print shows a female figure labeled “Cuba” holding the Cuban flag, caught in a frying pan labeled “Spanish Misrule” that is being held above flames labeled “Anarchy” raging between fighting factions labeled “Insurgents” on the left and “Autonomists” on the right, on the island of Cuba.

Year: 1898


The King of the Combinations


Illustration shows John D. Rockefeller wearing a huge crown and robe, standing on an oil storage tank labeled “Standard Oil”, and glaring at the viewer. The crown is adorned with railroad cars, oil tanks, and the names of four railroad companies: “Lehigh Valley R.R., St. Paul R.R., Jersey Central R.R., [and] Reading Rail Road”, and topped with a dollar sign “$”.

Year: 1901


The Central Bank


Illustration shows a gigantic J. Pierpont Morgan clutching to his chest with his right arm large New York City buildings labeled “Billion Dollar Bank Merger”; in the foreground, a young child puts a coin in a “Toy Bank” as Morgan’s left arm reaches around the buildings to grab the toy bank for himself.

Caption: Why should Uncle Sam establish one, when Uncle Pierpont is already on the job?

Year: 1910


The Awakening


Illustration shows a torch-bearing female labeled “Votes for Women”, symbolizing the awakening of the nation’s women to the desire for suffrage, striding across the western states, where women already had the right to vote, toward the east where women are reaching out to her. Printed below the cartoon is a poem by Alice Duer Miller.

Year: 1915

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