Political cartoons and World War I

War bonds

In all families there are relatives, some are old, some are young, some are funny and some are stern. Each of us has a story to share, and many times at least one relative takes part in that very tale. However, in the United States we all have one Uncle who has been part of the history of our American family since the War of 1812: Uncle Sam.

Linking the name Uncle Sam with the federal government dates back to a businessman  Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the “grub” as “Uncle Sam’s.” When the local newspaper wrote about his supplies, Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.

After that newspapers across America have used the image of Uncle Sam; a most familiar face that has seen us through good and bad times.

Today’s blog brings to you the political cartoon Bringing the Truth Home to Us by Jay N. Darling and first published in the 1918 in Des Moines Register. It is a depiction of Uncle Sam carrying a dead soldier, representing the first reported U.S. casualties from World War I.

Bringing_the_truth_home_to_us_-_Jay_N._Darling

 

 

And so, we can agree that the saying, “a picture speaks a thousand words” is all too true.

The stark reality of war is part of our history and regretfully exists in our present. Hopefully, the future can find a way to have it be a sad memory and not one to repeat.

 

 

 

 

First image: 1917  lithograph

 

Political cartoons and freedom to express

mast head

Political cartoons have been around since 16th century Italy, satirizing their political personalities by caricatures of often unflattering likenesses. The addressing of political issues and events have since persevered and continues to be a niche through which visual rhetoric takes on observer’s voice, visual tokens of attitude, and persuasion. For the recipients, the interpretation of the cartoons is often a process necessitating a broad knowledge of past and current events, awareness with the cartoon’s genre and cultural symbols, and analytical thinking about real-world events and situations. Well- aware of its ability to influence, the cartoonist has the ability to impact a country’s brand or a person’s reputation; all the while, one may not assume that the encounter will produce the same reaction. For some it is baneful, for others it is poignant.  In a world of deep pluralism, the right to voice ones’ freedom of expression has sometimes been viewed as less than a mirror of our times and more as a hand- grenade.  join or die

And so, today’s post will take the jesters’ approach to politics and bring to you what is touted as the first American political cartoon, Join, or Die. First published in an issue of Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754, it was his warning to the British colonies in America “join or die” urging them to unite against the French and the Native people. Toward the head of the snake, “NE” represents New England, followed by “NY” (New York), “NJ” (New Jersey), “P” (Pennsylvania), “M” (Maryland), “V” (Virginia), “NC” (North Carolina) and “SC” (South Carolina).  Although there were four “New England” colonies, Franklin grouped them into one category to stress the need for colonial unity. At the time, the colonists were hotly debated the expansions ion westward into and past the Appalachian Mountains and fighting the French and their Indian allies.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a renaissance man of vision. Having had the foresight to use the power of images to create political conversation among the population, Franklin, through his “Join, or Die” cartoon, secured a strong opinion in a subtle, persuasive, and ingenious way.

First image: Masthead and part of front page of The Massachusetts Spy, or, Thomas’s Boston Journal showing a female figure of Liberty in upper left and rattlesnake labeled “Join or Die” symbolizing the 13 colonies, challenging a griffin, across the top created by Paul Revere on July 7, 1774.