The exhibition of American political cartoons at KrNU
12.02.13 American political cartoons offer a rich resource for the study of U.S. history. The evolution of political cartoons in Britain’s North American colonies began with a drawing by Benjamin Franklin, one of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States. His most celebrated drawing was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754 and accompanied his article urging unity among the British American colonies against the French during the French & Indian War. The cartoon showed a rattlesnake cut into sections, each section featuring the initials of one of the original British American colonies or regions. The cartoon’s caption read: “Join, or Die.”
The rattlesnake reappeared during the American Revolution against British rule on the First Navy Jack, which remains the current U.S. jack authorized by the U.S. Navy for use on its ships. The united snake symbolized the unity of the North American colonies in their War for Independence from Great Britain. To this day, 258 years after its original creation, the North American rattlesnake continues to be an iconic drawing and continues making appearances in modern political cartoons.
In the 19th century, political cartoons flourished and American cartoonists created images, such as Uncle Sam symbolizing the U.S., which quickly gained popularity and are easily recognized by almost everyone today. 1828, President Andrew Jackson became a popular target for cartoons. His opponents labeled him a “jackass,” a deliberate and insulting twisting of his last name. Instead of being offended, Jackson adopted the hardworking animal and decided to use it as a symbol of his new Democratic Party. Several decades later, a famous American cartoonist Thomas Nast made the “donkey” into the permanent symbol of the Democratic Party and created the “elephant” as a symbol of the Republican Party.
Today, there are still a limited number of artists who work as political cartoonists. Thanks to them, the role of political cartoons in shaping political culture remains significant. At the exhibit, the works of a contemporary cartoonist David Horsey are presented. David Horsey, highly sought-after and an incredibly talented political commentator for the Los Angeles Times, belongs to the cohort of cartoonists impacting today’s world. Mr. Horsey received the National Press Foundation’s award for Cartoonist of the Year and many other honors, including first place in the Best of the West journalism competition for his columns about the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. Mr. Horsey’s fascinating work has taken him to, Japan, Mexico, and Ukraine. He has published seven books of cartoons.