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 Slavery Political Cartoons: 1789 - 1880

Slavery Political Cartoons:
1789 - 1880

174 images of political cartoons held by the Library of Congress, dating from 1789 to 1880, dealing with slavery and abolitionism, and its relationship and its influence on American public life.


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In addition to the 174 illustrations described below, are three digitalized volumes, containing and covering civil war illustrations: Ye Book of Copperheads - 34 Pages (1863), American Caricatures Pertaining to the Civil War - 180 Pages (1918), and except from "Sketches from the Civil war in North America, 1861, '62, '63 (1917), containing secret confederate illustrations.



These 174 illustrations contain political satires, caricatures, and allegories. At the core of this collection are drawings originally designed to express sentiments relating to civic life and government in the United States and were individually issued prints. Most date between 1840 and 1864, with the presidential election years 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860 and 1864 being well represented.  A lesser portion of this collection includes illustrations from books and magazines.

Each image on the disc has its own description page. There are about 200 pages of information about the images on the disc. Illustrations with more complex political content or arcane references have a more in-depth description included, such as shown with the sample images at the bottom of this page.

The subject matter of these political cartoons includes slavery and key events and figures in the mid-19th century abolitionist and anti-abolitionist movement. Several post Civil War images deal with reconstruction and post slavery south. Slavery is present as part of the context of the political dynamic expressed in each of theses illustrations.

These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, sensibilities and beliefs of different times.  Many are replete with racial stereotypes and epithets. While these may be omitted in the descriptions below, the images on the disc and their description are uncensored.

It was the style of many 19th century political cartoons that the illustrations were a composite of multiple topics, addressed and merge into the political zeitgeist and the predicaments of the individuals drawn.

For example in the 1848 drawing, "Studying Political Economy," we see a crudely drawn but complex satire mocking Zachary Taylor's military background and lack of political experience. Student Zachary Taylor, wearing a paper cap made out of the journal "The True Whig" is seated on a low stool at the feet of his more politically seasoned running mate Millard Fillmore. Taylor reads from a book "Congressional Debates 1848.  Slavery . . .", and spells out "W-I-L-M-O-T: Wilmot, P-R-O-V-I-S-O: Proviso, and says, "What do I know about such political stuff. Ah! Wait until I get loose, Then you will see what fighting is!" A torn sheet marked "National Bank" lies at his feet. Fillmore, who reads from "The Glorious Whig Principles [by] Henry Clay," admonishes Taylor, "This will never do, you must forsake this course,--for our party is a peaceful and righteous sect--free from wickedness." Behind Fillmore are an open book cabinet containing, the Constitution, and a globe. These are in obvious contrast to the maps of "The Late War" and a broadsheet "The Life of Johnny Tyler" on the wall behind Taylor. At Taylor's knee sits a bloodhound with a collar marked "Florida," a reminder of Taylor's controversial use of bloodhounds in the Second Seminole War. To the right two black youths polish Taylor's weapons. The first, kneeling and wiping a pistol, says, "By golly! Massa Taylor like fighting better then him dinner." The other, cleaning a sword, claims, "Dis am de knife wot massa use to cut up de Mexijins wid." In the center of the floor are a group of toy soldiers and cannon.

In this one drawing the illustrator addresses the Wilmot Proviso, which dealt with slavery and the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, John P. Hales, John Tyler, American manifest destiny, the presidential election of 1848, the United States Constitution, the Liberty Party, the ethics of certain military tactics, the United States banking system, the role of African Americans in American life, and the second Seminole War of 1835-1842.

Among the many individuals drawn throughout the cartoons are: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Dred Scott, Ulysses S. Grant, George McClellan, Andrew Jackson, William Lloyd Garrison, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, William Henry Harrison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Horace Greeley, James K. Polk, Daniel Webster, Salmon P. Chase, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Frederick Douglass, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Seward, Winfield Scott, Henry Ward Beecher, James Buchanan, John C. Breckinridge, Charles Sumner, Ambrose Everett Burnside, G. T. Beauregard, and others.

The many issues and subjects covered include: Slaves and slavery, Abolitionism and abolitionists, Plantations and planters, Labor and trades, Wilmot Proviso, Compromise of 1850, Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans voting, Great Britain, New York Tribune, Equal Rights Party, Liberty Party, Free Soil Party, U.S. banking system, Presidential elections, Fugitive Slave Act, Whig Party, Nativist movement, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bloody Kansas, Catholic Church, Temperance movement, women's suffrage and women's rights, Charles Summner beating, Cuba annexation, Irish Americans, 1860 Chicago National Democratic Conventions, Dred Scott, Copperhead movement, and the Ostend Manifesto.

Highlights among the illustrations include:

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Or the Inhumanity of Dealers in Human Flesh Exemplified in Captn. Kimber's Treatment of a Young Negro girl of 15 for Her Virjen (sic) Modesty.

A 1792 British etching. The print shows a sailor on a slave ship suspending an African girl by her ankle from a rope over a pulley. Captain John Kimber stands on the left with a whip in his hand. Captain John Kimber became a household name among abolitionists in late 18th century Britain. As captain of the slave ship named Recovery in 1791, Kimber was accused of the murder of a slave girl.

The ship's surgeon and 3rd mate said the girl died after being punished by Kimber for not eating, by being suspended by the ankle while Kimber beat her with a whip. A High Court of the Admiralty jury found him not guilty. The ship's surgeon and 3rd mate was convicted of perjury. This drawing is attributed to the famed British caricurist and illustrator Issac Cruikshank.

America by Edward Williams Clay

This 1841 illustration shows an idealized portrayal of American slavery and the conditions of blacks under this system in 1841. Frank Weitenkampf, former New York Public Library print curator, suggests that prints like these were published by Northern apologists for slavery. The work of one such apologist, E. W. Clay, displays a consistent lack of sympathy for blacks. Here he shows an attractive and wealthy, slave-owning white family, including a husband, his wife, and their two children. The young daughter plays with a lean greyhound which stands before them. The son gestures toward an elderly black couple with a small child sitting at their feet. A group of happy slaves dance in the background. The old slave says, "God Bless you massa! you feed and clothe us. When we are sick you nurse us, and when too old to work, you provide for us!" The master vows piously, "These poor creatures are a sacred legacy from my ancestors and while a dollar is left me, nothing shall be spared to increase their comfort and happiness."

Effects of the Fugitive-Slave-Law.

An 1850 lithograph displaying an impassioned condemnation of the Fugitive Slave Act passed by Congress in September 1850, which increased federal and free-state responsibility for the recovery of fugitive slaves. The law provided for the appointment of federal commissioners empowered to issue warrants for the arrest of alleged fugitive slaves and to enlist the aid of posses and even civilian bystanders in their apprehension. The print shows a group of four black men, possibly freedmen, ambushed by a posse of six armed whites in a cornfield. One of the white men fires on them, while two of his companions reload their muskets. Two of the blacks have evidently been hit; one has fallen to the ground while the second staggers, clutching the back of his bleeding head. The two others react with horror. Below the picture are two texts, one from Deuteronomy: "Thou shalt not deliver unto the master his servant which has escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee. Even among you in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates where it liketh him best. Thou shalt not oppress him." The second text is from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The print is unusually well drawn and composed for a political print of the period. The handling of both the lithographic technique and the figures betray particular skill.

Anti Annexation Procession

An 1844 lithograph titled, "Anti Annexation Procession." A cynical look at the opposition to American annexation of Texas during the 1844 campaign. At the head of a motley procession is Whig candidate and professed antiannexationist Henry Clay, riding a raccoon (which looks more like a fox). He is followed by three groups of men. The first (right) are the "Hartford Convention Blue-Lights," who shout, "God save the King!" and "Millions for Tribute! not a cent for defence Go it Strong!" Next (center) is a line of "Sunday Mail Petitioners," led by Clay's strongly religious running-mate Theodore Frelinghuysen, riding a donkey and dressed in clerical robes. They represent the proponents of eliminating postal service on Sundays in the United States, whose campaign was criticized by many as a threat to the separation of church and state. One of them remarks, "I go for the Good old times! wholesome, Fine and Imprisonment!" Prominent antislavery advocate William Lloyd Garrison leads the third group. He displays the banner of "Non Resistance, No Government No Laws--Except the 15 Gallon Law!" His followers are the "Abolition Martyrs" (far left), who have been tarred-and-feathered for their activism.

Scene in Uncle Sam's Senate. 17th April 1850

This 1850 illustration is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek dramatization of the moment during the heated debate in the Senate over the admission of California as a free state when Mississippi senator Henry S. Foote drew a pistol on Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. In the cartoon Benton (center) throws open his coat and defiantly states, "Get out of the way, and let the assassin fire! let the scoundrel use his weapon! I have no arm's! I did not come here to assassinate!" He is attended by two men, one of them North Carolina senator Willie P. Mangum (on the left). Foote, restrained from behind by South Carolina's Andrew Pickens Butler and calmed by Daniel Stevens Dickinson of New York (to whom he later handed over the pistol), still aims his weapon at Benton saying, "I only meant to defend myself!" In the background Vice President Fillmore, presiding, wields his gavel and calls for order. Behind Foote another senator cries, "For God's sake Gentlemen Order!" To the right of Benton stand Henry Clay and (far right) Daniel Webster. Clay puns, "It's a ridiculous matter, I apprehend there is no danger on foot!" Visitors in the galleries flee in panic.

The Hurly-Burly Pot

In this 1850 lithograph the artist attacks abolitionist, Free Soil, and other sectionalist interests of 1850 as dangers to the Union. He singles out for indictment radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Pennsylvania Free Soil advocate David Wilmot, New York journalist Horace Greeley, and Southern states' rights spokesman Senator John C. Calhoun. The three wear fool's caps and gather, like the witches in Shakespeare's "Macbeth," round a large, boiling cauldron, adding to it sacks marked "Free Soil," "Abolition," and "Fourierism" (added by Greeley, a vocal exponent of the doctrines of utopian socialist Charles Fourier). Sacks of "Treason," "Anti-Rent," and "Blue Laws" already simmer in the pot. Wilmot: "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! / Boil, Free Soil, / Ther Union spoil; / Come grief and moan, / Peace be none. / Til we divided be!" Garrison: "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble / Abolition / Our condition / Shall be altered by / (***racial slur***) strong as goats / Cut your master's throats / Abolition boil! / We divide the spoil." Greeley: "Bubble, buble [sic], toil and trouble! / Fourierism / War and schism / Till disunion come!" In the background, stands the aging John Calhoun. He announces, "For success to the whole mixture, we invoke our great patron Saint Benedict Arnold." The latter rises from the fire under the pot, commending them, "Well done, good and faithful servants!"

Slavery as it Exists in America. Slavery as it Exists in England

This 1850 illustration is a challenge to the Northern abolitionist view of the institution of slavery, favorably contrasting the living conditions of American slaves with the lot of the industrial poor in England. The first scene is impossibly naive: Southern slaves dance and play as four gentlemen, two Northerners and two Southerners, observe. First Northerner: "Is it possible that we of the North have been so deceived by false Reports? Why did we not visit the South before we caused this trouble between the North and South, and so much hard feelings amongst our friends at home?" Southerner: "It is as a general thing, some few exceptions, after mine have done a certain amount of Labor which they finish by 4 or 5 P.M. I allow them to enjoy themselves in any reasonable way." Second Southerner: "I think our Visitors will tell a different Story when they return to the North, the thoughts of this Union being dissolved is to [sic] dreadful a thing to be contemplated, but we must stand up for our rights let the consequence be as it may." The second scene takes place outside a British textile factory. At left a well-dressed gentleman encounters a ragged, stooped figure, and asks, "Why my Dear Friend, how is it that you look so old? you know we were playmates when boys." The stooped figure responds, "Ah! Farmer we operatives are "fast men," and generally die of old age at Forty." Behind them and to the right an emaciated mother laments over her ragged children, "Oh Dear! what wretched Slaves, this Factory Life makes me & my children." Nearby stand a fat cleric, holding a book of "Tythes," and an equally fat official holding "Taxes." In the right foreground two barefoot youths converse. The first says, "I say Bill, I am going to run away from the Factory, and go to the Coal Mines where they have to work only 14 hours a Day instead of 17 as you do here." The second responds, "Oh! how I would like to have such a comfortable place. . ." Near them another man sits forlorn on a rock, "Thank God my Factory Slavery will soon be over." In the distance a military camp is visible. This dismal picture of the lives of the working class in manufacturing towns comes from Chapter V, Book Second, of Edward Lytton Bulwer's "England and the English," first published in 1833. In the lower margin is a portrait of "[George] Thompson the English Anti-Slavery Agitator" and the quote "I am proud to boast that Slavery does not breathe in England," with reference to "his speech at the African Church in Belknap St." Thompson made a speaking tour of New York and New England in 1850-51.

The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia, Who Escaped from Richmond Va. in a bx 3 Feet Long 2 1/2 ft. Deep and 2 ft Wide

A somewhat comic yet sympathetic 1850 portrayal of the culminating episode in the flight of slave Henry Brown "who escaped from Richmond Va. in a Box 3 feet long, 2-1/2 ft. deep and 2 ft. wide." In the office of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, the young Brown emerges from a crate as several figures, including Frederick Douglass (holding a claw hammer at left) look on. Details of Brown's escape, whereby he had himself shipped via Adams Express from Richmond to Philadelphia, were widely publicized in a narrative of his ordeal published under his own name in 1849. The box itself became an abolitionist metaphor for the inhumanity and spiritual suffocation of slavery.

Anthony Burns

An 1855 portrait of the fugitive slave Anthony Burns, whose arrest and trial under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 touched off riots and protests by abolitionists and citizens of Boston in the spring of 1854. A bust portrait of the twenty-four-year-old Burns, "Drawn by Barry from a daguereotype [sic] by Whipple and Black," is surrounded by scenes from his life. These include (clockwise from lower left): the sale of the youthful Burns at auction, a whipping post with bales of cotton, his arrest in Boston on May 24, 1854, his escape from Richmond on shipboard, his departure from Boston escorted by federal marshals and troops, Burns's "address" (to the court?), and finally Burns in prison. The image was deposited for copyright to the Library of Congress on January 25, 1855, under the name Anthony Burns. Copyrighting works such as prints and pamphlets under the name of the subject (here Anthony Burns) was a common abolitionist practice. This was no doubt the case in this instance, since by 1855 Burns had in fact been returned to his owner in Virginia.

Argument of the Chivalry

An 1856 dramatic portrayal of an incident in Congress which inflamed sectional passions in 1856. The artist recreates the May 22 attack and severe beating of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina. Brooks's actions were provoked by Sumner's insulting public remarks against his cousin, Senator Andrew Pickens Butler, and against Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas, delivered in the Senate two days earlier. The print shows an enraged Brooks (right) standing over the seated Sumner in the Senate chamber, about to land on him a heavy blow of his cane. The unsuspecting Sumner sits writing at his desk. At left is another group. Brooks's fellow South Carolinian Representative Lawrence M. Keitt stands in the center, raising his own cane menacingly to stay possible intervention by the other legislators present. Clearly no help for Sumner is forthcoming. Behind Keitt's back, concealed in his left hand, Keitt holds a pistol. In the foreground are Georgia senator Robert Toombs (far left) and Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas (hands in pockets) looking vindicated by the event. Behind them elderly Kentucky senator John J. Crittenden is restrained by a fifth, unidentified man. Above the scene is a quote from Henry Ward Beecher's May 31 speech at a Sumner rally in New York, where he proclaimed, "The symbol of the North is the pen; the symbol of the South is the bludgeon."

I'm Not to Blame for Being White, Sir!

An 1862 lithograph in which Massachusetts senator and prominent antislavery advocate Charles Sumner is attacked. The artist questions his sincerity as a humanitarian as he shows him dispensing a few coins to a black child on the street, while ignoring the appeal of a ragged white urchin. The scene is witnessed by two stylishly dressed young women. Though unsigned, the print has the relatively skillful draftsmanship and atmospheric quality found in the works of Boston lithographer Dominique Fabroniust.

The House That Jeff Built

An 1863 etching composed of a extended and bitter indictment of Jefferson Davis and the Southern slave system. The work consists of a series of twelve vignettes with accompanying verse, following the scheme of the nursery rhyme "The House That Jack Built." The same nursery rhyme was adapted for some of the bank war satires during the Jacksonian era. The vignettes are as follows: 1. the "House," showing the door to a slave pen; 2. bales of cotton, "By rebels call'd king;" 3. slaves at work picking cotton, "field-chattels that made cotton king;" 4. slave families despondently awaiting auction; 5. slave auctioneer, "the thing by some call'd a man;" 6. slave shackles; 7. slave merchants; 8. a slave breeder negotiating in an interior with a slave merchant; on the wall appear portraits of Jefferson Davis and Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard; 9. a cat-o-nine-tails; 10. a slave driver flogging a bound female slave; 11. Jefferson Davis, "the arch-rebel Jeff whose infamous course / Has bro't rest to the plow, and made active the hearse." 12. symbols of slavery, an auctioneer's gavel, whip, auction notices, and shackles lying torn and broken with a notice of Jeff Davis's execution because " . . . Jeffs infamous house is doom'd to come down." The Great American What Is It? Chased By Copper-Heads 

An 1863 anti-Lincoln satire, showing the Republican incumbent and his supporters menaced by giant "Copperheads" (Peace Democrats). After a speech on May 1, 1863, asserting that the Civil War was being fought to free blacks and enslave whites, not to save the Union, Clement Laird Vallandigham, leader of the "Copperheads," was arrested and tried for treason. He had defied Union general Ambrose E. Burnside's General Order No. 38, that "the habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy [would] no longer be tolerated" and that offenders would be punished by military procedure. Bowing to Vallandigham's widespread public support, Lincoln reduced the severity of his sentence from imprisonment to banishment behind Confederate lines. Drawn are three huge copperheads pursuing Lincoln, who tears a piece of paper "Constitution & the Union as it was." A fourth snake curls around in front of him. The quotation is from a speech given by Vallandigham in May 1862: "To maintain the Constitution as it is and to restore the Union as it was." Lincoln, who is barefoot and in backwoods dress, drops a paper that reads, "New Black Constitution [signed] A. L. & Co." One of the snakes says, "If you cant read that document drop it." Two others hiss, "Hit him again," and "Ah, you cuss. I thought you had a little (***racial slur***) on the brain." Lincoln calls to two freedmen who follow him, "Go back to your master, dont think you are free because you are emancipated," but they implore, "Fadderrrr Abrum" and "Take us to your Bussum." A minuscule black man who has fallen from inside Lincoln's hat cries, "Ise going back to de sile." At far left Burnside, who holds a flaming torch, is being choked by a snake representing Vallandigham. The significance of the torch is unclear, although it resembles the lanterns of the Wide-Awakes, active in Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign. Burnside begs, "Oh, dear Clement you are hugging too tight." Vallandigham responds, "Look here if you think to Burn-my Side you will get foiled." Below, a snake eating a black man comments, "I say, Clement, Shriekers go good Down with him." At right a skeleton has just risen from the grave of abolitionist martyr John Brown, whose tombstone is inscribed "Hung in Virginia by Wise [i.e., Virginia governor Henry A. Wise]." On the ground are the words "Removed to No. 7 Hell Gate." The skeleton is exhorted by Satan, ". . . the Devil is to pay come get up and take your share." The skeleton responds, "Sure enough. Come Father let us start for Canada where it is colder." The "What-is-it" of the title refers to a deformed African man recently featured at P. T. Barnum's Museum on Broadway. Feature in another illustration in this collect titled, "An Heir to the Throne, or the Next Republican Candidate."

The Chicago Platform

An 1864 illustration by Thomas Nast. A deceptive broadside, ostensibly a pro-McClellan campaign piece but actually a piercing attack on the Democratic platform. In the center is a portrait of Democratic presidential candidate George B. McClellan standing aboard a ship, watching the Battle of Malvern Hill, the culminating defeat of his disastrous Peninsular Campaign.  Beneath the print's title "The Chicago Platform" is a subheading "Union Failures" above a cannon flanked by tattered American flags. Each Democratic platform resolution is illustrated with a vignette which supports its reverse. The top left scene shows a black man chased by bloodhounds, above the tenet "Resolved, that in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution as the only solid foundation of our strength." At the upper right is a polling scene, above which appears the Democratic resolution condemning the "interference of the military authority of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware." In the scene balloting proceeds under the protection of federal soldiers. Citizens loyal to the Union vote, while an obviously unruly Irishman is barred. Other scenes are: "The Constitution Itself Has Been Disregarded." Abraham Lincoln displays his Emancipation Proclamation to a group of black men and women. Continuing: ". . . In Every part, and Public Liberty and Private Right." A picture shows the New York draft riots of 1863, where one man clubs another while a young boy dances. A simian Irishman holds a black child upside down by his foot and is about to strike him with a club. Fires rage in the background. "Resolved That the Aim And Object of the Democratic Party is to Preserve the Federal Union and the Rights of the States Unimpaired . . . . " One scene shows a black woman sold at a slave auction, and another scene portrays two white men flogging a black man, as an overseer watches approvingly. The bottom register shows scenes of the war, Southern soldiers bowing to President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, a Union graveyard, "Rebels in the North" or spies being arrested, and so on. The lengthy text below includes excerpts from McClellan's letter accepting the Democratic nomination, and from his running mate George Hunt Pendleton's speech in Congress calling for reconciliation with the South or the peaceful acceptance of its secession.

The Freedman's Bureau! An Agency To Keep The Negro In Idleness At The Expense Of The White Man

An 1866 illustration, another in a series of racist posters attacking Radical Republican exponents of black suffrage, issued during the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. Others included in this collection are "The Two Platforms," "The Constitutional Amendment!,"  and "The Radical Convention in Philadelphia, September 3d, 1866." The series advocates the election of Hiester Clymer, who ran for governor on a white-supremacy platform, supporting President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policies. The poster specifically characterizes Democratic candidate Hiester Clymer's platform as "for the White Man," and his opponent James White Geary's platform as, "for the Negro." In this poster a black man lounges idly in the foreground as one white man ploughs his field and another chops wood. Accompanying labels are: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread," and "The white man must work to keep his children and pay his taxes." The black man wonders, "Whar is de use for me to work as long as dey make dese appropriations." Above in a cloud is an image of the "Freedman's Bureau! Negro Estimate of Freedom!" The bureau is pictured as a large domed building resembling the U.S. Capitol and is inscribed "Freedom and No Work." Its columns and walls are labeled, "Candy," "Rum, Gin, Whiskey," "Sugar Plums," "Indolence," "White Women," "Apathy," "White Sugar," "Idleness," "Fish Balls," "Clams," "Stews," and "Pies." At right is a table giving figures for the funds appropriated by Congress to support the bureau and information on the claim of inequity in the bounties received by black and white veterans of the Civil War. 

The Massacre at New Orleans

A 1867 Thomas Nast painting showing President Andrew Johnson "as a king, crowned and in velvet and ermine. His alleged royalist ambition had been the theme of much rhetoric." Nast is attacking Johnson because he and others blamed Johnson for causing the July 1866 race riot that occurred in New Orleans when police shot and killed many African American delegates at a Republican convention. This is one of five surviving paintings from Thomas Nast's Grand Caricaturama, a humorous account of American history involving real persons and symbolic characters.  Nast created 33 paintings, each approximately 8 x 12 feet, for display on a stage as a moving panorama accompanied by an explanatory talk and piano songs. The performances in New York City and Boston received a highly favorable popular response.

Sample images are smaller below than displayed in the files.



Detail from illustration above "Abolition Frowned Down"

Abolition Frowned Down

This 1839 illustration is a satire on enforcement of the "gag-rule" in the House of Representatives, prohibiting discussion of the question of slavery. Growing antislavery sentiment in the North coincided with increased resentment by southern congressmen of such discussion as meddlesome and insulting to their constituencies. The print may relate to John Quincy Adams's opposition to passage of the resolution in 1838, or (more likely) to his continued frustration in attempting to force the slavery issue through presentation of northern constituents' petitions in 1839. In December 1839 a new "gag rule" was passed by the House forbidding debate, reading, printing of, or even reference to any petition on the subject of abolition. Here Adams cowers prostrate on a pile composed of petitions, a copy of the abolitionist newspaper the "Emancipator," and a resolution to recognize Haiti. He says "I cannot stand Thomson's [sic] frown." South Carolina representative Waddy Thompson, Jr., a Whig defender of slavery, glowers at him from behind a sack and two casks, saying "Sir the South loses caste whenever she suffers this subject to be discussed here; it must be indignantly frowned down." Two blacks crouch behind Thompson, one saying "de dem Bobolishn is down flat!" Frank Weitenkampf, former New York Public Library print curator, cites an impression with an imprint naming Robinson as printer and publisher, this line being apparently trimmed from The Library of Congress' impression.


The Political Quadrille. Music by Dred Scott

This 1860 lithograph is a general parody on the 1860 presidential contest, highlighting the impact of the Dred Scott decision on the race. That controversial decision, handed down in 1857 by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, ruled that neither the federal government nor territorial governments could prohibit slavery in the territories. The burning question of the future of slavery in the United States was addressed by several of the contenders during the 1860 race. Here the four presidential candidates dance with members of their supposed respective constituencies. The music is fiddled by Dred Scott, the former slave whose suit precipitated the court's decision. Scott sits on a chair at center. In the upper left is Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge. He is paired with Democratic incumbent and ally James Buchanan, depicted as a goat or (as he was nicknamed) "Buck." At the upper right Republican Abraham Lincoln prances arm-in-arm with a black woman, a pejorative reference to his party's alignment with the abolitionists. At lower right Constitutional Union party candidate John Bell dances with an Indian brave. This pairing is puzzling but may allude to Bell's brief flirtation with Native American interests. At lower left Stephen A. Douglas dances with a ragged Irishman. Associated with Douglas in several cartoons (see "The Undecided Political Prize Fight") the Irishman, here wearing a cross, may be intended as a reference to Douglas's backing among Irish immigrants and allegations of the candidate's Catholicism.



The above image has a racial epithet obscured. Images and descriptions on the disc are uncensored.

The Great Exhibition of 1860

In this 1860 print, the artist satirizes the antislavery orientation of the Republican platform. Abolitionist editor Horace Greeley (left) grinds his New York "Tribune" organ as candidate Abraham Lincoln (center, riding on a wooden rail) prances to the music. Lincoln is tethered with a cord to Greeley's index finger, and his lips are padlocked shut. Although the abolitionist bias of the party was well-known, Lincoln and the Republicans tried to deemphasize the slavery issue during the 1860 campaign. Greeley says, "Now caper about on your rail Abraham, while I play the Slieve gammon polka.' 0ll the way from Oregon' Mrs. Gurney's Love song' and other choice airs from my private collection." Lincoln's reply, "Mum." In the background stands William H. Seward, holding a wailing black infant. He complains, "It's no use trying to keep me and the 'Irrepressible' infant in the background; for we are really the head and front of this party." (For the contextual significance of the term irrepressible see the illustration: "The irrepressible conflict" Or the Republican barge in danger.) At right stand two other New York editors friendly to the Republican cause, Henry J. Raymond of the "New York Times" (a short, bearded man holding an ax) and James Watson Webb of the New York "Courier and Enquirer." Raymond clings to Webb's arm, saying, "I'll stick fast to you General, for the present; because I have my own little axe to grind." (Raymond was Webb's chief associate on the "Courier" staff until 1851, when he left to found a rival paper.) Webb holds out a tambourine and complains about the financial difficulties experienced by his newspaper: "Please Gentlemen! help a Family in reduced circumstances, we are very hard up, and will even take three cents if we can't get more, just to keep the little (racial epithet) alive." The artist is poking fun at the measures Webb took in August 1860 to revive his newspaper's flagging circulation, which included a reduction of the paper's price to three cents and the hiring of newsboys to sell the "Courier" on the streets.


The above image has two uses of a racial epithet obscured. Images and descriptions on the disc are uncensored.

The Great November Contest. Patriotism: Versus Bummerism

This 1868 lithograph displays the strongly racist character of the Democratic presidential campaign of 1868. This is displayed in a full-blown, elaborate attack on Reconstruction and Republican support of Negro rights. Horses with the heads of Democratic candidate Horatio Seymour and running mate Francis P. Blair, Jr., pull a fine, ornate carriage in a race with a rude wagon drawn by donkeys with the heads of Republican candidates Ulysses S. Grant and Schuyler Colfax. The Democratic carriage pulls ahead in the race, heading toward a cheering crowd and a series of floral arches held by young maidens. The U.S. Capitol is visible beyond. In the carriage are four allegorical figures: Liberty, holding the Constitution and a banner which reads "Our Glorious Union Distinct, like the Billows, One, Like the Sea' This is a White Man's Government!"; Navigation, holding a miniature ship; Agriculture, holding sheaves of wheat and a scythe; and Labor, represented by a bearded man with a hammer and flywheel. In contrast to the Democratic vehicle, the Republican wagon has stalled before a pile of rocks and a cemetery strewn with bones representing "100,000,000 White Lives, the Price of (RACIAL EPITHET) Freedom!" Its wheels are blocked by a large stone "Killing Taxation" and a skeleton. Other stones represent "Ruined Commerce," "$30,000,000 stolen from the Treasury," and "Negro Supremacy." In the wagon are the grim reaper, Pennsylvania representative and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, an unidentified man, a black woman, and an idle black man. Stevens: "Colfax pulls like the d----l but old tangleleg [i.e., Grant] aint worth a d----n! Push at the tailboard, Ben!" Massachusetts representative and former Civil War general Benjamin F. Butler, pushing the wagon from the rear, replies, "I am pushing, Thad! but we are stuck. Seymour is a mile ahead now." Silver spoons protrude from Butler's pocket refers to Butler's nickname "Silver Spoons."
The black woman reassures Stevens, "Don't worry you'sef, honey, or you'll peg out afore we get de paeket for Seymour's in de White House and we's good for Salt River [colloquialism for political disaster]." The black man asks, "War's dis wagon gwine wid dis member ob Congress. I'd jes like to know?" The unidentified man remarks, "The Democracy would not take me so I thought I'd come back & stick by you Uncle Thad, and we'll all go to H-ll together!" Death announces, "My friends 1,000,000 slaughtered soldiers block the wheels, you fooled them, and they now impede your progress!" At bottom right a group of bummers, a term referring to party hangers-on, carpetbaggers, and other disreputable characters, stand in line to buy tickets to Salt River. At left New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley invites abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher to play the thimblerig. Nearby a black couple in rags express their desire to return to their former master. At top right, next to the U.S. Capitol, a group of black youths in striped outfits dance and tumble about.


Congressional Scales. A True Balance

An 1850 satirical lithograph e on President Zachary Taylor's attempts to balance Southern and Northern interests on the question of slavery in 1850. Taylor stands atop a pair of scales, with a weight in each hand; the weight on the left reads "Wilmot Proviso" and the one on the right "Southern Rights." Below, the scales are evenly balanced, with several members of Congress, including Henry Clay in the tray on the left, and others, among them Lewis Cass and John Calhoun, on the right. Taylor says, "Who said I would not make a "NO PARTY" President? I defy you to show any party action here." One legislator on the left sings, "How much do you weigh? Eight dollars a day. Whack fol de rol!" Another states, "My patience is as inexhaustible as the public treasury." A congressman on the right says, "We can wait as long as they can." On the ground, at right, John Bull observes, "That's like what we calls in old Hingland, a glass of 'alf and 'alf."



Detail from illustration above "The Great Republican Reform Party"

The Great Republican Reform Party, Calling on their Candidate

An 1856 lithograph by the artist Louis Maurer. Fremont is portrayed as the champion of a motley array of radicals and reformers. As he stands patiently at far right he is "called upon" by (left to right): a temperance advocate, a cigar-smoking, trousered suffragette, a ragged socialist holding a liquor bottle, a spinsterish libertarian, a Catholic priest holding a cross, and a free black dandy. Temperance man: "The first thing we want, is a law making the use of Tobacco, Animal food, and Lager-bier a Capital Crime." Suffragette: "We demand, first of all; the recognition of Woman as the equal of man with a right to Vote and hold Office." Socialist: "An equal division of Property that is what I go in for." Elderly libertarian: "Col. I wish to invite you to the next meeting of our Free Love association, where the shackles of marriage are not tolerated & perfect freedom exist in love matters and you will be sure to Enjoy yourself, for we are all Freemounters." Priest: "We look to you Sir to place the power of the Pope on a firm footing in this Country." Freedman: "De Poppylation ob Color comes in first.  arter dat, you may do wot you pleases." Fremont: "You shall all have what you desire. and be sure that the glorious Principles of Popery, Fourierism, Free Love, Woman's Rights, the Maine Law, & above all the Equality of our Colored brethren, shall be maintained; If I get into the Presidential Chair."


A 102 page excerpt from Sketches from the Civil War in North America, 1861, '62, '63, "Confederate War Etchings, Complete set of the very rare and remarkable original issues of the thirty etchings (12 x 9 inches) DR. A. J. VOLCK of Baltimore Secretly made for private distribution during the early part of the Civil War." This except includes thirty Confederate illustrations.

From the preface by the author:

"A series of forty-five sketches, chiefly of scenes in the Confederate Army, really published in Baltimore. Only twelve copies were struck off for friends, when the plates were destroyed for fear of exposing the artist, who is a German dentist in Baltimore.

The catalogue of the Library of Congress says: 'The original sketches, thirty in number were drawn, etched and printed in an edition of two hundred sets for subscribers by Dr. Adalbert Johan Volck of Baltimore. One plate, 'Meeting of the Southern emissaries and Lincoln' (at Hampton Roads, February 3, 1865) was afterwards lost. An edition of forty-five plates, (the original thirty and fifteen additional, by the same artist, was also published (London 1863).

But my very long and careful search, here and abroad, has failed to find more than the thirty plates I here reproduce."


An 1843, 34 page book of anti-Copperhead poems and 27 illustrations. Many Northern Democrats believed that full-scale war to reinstate the Union was unjustified.  This group came to be known as the Peace Democrats. Their more extreme elements were called "Copperheads." The Copperheads were the most vocal group of Democrats in the Northern United States who opposed the American Civil War, wanting an immediate peace settlement with the Confederates. The pejorative name Copperheads was given to them by their opponents, the Republicans.



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