With fondness, wishing it were true in 2016: Remembering “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” by Thomas Nast, 1869

November 24, 2016

November 1869, in the first year of the Grant administration — and Nast put aside his own prejudices enough to invite the Irish guy to dinner, along with many others. (Nast tended not to like Catholics, and especially Irish Catholics.)

In a nation whose emotions are raw from a divisive election, violence from winning and losing the World Series and various other championships, nearly daily violence against people of color and unwarranted, horrifying assaults on police officers, not to mention daily horrors reported from Venezuela, Central America, East Timor and Indonesian New Guinea, Syria and the Middle East, could there be a better or more timely reminder of what we’re supposed to be doing?

A Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub tradition, Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving.

(Click for a larger image — it’s well worth it.)

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving," 1869 - Ohio State University's cartoon collection

Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving,” 1869 – Ohio State University’s cartoon collection, and HarpWeek

As described at the Ohio State site:

“Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” marks the highpoint of Nast’s Reconstruction-era idealism. By November 1869 the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures equal rights and citizenship to all Americans, was ratified. Congress had sent the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbade racial discrimination in voting rights, to the states and its ratification appeared certain. Although the Republican Party had absorbed a strong nativist element in the 1850s, its commitment to equality seemed to overshadow lingering nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants. Two national symbols, Uncle Sam and Columbia, host all the peoples of the world who have been attracted to the United States by its promise of self-government and democracy. Germans, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards: “Come one, come all,” Nast cheers at the lower left corner.

One of my Chinese students identified the Oriental woman as Japanese, saying it was “obvious.” Other friends say both are Chinese.  Regional differences.  The figure at the farthest right is a slightly cleaned-up version of the near-ape portrayal Nast typically gave Irishmen.

If Nast could put aside his biases to celebrate the potential of unbiased immigration to the U.S. and the society that emerges, maybe we can, too.

Hope your day is good; hope you have good company and good cheer, turkey or not. Happy Thanksgiving 2016.  And of course, remember to fly your flag!

More: Earlier posts from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

And in 2013:

 

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience. And good Thanksgiving stories need to be refreshed, to bring peace around the dinner table.

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When in doubt, read the instructions, Donald Trump version

November 16, 2016

How is the transition coming?

https://www.pinterest.com/offsite/?token=407-837&url=https%3A%2F%2Fs-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com%2Foriginals%2F70%2Fd9%2F81%2F70d981e5a3fb2f5e56d6376609902ac2.jpg&pin=355432595576201161

Cartoon by . . . um, can you read that name? Trump and the User’s Manual

Sure, in comments, tell us the instruction manual is the Constitution.

Trump hasn’t read that, either, I wager. In any case, he’s unprepared to put together an administration. Our republic really is in danger. It’s going to take all of us to hold it together, to have any chance of success in the next four years.

In the interim, I don’t recognize the style, and I don’t recognize the signature; can you help discover who is the cartoonist?

Cartoon by Matt Davies, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for Newsday.

https://twitter.com/MatttDavies/status/797860046017282048

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History in cartoons: Joseph Keppler on the need for the 17th Amendment

September 26, 2016

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine,

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine, “The Making of a Senator.” Print by J. Ottmann Lith. Co. after Joseph Keppler, Jr., Puck. Lithograph, colored, 1905-11-15. Image with text measurement Height: 18.50 inches (46.99 cm) Width: 11.50 inches (29.21 cm) Cat. no. 38.00624.001

This is a lithograph after a cartoon by Joseph Keppler in Puck Magazine, November 15, 1905. Keppler’s cartoons kept on the heat for some legislative solution to continuing corruption in state legislatures and the U.S. Senate, driven by the ability of large corporations and trusts to essentially purchase entire states’ legislatures, and tell legislators who to pick for the U.S. Senate.

Described by the Historian of the U.S. Senate:

The “people” were at the bottom of the pile when it came to electing U.S. senators, when Joseph Keppler, Jr.’s cartoon, “The Making of a Senator, ” appeared in Puck on November 15, 1905. Voters elected the state legislatures, which in turn elected senators. Keppler depicted two more tiers between state legislatures and senators: political bosses and corporate interests. Most notably, he drew John D. Rockefeller, Sr., head of the Standard Oil Corporation, perched on moneybags, on the left side of the “big interests. ”

This cartoon appeared while muckraking magazine writers such as Ida Tarbell and David Graham Phillips were accusing business of having corrupted American politics. The muckrakers charged senators with being financially beholden to the special interests. Reformers wanted the people to throw off the tiers between them and directly elect their senators–which was finally achieved with ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.

Recent scuttlebutt about repealing the 17th Amendment seems to me wholly unconnected from the history. The 17th Amendment targeted corruption in the Senate and states. It largely worked, breaking the course of money falling from rich people and large corporations into the hands of everyone but the people, and breaking the practice of corporate minions getting Senate seats, to do the bidding of corporations and trusts.

Anti-corruption work was part of the larger Progressive Agenda, which included making laws that benefited people, such as clean milk and food, pure drugs, and banking and railroad regulation so small farmers and businessmen could make a good living. Probably the single best symbol of the Progressive movement was “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, Congressman, Governor and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. LaFollette was a great supporter of the 17th Amendment

Again from the Senate Historian:

Nicknamed “Fighting Bob,” La Follette continued to champion Progressive causes during a Senate career extending from 1906 until his death in 1925. He strongly supported the 17th Amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators, as well as domestic measures advocated by President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, including federal railroad regulation and laws protecting workers rights. La Follette worked to generate wider public accountability for the Senate. He advocated more frequent and better publicized roll call votes and the publication of information about campaign expenditures.

Criticism of the 17th Amendment runs aground when it analyzes the amendment by itself, without reference to the democracy- and transparency-increasing components from the rest of the Progressive movements’ legislative actions from 1890 to 1930.

No one favors corruption and damaging secrecy in politics. By pulling the 17th out of context, critics hope to persuade Americans to turn back the clock to more corrupt times.

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Banksy’s modern Nativity, revisited in 2015: Trump’s wall, and Jesus

December 25, 2015

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
==> Georges Santayana,
The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Those who don’t pay attention to history are condemned to repeat it? Then, gods forbid we should have leaders among the condemned, and heaven keep us from joining their folly.

Has there ever been a good wall that actually worked to keep trouble away? Do we need to rebuild the Berlin Wall in the Americas?

Thomas Nast helped bring down the crooks at Tammany Hall with cartoons. Boss Tweed, the chief antagonist of Nast, crook and leader of the Tammany Gang, understood that Nast’s drawings could do him in better than just hard hitting reporting — the pictures were clear to people who couldn’t read.

But a cartoon has to get to an audience to have an effect.

Here’s a cartoon below, a comment on the security wall being built in Israel, that got very little circulation in the west at Christmas time. Can you imagine the impact had this drawing run in newspapers in Europe, the U.S., and Canada?

It’s a mashup of a famous oil painting* related to the Christian Nativity, from a London-based artist who goes by the name Banksy. (Warning: Banksy pulls no punches; views shown are quite strong, often very funny, always provocative, generally safe for work unless you work for an authoritarian like Dick Cheney who wants no counter opinions.)

banksy-israels-wall-77721975_fda236f91a.jpg

Banksy’s modern nativity — does he ever bother to copyright his stuff, or would he rather you broadcast it?

*  At least I thought so in 2008.  I can’t find the painting now.  Anybody recognize a work underneath Banksy’s re-imagining?  Let us know in comments, eh?  Perhaps this one, by David Roberts?  Perhaps this engraving after Joseph M. W. TurnerTurner’s original? Plus, in 2008, most people said “Banksy who?”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Peoples Geography.

More, in 2011: 

More in 2012:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Thomas Nast in 1864: “The Union Christmas Dinner” pushed reconciliation in time of war

December 23, 2015

Thomas Nast may have done as much as Abraham Lincoln to invent the Republican Party.

Nast’s illustration for Harper’s Weekly for the issue of December 31, 1864, expressed his great desire for an end to the Civil War, and offered a vision of what could happen when arms were put down.

Image by Thomas Nast, in Harper's Weekly.  White House History @WhiteHouseHstry Tweeted: “The Union Christmas Dinner,” an illustration which symbolically depicts the reconciliation of the war-torn nation.

Image by Thomas Nast, in Harper’s Weekly. White House History @WhiteHouseHstry Tweeted: “The Union Christmas Dinner,” an illustration which symbolically depicts the reconciliation of the war-torn nation.

We were alerted to the image by a Tweet from White House History; the image above comes via SonoftheSouth.net.

An explanation of the illustration comes from The New York Times Learning page (for teachers — you’re invited):

As the Union military advanced across the South in December 1864, making Confederate defeat seem to be only a matter of time, artist Thomas Nast drew a holiday illustration betokening mercy for the vanquished and sectional reconciliation for the nation. Under the Christmas proclamation of “Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men,” President Abraham Lincoln is the gracious host who generously welcomes the Confederates—President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and state governors—in from the cold, and gestures for them to return to their rightful seats at the sumptuous feast of the states. Seated at the table are the governors of the Union states, and on the wall behind them appear portraits of leading Union generals.

Framing the main banquet scene are four circular insets that convey the message that if the Confederacy will lay down its arms, surrender unconditionally, and be contrite, then the Union will be merciful and joyously welcome them back into the fold. Viewing them clockwise from the upper-left, the symbolic figure of Victory, backed by the American Eagle, offers the olive branch of peace to a submissive Confederate soldier; the forgiving father from the biblical parable embraces his wayward son, whose sorrow for his past rebellion prompts the father to honor his son with a celebratory dinner; under the tattered American flag, the ordinary soldiers of the Union and Confederacy reunite happily as friends and brothers after the Confederate arms and battle standards have been laid on the ground; and, General Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, bows respectfully and offers his sword in unconditional surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant, the commander of the Union troops. In the lower-center is a scene from a holiday table at which a Northern family drinks a toast to the Union servicemen.

While Nast could be partisan, as in his portrayal of Democrats as mules kicking down a barn, or Republicans as noble elephants, and Nast could be subject to bigotry, as in his frequent jabs at Catholics and his portrayal of Irish immigrants as near-gorillas, much of his work in illustration for Harper’s and other publications offered a vision of a much better America which welcomed everyone — as his later portrayal of “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” in 1869 demonstrated.

We could use more Republicans, and newspapermen, like the hopeful Nast, today (leave the bigotry behind).


With fondness, wishing it were true in 2015: Remembering “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” by Thomas Nast, 1869

November 25, 2015

November 1869, in the first year of the Grant administration — and Nast put aside his own prejudices enough to invite the Irish guy to dinner, along with many others.

With a nation whose emotions are raw from events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Paris, France, and rejections of desperate refugees from was being rejected in their calls for asylum, could there be a better, more timely reminder of what we’re supposed to be doing?

(Click for a larger image — it’s well worth it.)

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving," 1869 - Ohio State University's cartoon collection

Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving,” 1869 – Ohio State University’s cartoon collection, and HarpWeek

As described at the Ohio State site:

“Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” marks the highpoint of Nast’s Reconstruction-era idealism. By November 1869 the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures equal rights and citizenship to all Americans, was ratified. Congress had sent the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbade racial discrimination in voting rights, to the states and its ratification appeared certain. Although the Republican Party had absorbed a strong nativist element in the 1850s, its commitment to equality seemed to overshadow lingering nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants. Two national symbols, Uncle Sam and Columbia, host all the peoples of the world who have been attracted to the United States by its promise of self-government and democracy. Germans, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards: “Come one, come all,” Nast cheers at the lower left corner.

One of my Chinese students identified the Oriental woman as Japanese, saying it was “obvious.” Other friends say both are Chinese.  Regional differences.  The figure at the farthest right is a slightly cleaned-up version of the near-ape portrayal Nast typically gave Irishmen.

If Nast could put aside his biases to celebrate the potential of unbiased immigration to the U.S. and the society that emerges, maybe we can, too.

Hope your day is good; hope you have good company and good cheer, turkey or not. Happy Thanksgiving.  And of course, remember to fly your flag!

More: Earlier posts from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

And in 2013:

Yes, if you’re a faithful reader here, you’ve seen it before.


Je suis Charlie!

January 8, 2015

If you follow my Tweets, or if you watch what I post on Facebook, you may have noticed I frequently credit editorial cartoonists with telling the truth.  Cartoonists fill a critical need.  I admire their work.

That’s not strong enough.  I find that political cartoons offer truths, in quickly grokable form, that would remain hidden in news and commentary otherwise.

Perhaps more importantly, cartoons lampoon those who desperately, bitterly need lampooning.

Why is that important?  Lampooning exposes crazy behaviors in our leaders, behaviors that if unchecked might lead a group to disaster.  Or a community.  Or a nation.  Or a planet.

Ancient sayings, properly and improperly attributed to various sources, over a period of 500 to 1,000 years point to the importance of lampooning in correcting actions of leaders and governments.  This version comes from a Sophocles play, Antigone (620-3):

For cunningly of old
was the celebrated saying revealed:
evil sometimes seems good
to a man whose mind
a god leads to destruction.

Lampooning helps, illustrating perhaps with laughter where the problem lies, though it also suggests that the chief perpetrators and promulgators of the craziness may be immune from such insights, whether through laughter or any other method.

If those lampooned genuinely cannot see the humor, a greater problem is exposed.  That’s the point. Expose the madness, lay it bare for all to see.  Sane people will work to help the insane, and avoid leading others into that madness.  Lampooning provides us a great tool to avoid disasters, if we would only look. Laughter is optional, if the message gets through.

Even insane leaders and groups understand this at some level. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote about the value of ridicule of majestic error in his Notebook:

No god and no religion can survive ridicule. No church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field and live.*

We got a sharp and painful reminder of these facts yesterday, when a group of gunmen, stung by ridicule from a French satire magazine, stormed that magazine’s offices and brutally gunned down a score of people, a dozen of whom died.  Their form of religious struggle appears insane to sane people, and when that is pointed out to them, they behave with more intense insanity.

To these gunman, whose existence alone is a blasphemous assault on the idea of peaceful religion, ridicule in publication was too much to take.  Rather than answer with other cartoons or parody, or serious thought in print, they attempted to change the playing field’s fairness.

In doing they exposed their critics as accurate and true. Those already crazed by the gods probably have no sense of irony left, either.

This morning comes the word that Charlie Hebdo will publish next week as scheduled.  Instead of the usual run of 113,000 copies, the first run will be more than a million, to meet greater demand. Stricken down by gunmen, Charlie Hebdo rises phoenix-like, with strength multiplied by more than ten.

We mourn the cartoonists and editors lost.  They are martyrs in the cause of freedom and peace, and especially in the “jihad” they engage in for freedom of expression, something that we know now is not a uniquely American virtue or necessity.

Throughout history memorable phrases heralded periods of great change, when people took a stand against tyranny and violence, and stood for freedom and peace.

I am Spartacus.

Here I stand.  I can do no other.”

“Union!”

“. . . the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

” . . . Freedom of speech and expression . . . Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way . . . Freedom from Want . . . Freedom from Fear. . .”

Ich bin ein Berliner.

We Shall Overcome

I Am A Man.”

And now, “Je suis Charlie!”

Beyond Charlie Hebdo, the world’s cartoonists and editorialists storm traditional and electronic media with support for the cartoonists.  Here below are some examples, in no particular order.  What other cartoons or commentary have you seen that we all should see?

Andy Marlette, cartoonist for the Pensacola News-Journal borrowed the saying from the sticker that Woody Guthrie used on his guitar, “This Machine Kills Fascists”:

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal, borrowing from Woody Guthrie's guitar

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News-Journal, borrowing from Woody Guthrie’s guitar

Pete Seeger borrowed Woody’s line, and painted on the drum head of his banjo, “This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces It to Surrender.” Marlette also penned a piece for USA Today.

Cuban Angel Boligan (@AngelBoligan):

Cuban-born cartoonist Angel Boligan, on Charlie Hebdo

Cuban-born cartoonist Angel Boligan, on Charlie Hebdo

Nate Beeler in the Columbus Dispatch:

Nate Beeler's cartoon on Charlie Hebdo, for the Columbus Dispatch

Nate Beeler’s cartoon on Charlie Hebdo, for the Columbus Dispatch

Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Ricardo Sanabria in Venezuela:

Ricardo Sanabria, Venezuela

Ricardo Sanabria, Venezuela

Manjool, an Indian cartoonist:

“Last message from #CharlieHebdo cartoonists to their killers. My #cartoon “

Clay Bennett at the Chattanooga, Tennessee newspapers:

Clay Bennett's cartoon on the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo

Clay Bennett’s cartoon on the tragedy at Charlie Hebdo

NOT by Banksy, but by Lucille Clerc:

Cartoon by Lucille Clerc

Cartoon circulated as by Banksy, but really by graphic designer Lucille Clerc

John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune:

@AnnePhutto said:  Je suis Charlie...my 12 year old daughter's favorite cartoon in response to the tragedy.  Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton News-Tribune

@AnnePhutto said: Je suis Charlie…my 12 year old daughter’s favorite cartoon in response to the tragedy. Cartoon by John Cole, Scranton Times-Tribune

Charlie Hebdo dead?  I don’t think so.

______________

*  Twain also warned against taking ridicule too far, and spoke on the difficulty of knowing, if you’re the butt of the ridicule:

  • Sense of ridicule is bitterer than death & more feared. — men commit suicide daily to escape it.
    Mark Twain’s Notebooks and Journals, Vol. 3, p. 346.
  • There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.
    Pudd’nhead Wilson

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