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Senators in Caricature


In 1855 British engraver Henry Carter, under the pen name Frank Leslie, launched America’s first fully illustrated journal. Although political cartoons had been popular in America since before the Revolution, the introduction of illustrated publications such as Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly created new outlets for political cartoonists. Often, cartoonists used drawings to express their own political points of view, attacking an individual, a group, or an idea. They were especially attuned to corruption, scandal, and political mischief. In seeking to capture the nub of a complex issue, cartoonists drew on readily understandable concepts and images—nursery rhymes, classical legends, Shakespearean plays, the Bible, the circus, or anything else that the average reader might recognize. They dressed political figures incongruously and highlighted the peculiarities of their appearance. Senators, naturally, were prime fodder. “The secret of caricature is exaggeration of course,” cartoonist Joseph Keppler once commented, explaining that to him almost every human being resembled some animal, bird, or inanimate object. More on Political Cartoons and Caricature (pdf)