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Tag: cartoons

War Comes to America

Sixty-nine years ago today, the Congress of the United States declared war following the delivery of a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that included these words:  “Yesterday … a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked … With confidence in our armed forces–with the unbounding determination of our people–we will gain the inevitable triumph–so help us God.”

When the House cast the vote to declare war on the Japanese Empire, only one voice rose in dissent, that of House Representative Jeanette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress who represented the state of Montana before women could even vote (read our POH post, “Women can’t vote, but they can run for Congress“). As the lone voice in the 388-1 vote, Rankin only said “as a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.”

While Rankin may not have been eligible to go to war, men were, and many needed convincing. It was imperative that the nation knew what caused the conflict and why America had entered it. Part of the solution to this was the “Why We Fight” series, an acclaimed look at who America was and why it was at war against the Axis powers.

The series was a who’s who of Hollywood. Frank Capra, who … [ Read all ]

The doodler who defied crooks and democratized donkeys

Thomas Nast (111-B-3036)

Thomas Nast (111-B-3036)

There are few artist in America who so greatly affected the popular landscape as Thomas Nast who was born 170 years ago today. Jolly old St Nick? Not so jolly before the Harper’s Weekly cartoonist plumped him up. The Grand Old Party elephant? Popularized in 1874 by the staunch Republican when talk of a third term by Ulysses S. Grant threatened to sink the Republican Party.  The Democratic donkey? Originally introduced as a jackass kicking over a great lion in 1870 and meant to symbolize the Democrats and their harsh treatment of the “great lion” Edwin M. Stanton.

The son of a German trombonist, Nast may seem an odd character to have a dramatic sway over U.S. politics, but the man had influence in spades. Being the most popular illustrator at a time when 20 percent of American adults were illiterate made Nast’s pen a powerful weapon.

Abraham Lincoln called the cartoonist “our best recruiting sergeant.” The Great Emancipator’s 1864 reelection campaign was significantly boosted by a single drawing done by Nast implying that Lincoln’s loss would mean a lost war for the Union. Ulysses S. Grant attributed his 1868 reelection campaign to Nast. Nast’s cartoons were so influential (and accurate) that when Boss Tweed—the scammer politician of Tammany Hall fame—fled prison, he was picked up in Spain after  a border agent identified … [ Read all ]