Today, we’re going to look at a cartoon featuring former President George W. Bush. I chose this cartoon for a number of reasons. First of all, I audibly laughed out loud. As you may have realized by now, a cartoon that makes me laugh is more likely to make its way on my blog. Second of all, there’s a lot of great subtle references that I’d like to tease out. And finally, there are a lot of not-subtle references in there. Layers, people, layers!
Today’s post will take us back a century to the United States’ entry into World War I. The cartoon for this post, titled “At Last a Perfect Soldier,” was drawn by Robert Minor in 1916, about a year before the United States officially declared war on Germany. And that’s where our story begins.
Today I want to break down the steps that I take to understand a political cartoon. Analyzing any primary source is a tough task to tackle, but political cartoons are a unique challenge because they are a visual medium. Because of that, they can be harder to contextualize in history.
It would be almost unfair to create a political cartoon blog without talking about what is widely considered to be the first American political cartoon: Ben Franklin’s “Join or Die.”
To kick this blog off, I’m going to talk about William “Boss” Tweed and Thomas Nast. Tweed and Nast go together like peanut butter and jelly, if peanut butter was a notoriously corrupt politician and jelly was the father of American political cartoons. Regardless, these men are arguably the basis of political cartoons in this country, so they’re a great starting point.