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Editorial cartoon

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Title: Editorial cartoon  
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Subject: Comics, Cox & Forkum, Caricature, List of editorial cartoonists, Naji al-Ali
Collection: Caricature, Editorial Cartooning, Propaganda, Propaganda Cartoons
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Editorial cartoon

An editorial cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln, 1865, entitled "The Rail Splitter at Work Repairing the Union". The caption reads: (Johnson): "Take it quietly Uncle Abe and I will draw it closer than ever." (Lincoln): "A few more stitches Andy and the good old Union will be mended."

An editorial cartoon, also known as a political cartoon, is an illustration containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities. An artist who draws such images is known as an editorial cartoonist.

They typically combine artistic skill, hyperbole and satire in order to question authority and draw attention to corruption and other social ills.[1]


  • History 1
    • Origins 1.1
    • Development 1.2
    • Cartoonist's magazines 1.3
    • Maturation 1.4
  • Recognition 2
  • Modern political cartoons 3
  • Pocket cartoons 4
  • Controversies 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9



A Rake's Progress, Plate 8, 1735, and retouched by Hogarth in 1763 by adding the Britannia emblem[2][3]

The pictorial satire of William Hogarth has been credited as the precursor to the political cartoon.[4] His pictures combined social criticism with sequential artistic scenes. A frequent target of his satire was the corruption of early 18th century British politics. An early satirical work was an Emblematical Print on the South Sea Scheme (c.1721), about the disastrous stock market crash of 1720 known as the South Sea Bubble, in which many English people lost a great deal of money.[5]

His art often had a strong moralizing element to it, such as in his masterpiece of 1735, A Rake's Progress. It consisted of eight pictures that depicted the reckless life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant, who spends all of his money on luxurious living, services from sex workers, and gambling—the character's life ultimately ends in Bethlem Royal Hospital.[6]

However, his work was only tangentially politicized and was primarily regarded on its artistic merits.

  • History of Cartoon History of Cartoon from Toons Mag
  • American Association of Editorial Cartoonists Political cartoons by the members of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists
  • TED Talk: The power of cartoons
  • Political Cartoons Comprehensive guide to political editorial cartoons on the Web
  • Globe Cartoon: archived editorial cartoons, searchable by themes and keywords
  • Using editorial cartoons in the classroom Sources, analysis, interpretation (mostly English with some German)
  • Gettysburg College Civil War Era Digital Collection Contains over 300 Civil War Era political cartoons
  • Cartoons in Gilded Age PoliticsPuck'sThe Role of from American Studies at the University of Virginia
  • Political Cartoons and Comics Journalism from around the world
  • Sykes Editorial Cartoon Collection Political cartoons by Bill Sykes from 1930s-1940s. VCU Libraries

External links

  • Adler, John, and Draper Hill. Doomed by Cartoon: How Cartoonist Thomas Nast and the New York Times Brought Down Boss Tweed and His Ring of Thieves (2008) * Gocek, Fatma Muge. Political Cartoons in the Middle East: Cultural Representations in the Middle East (Princeton series on the Middle East) (1998)
  • Hess, Stephen, and Sandy Northrop. American Political Cartoons, 1754-2010: The Evolution of a National Identity (2010)
  • Keller, Morton. The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast (1975)
  • Krauss, Jerelle. All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page (2009). excerpt ISBN 978-0-231-13825-3
  • McKenna, Kevin J. All the Views Fit to Print: Changing Images of the U.S. in 'Pravda' Political Cartoons, 1917-1991 (2001)
  • Morris, Frankie. Artist of Wonderland: The Life, Political Cartoons, and Illustrations of Tenniel (Victorian Literature and Culture Series) (2005)
  • Nevins, Allan. A century of political cartoons;: Caricature in the United States from 1800 to 1900 (1944)
  • Press, Charles. The Political Cartoon (1981)

Further reading

  1. ^ Sterling, Christopher (2009). Encyclopedia of Journalism. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc. pp. 253–261.  
  2. ^ J. B. Nichols, 1833 p.192 "PLATE VIII. ... Britannia 1763"
  3. ^ J. B. Nichols, 1833 p.193 "Retouched by the Author, 1763"
  4. ^ a b Charles Press (1981). The Political Cartoon. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 34. 
  5. ^ See Ronald Paulson, Hogarth's Graphic Works (3rd edition, London 1989), no. 43.
  6. ^ "A Rake’s Progress". Sir John Soane's Museum. Sir John Soane's Museum. 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Chris Upton. "Birth of England's pocket cartoon". 
  8. ^ Martin Rowson, speaking on The Secret of Drawing, presented by Andrew Graham Dixon, BBCTV
  9. ^ a b "Satire, sewers and statesmen: why James Gillray was king of the cartoon". The Guardian. 16 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "James Gillray: The Scourge of Napoleon". HistoryToday. 
  11. ^ Gatrell, Vic. City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London. New York: Walker & Co., 2006
  12. ^ "caricature and cartoon". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  13. ^ Appelbaum & Kelly 1981, p. 15.
  14. ^ Albert Boime, "Thomas Nast and French Art," American Art Journal (1972) 4#1 pp. 43-65
  15. ^ Davis, Barry (2011-05-31). Dry Bones': Row shows clash of civilizations, Jerusalem Post"'". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  16. ^ Becker, Stephen (1959). Comic Art in America. Simon & Schuster. 
  17. ^ David Smith, The Observer, 23 November 2008, Timeless appeal of the classic joke
  18. ^ Nicola Jennings and Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, 21 November 2005, David Austin: Guardian pocket cartoonist with a sceptically humanist view of the news
  19. ^ Victor S. NAVASKY, Why are political cartoons incendiary?
  20. ^ Samuel S. Hyde, "'Please, Sir, he called me “Jimmy!' Political Cartooning before the Law: 'Black Friday,' J.H. Thomas, and the Communist Libel Trial of 1921," Contemporary British History (2011) 25#4 pp 521-550


See also

Libel lawsuits have been rare. In Britain, the first successful lawsuit against a cartoonist in over a century came in 1921 when J.H. Thomas, the leader of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), initiated libel proceedings against the magazine of the British Communist Party. Thomas claimed defamation in the form of cartoons and words depicting the events of "Black Friday"—when he allegedly betrayed the locked-out Miners' Federation. Thomas won his lawsuit, and restored his reputation.[20]

Editorial cartoons sometimes cause controversies.[19] Examples include the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy (stemming from the publication of cartoons of Muhammad) and the 2007 Bangladesh cartoon controversy.


A pocket cartoon is a form of editorial cartoon which consists of a topical single-panel single-column drawing. It was introduced by Osbert Lancaster in 1939 at the Daily Express.[17] A 2005 obituary by The Guardian of its pocket cartoonist David Austin said "Newspaper readers instinctively look to the pocket cartoon to reassure them that the disasters and afflictions besetting them each morning are not final. By taking a sideways look at the news and bringing out the absurd in it, the pocket cartoonist provides, if not exactly a silver lining, then at least a ray of hope."[18]

Pocket cartoons

A political cartoon commonly draws on two unrelated events and brings them together incongruously for humorous effect. The humour can reduce people's political anger and so serves a useful purpose. Such a cartoon also reflects real life and politics, where a deal is often done on unrelated proposals beyond public scrutiny.

In modern political cartooning, two styles have begun to emerge. The traditional style uses visual metaphors and symbols like Uncle Sam, the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant; the more recent text-heavy style, seen in Doonesbury, tells a linear story, usually in comic strip format. Regardless of style, editorial cartoons are a way for artists to express their thoughts about current events in a comical manner.[16]

Yaakov Kirschen, creator of the Israeli comic strip Dry Bones, says his cartoons are designed to make people laugh, which makes them drop their guard and see things the way he does. In an interview, he defined his objective as a cartoonist as an attempt to "seduce rather than to offend." [15]

Political cartoons can usually be found on the editorial page of many newspapers, although a few (such as Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury) are sometimes placed on the regular comic strip page. Most cartoonists use visual metaphors and caricatures to address complicated political situations, and thus sum up a current event with a humorous or emotional picture.

"To begin with, 'I'll paint the town red'." Grant E. Hamilton, The Judge vol. 7, 31 January 1885.

Modern political cartoons

Editorial cartoons and editorial cartoonists are recognised by a number of awards, for example the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning (for US cartoonists, since 1922) and the British Press Awards' "Cartoonist of the Year".

Institutions which archive and document editorial cartoons include the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in the United States, and the British Cartoon Archive in the United Kingdom.


Notable editorial cartoons include Benjamin Franklin's "Join, or Die" (1754), on the need for unity in the American colonies; "The Thinkers Club" (1819), a response to the surveillance and censorship of universities in Germany under the Carlsbad Decrees; and E. H. Shepard's "The Goose-Step" (1936), on the rearmament of Germany under Hitler. "The Goose-Step" is one of a number of notable cartoons first published in the British Punch magazine.

As a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast wielded more influence than any other artist of the 19th century. He not only enthralled a vast audience with boldness and wit, but swayed it time and again to his personal position on the strength of his visual imagination. Both Lincoln and Grant acknowledged his effectiveness in their behalf, and as a crusading civil reformer he helped destroy the corrupt Tweed Ring that swindled New York City of millions of dollars. Indeed, his impact on American public life was formidable enough to profoundly affect the outcome of every presidential election during the period 1864 to 1884.[14]

By the mid 19th century, major political newspapers in many countries featured cartoons designed to express the publisher's opinion on the politics of the day. One of the most successful was Thomas Nast in New York City, who imported realistic German drawing techniques to major political issues in the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Nast was most famous for his 160 editorial cartoons attacking the criminal characteristics of Boss Tweed's political machine in New York City. Albert Boime argues that:

Thomas Nast depicts the Tweed Ring: "Who stole the people's money?" / "'Twas him."


The most prolific and influential cartoonist of the 1850s and 60s was John Tenniel, chief cartoon artist for Punch, who perfected the art of physical caricature and representation to a point that has changed little up to the present day. For over five decades he was a steadfast social witness to the sweeping national changes that occurred during this period alongside his fellow cartoonist John Leech. The magazine loyally captured the general public mood; in 1857, following the Indian Rebellion and the public outrage that followed, Punch published vengeful illustrations such as Tenniel's "Justice" and "The British Lion's Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger".

Artists who published in Punch during the 1840s and 50s included John Leech, Richard Doyle, John Tenniel and Charles Keene. This group became known as "The Punch Brotherhood", which also included Charles Dickens who joined Bradbury and Evans after leaving Chapman and Hall in 1843. Punch authors and artists also contributed to another Bradbury and Evans literary magazine called Once A Week (est.1859), created in response to Dickens' departure from Household Words.

'The British Lion's Vengeance...', cartoon by John Tenniel in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

The art of the editorial cartoon was further developed with the publication of the periodical Punch in 1841, founded by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells (an earlier magazine that published cartoons was Monthly Sheet of Caricatures, printed from 1830 and an important influence on Punch).[12] It was bought by Bradbury and Evans in 1842, who capitalised on newly evolving mass printing technologies to turn the magazine into a preeminent national institution. The term "cartoon" to refer to comic drawings was coined by the magazine in 1843; the Houses of Parliament were to be decorated with murals, and "carttons" for the mural were displayed for the public; the term "cartoon" then meant a finished preliminary sketch on a large piece of cardboard, or cartone in Italian. Punch humorously appropriated the term to refer to its political cartoons, and the popularity of the Punch cartoons led to the term's widespread use.[13]

Cartoonist's magazines

John Bull who was developed from about 1790 in conjunction with other British satirical artists such as James Gillray, and Thomas Rowlandson.[11]

The medium began to develop in England in the latter part of the 18th century—especially around the time of the Napoleon.[9] The times in which Gillray lived were peculiarly favourable to the growth of a great school of caricature. Party warfare was carried on with great vigour and not a little bitterness; and personalities were freely indulged in on both sides. Gillray's incomparable wit and humour, knowledge of life, fertility of resource, keen sense of the ludicrous, and beauty of execution, at once gave him the first place among caricaturists.[10]

The world being carved up into spheres of influence between Pitt and Napoleon. James Gillray, "probably the most famous political cartoon of all time—it has been stolen over and over and over again by cartoonists ever since."[8]



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