Our recent look at the politics of the 1860s—and my own interest, in particular, in political cartoons—had me thinking of the conversation I had last year with scholar Todd Thompson, author of The National Joker: Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Satire. You can read that ECW interview here, and you can read my review of the book for Civil War Monitor here. Todd spends a lot of time in his book examining Lincoln’s appearances in the political cartoons of his day. It’s really nifty stuff.
(As a complete aside: I wasn’t a fan of the sketch that designers chose for the cover of Todd’s book because there was something disconcerting to me about the image. However, the image has stuck with me—proof of its effectiveness—and I’ve come to realize that one reason it has is because sketch of Lincoln looks like it could almost have been lifted from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.)
I had “Joker” on the brain because of another political cartoon I came across the other day while searching for something entirely different in the Library of Congress’s on-line archives. “This Little Joker for President,” the cartoon said.
The image is undated, but the scant LOC information does place it as a sketch that appeared for the 1864 election. It is not, as you can tell, a flattering depiction of Lincoln. The handwriting reads:
Jas Abraham Lincoln Crow
Who every time he turned about he did just so
And when he was president of these United States
Lick’d lasses-candy, told jokes, & swung upon the gates.
A similar cartoon, “Melancholy accident to a gentleman in high life,” depicts Lincoln in similar oversized clown shoes, but in that one, the shoes are labeled “Military Necessity.”
“Them’s good boots,” Lincoln says. As big as they are, though, complete with metal studs in their soles, Lincoln still manages to trip over two straws, “Constitution” and “Habeas Corpus.”
For more images, visit www.loc.gov/photos/collections and type in “Lincoln 1864 election.” There’s some pretty cool stuff to see in the LOC’s collection.