Feature Political Cartoons

Learn more about the history of political cartoons.

Political Cartoons

More from Tukufu on the history of political cartoons.

Political cartoons have been a staple of American history as long as there’s been political dissent -- a very long time.

Benjamin Franklin’s 1753 “Join or Die” showed how an artist can distill a complex political issue into to a single, potent image.

A severed snake represents the original colonies, which, unless joined together are sure to perish.

Franklin’s cartoon helped create a sense of American nationhood, and ultimately fuelled the fight for independence.

Political cartoonists gained currency during the Civil War, when artist Thomas Nast created some of the most instantly recognizable images in U.S. politics, including Uncle Sam, the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey.

Today, political cartoons remain a staple of newspapers’ editorial pages.

Yet their influence has shrunk.

They compete with TV and the Internet as a news source.

Advertisers and publishers exert more of an influence over the news of the day, even on occasion dropping controversial cartoonists from their pages.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the popular comic strip “Boondocks” was yanked from several newspapers when it suggested that Reagan administration policies gave birth to the Al Qaada terrorist group.

It’s unlikely that the political cartoon will disappear anytime soon, but the heyday of the American political cartoon may be over.