Akron Beacon Journal editorial cartoonist Chip Bok will be the featured speaker at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center this Thursday night in conjunction with their The Golden Age of American Political Cartoons exhibit that ends on Sunday. Chip’s speech is entitled, “A Cartoonist’s Life or ‘Is that ALL you do?’.” The exhibit is described as using “original sketches and published political cartoons from 1868 through 1900 to detail the evolution of the art form as well as the lives of popular cartoonists of the day.”
It was 19th Century political cartoonists who began the use of symbols to give instant recognition in their cartoons. The images of Uncle Sam or Miss Liberty as surrogates for America signaled the reader that a cartoon was about the United States. Similarly, the elephant and donkey were used as symbols for the Republican and Democratic parties. Symbols could lend dignity or ignominy to a subject. A politician prefered to be associated with Abraham Lincoln or George Washington than the devil, or the grim reaper. Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with popularizing several enduring symbols, including the donkey, elephant, Boss Tweed, Uncle Sam, Santa Claus, and Miss Columbia.