Two super interesting 19th century political cartoons

I’ve recently been experimenting a little with black pen and water colour, and a friend of mine (who is very knowledgeable about such things) compared this way of drawing to 19th Century political cartoons. So I read up a little about them, and here are two which I thought particularly interesting:

Inconveniences of a Crowded Room George Cruikshank, 1818 (British Museum - Prints and Drawings)

Inconveniences of a Crowded Room
George Cruikshank, 1818
(British Museum – Prints and Drawings)

This first one made me giggle. Is it a coloured etching by George Cruikshank who was a renowned satirical caricaturist. It depicts the mayhem which ensued as aristocrats clambered over each other to get the attention of approaching royals. Apparently ‘loud shrieks were heard and several ladies fainted’ in the chaos depicted! It is a comment on the ridiculous excesses and vanity found amongst the British upper classes of the time – much in the same vein as Pride and Prejudice (albeit a rather different style!). I feel a bit sweaty just looking at it!

Lizzie and Mr Darcy (any excuse I'm afraid)

Lizzie and Mr Darcy (any excuse I’m afraid)

So, on to the second one. It’s interesting to note that the accompanying editorial in Puck Magazine informed readers that successful assimilation is an important part of becoming American.

The Mortar of Assimilation - And the One Element that Won't MixC. J. Taylor, 1989

The Mortar of Assimilation – And the One Element that Won’t Mix
C. J. Taylor, 1889
(Michigan State University Museum)

Can you see the jolly looking chap wielding a knife and a green flag? He is an Irishman. At the time when this was drawn, Irish immigrants were heavily discriminated against. They were often refused jobs, and were presented in drawings like this one as an irrevocably uncivilized people group – notice how the Irish man has monkey-like features.

I had no idea that this had happened until I visited the wonderful Tenement Museum in NYC. We stood in the front room of a real early 19th century Irish family and heard their story. The guide then asked an interesting question: “who is treated the same way now? Who do we see as not quite belonging, not welcome?” After a short pause some one mumbled from the back – “latino people?”

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