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Political Skeletons

Posted by Laurie Frost on October 20, 2013

My plan today was to search the Library of Congress for public domain Halloween theme images, but I was distracted by the number of political cartoons that surfaced with a search of the word “skeleton.” Some could easily have appeared in the editorial pages of  this morning’s paper, such as this one, published in 1873, 140 years ago: “The American juggernaut. Everything noble, patriotic, and progressive is crushed beneath the remorseless tread of that mammoth monster of corruption, cruelty, and fraud, the vampire rings of capital,”  by Matthew Morgan.

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The Justice Department is filing suit against several states over new restrictions on voting passed in 2013; Death at the polls, and free from “federal interference” by Thomas Nash for Harpers in 1879 is described by the Library of Congress as “Skeleton ‘solid Southern shot gun’ holding shotgun at polls, to prevent African Americans from voting.”

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Here’s one reminiscent of current controversies over immigration:

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Described by the Library of Congress as “Caricature showing Uncle Sam holding paper ‘Protest against Russian exclusion of Jewish Americans’ and looking in shock at Chinese skeleton ‘American exclusion of Chinese’ in closet,” this appeared in Puck in 1912.

Another “skeleton in the closet”: human rights abuses: A Skeleton of His Own by Udo Keppler was published in Puck in 1903. It “shows Uncle Sam holding a paper labeled ‘Protest against Russian Outrage’; he is standing with his back to a slightly open door revealing a skeleton labeled ‘Lynchings’ and holding a handgun and rope in his closet, he looks at the skeleton, realizing he is caught in a double-standard.”

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Finally, food safety is the topic of this Puck illustration, Watch the Professor, published in 1906, presents  “an oversized man labeled ‘Beef Trust’, with skeleton face, performing a magic trick on a stage by taking ‘Diseased Livestock’ and pushing them through a tube labeled ‘Packingtown’ to produce packaged ‘Pure Meat Products’. A diminutive man, ‘The Prof’s Assistant’, wearing a cap labeled ‘Inspector’ is standing on the stage on the left.”

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