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Tusche, tone and stone: 19th C. news illustration


Frederick Burr Opper

Whitelaw Reid July 14, 1880 This relatively early Puck image (left) provides a microcosm of public sentiment about civil and voting rights in the South, as reflected by Keppler through Opper's illustration in a country still recovering from the effects of the Civil War, and which, at the time, was in the midst of a presidential election campaign between two former Union generals. Whitelaw Reid, editor of the Republican New York Tribune, is pictured by Opper with his inventory of 'Outrage,' which includes a line of bloody shirts, lynchings, and Jim Crow voter exclusions, enforced by Klu Klux Klan violence. Caption: The Bankrupt Outrage Mill. Whitelaw:--"It's no use trying to please the public. My stock of outrages is complete -- but they won't take!"
The accompanying editorial states: "An Off-Year for Outrages -- We are sorry to report the Outrage Business as painfully dull. There is a large stock on hand, and no demand. Gore is a drug in the market. Something must be done about this, if it is only for the honor of the nation. A Presidential Campaign without blood shows a shocking decline in political enthusiasm..."
While not a Republican supporter, Keppler was also unimpressed with the Democratic candidate. In the same issue of Puck, warning summer campers not to take delivery of the newspaper, Keppler says it is 'very disagreeable' to be reminded that 'the two men now running for the Presidency of the United States ought to be in the penitentary instead of the White House.' Why do they do it? He refers to former Union Army general, Republican James Garfield, who won that election [only to be assassinated a few months into his term of office] and Winfield Scott Hancock, another former Union Army general, who was nominated by the Democrats, in part for his soft stand on Reconstruction in the South. Between 1866-1868 Hancock did not use the military power at his disposal to enforce civil rights for the freed slaves. The Republicans (at least their Radical wing) were the party that supported Reconstruction; the Democrats were the party of the white South, and Jim Crow.

Right: c. 1888 Opper asks why people do foolish things; his most central concern (why the Republican Party, its hands tied up by 'monopoly interests', allows James G. Blaine to lead it about by the nose) is surrounded by vignettes of lighter human foibles: shoppers who spend more money on transportation to the store than they save at bargain hunting, or the family that leaves its cool home facing Central Park for a hot, mosquito-filled summer in the country.
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