The Day We Celebrate

March 20th, 2009

This is a political cartoon by Thomas Nast that was published in an 1867 edition of Harper’s Weekly magazine. The carton depicts a violent brawl between what are supposed to be Irishmen and police officers. Nast drew the Irish people as monkey-like to express his opinion that the Irish were like animals. It also shows that the Irish are the ones committing most of the violence against the helpless police officers. The drawing is supposed to be taking place on St. Patrick’s Day 1867, as it says at the top. On the bottom it reads, “THE DAY WE CELEBRATE” as well as the words “RUM” and “BLOOD”. By the looks on their faces and their body language, the Irish look vicious and ruthless, while the police officers, especially the ones being trampled, look helpless. They are obviously supposed to be drunk, because that was, and still is, a major stereotype of the Irish.

Nast was an influential political cartoonist who often showed his blatant prejudice for the Irish immigrant community. His work with the popular Harper’s Weekly got his opinions out to many American readers. It is possible that this cartoon, among others, helped to spread Irish prejudice among the public. 


March 20th, 2009

“This Card Photograph should be multiplied by 100,000, and scattered over the States. It tells the story in a way that even Mrs. [Harriet Beecher] Stowe [author of the 1852 book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin] can not approach, because it tells the story to the eye,” according to a writer for the New York Independent.

The photograph shows the brutal and permanent scars of slavery.  Runaway slave Gordon’s exposed back is photographed, revealing horrific welts from physical abuse.  Photographers, William D. McPherson and his partner Mr. Oliver from the Mathew Brady studio capture this powerful image in 1863.

Months after the vicious attack, Gordon escaped.   Ten days and eighty miles later, he arrived at the Union Camp in Baton Rouge and enlisted in the Army.  During his medical examination, the doctors saw the scarring.  The photographers were at the camp and took the photos to brand a visual image in viewers’ minds, as the violence of slavery had branded Private Gordon. 

This photograph took on a life of its own, being mass-produced and circulated widely throughout America and in London.  This photograph along with two others turned Private Gordon into an African American icon of bravery and patriotism.  Further, his story encouraged others to follow his brave example and enlist in the Union Army.  The photograph is currently stored in the National Portrait Gallery.

This photograph was taken in the William Notman Studios in Montreal, Quebec during Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, in August 1885. D.F. Barry later copyrighted it in June 1897. In the collection of D.F. Barry most of pictures are of Sitting Bull and his family. The photograph is located in the Library of Congress Prints and photographs division in Washington D.C.

To the right of the photograph is William Frederick Cody better known as Buffalo Bill. The picture was taken during the tour of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He is dressed in full cowboy regalia. He appears to be looking of into the distance.

On the right is Sitting Bull of the Lakota. He is dressed in full Lakota garb. This picture was taken during his four-month stint on Buffalo Bill’s show. During which he was paid 50 dollars a week to ride around the arena, and any money he received from autographs. He supposedly made a considerable amount of money charging for autographs.

This picture represents a stereotypical view of cowboys and Indians that has become so much a part of American culture. Mainly in the dress of both the cowboys and Indians which has been represented in plays and films ever since.

There is a lot of irony within the picture itself. Buffalo Bill made famous as a bison hunter, which lead to the destruction of the Lakota food source. Also it was portraying this great war chief as a part of circus like show. There are varying reports on why he did the show. Some say he cursed the people in audience in his native tongue. Other reports say he used this to encourage relations between whites and native Americans.

This photograph the beginning of the archetype of cowboys and Indians in the united states.

Lacrosse, an Indian Game

March 19th, 2009

George Catlin went West to paint what he thought were an endangered people, and rescue their primitive ways and looks from destruction. Pictured here in this Catlin painting is the image of 3 Native American Lacrosse players. Lacrosse was a Native American stick and ball game that was a team sport for males to play, it was first discovered, or come into contact with, by European explorers in the 1600’s. According to the National Lacrosse Museum suggests that there were many different forms of the game played by many different native groups. The primitive ball game now associated with Lacrosse, originated in the eastern part of America and the Great Lakes region, it was essential in keeping the Iroquois nations together, from what I have found, it is unclear as to whether or not the Plains Indians of the western territories were taught the game or if it was their own, similar, sport.

The image is important to race because it portrays a racially charged topic in Catlin’s work and portrays a sport that was primarily played and implemented in native American culture. Catlin’s trips out west, as chronicled in Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of North American Indians Volume 2. There were 2 volumes of his studies, the 2nd of which details the Plains Indians and their culture. His study was published in 1841.

Ball Players, the above painting, does not have a date given as to when it was painted, but given Catlin’ dates, he was born in 1796 and died in 1872, it was clearly painted in the 19th century on one of his trips out west to chronicle the Indian way of life and put together an Indian Gallery in an effort to protect the Indian way of life. Given this knowledge of what Catlin was attempting to do it is clear what the significance of this painting is to people of the 19th century and beyond, as with all of Catlin’s work, it embodied the spirit of the Native people of America and showed them in a whole new light and made an effort to portray them in a more positive, noble way. The significance of this image in particular is that it shows Lacrosse, a native sport, that gives another element to the people. Lacrosse was something that was truly theirs, and it could not be taken away from them, sure the white man adopted the sport as its own, and since it has become a very white sport, dominated by white players throughout it’s levels, but in its original form, it was a pure expression of native passion and athleticism. According to the Smithsonian Art Museum where it is housed, it is a hand-colored piece on lithograph paper, as far as I know the image is a photo or scanned copy of the original. Pictured below is an original lacrosse stick and a modern lacrosse stick to illustrate how far the once Native American only game has come.


The Sweet Sunny South

March 19th, 2009





Take me back to the place where I first saw the light
To the sweet sunny south take me home
Where the mockingbirds sing me to rest every night
Oh, why was I tempted to roam?

I think with regret of the dear home I left
Of the warm hearts that sheltered me there
Of wife and of dear ones of whom I’m bereft
For the old place again do I sigh

Take me back to the place where the orange trees grow
To my plot in the evergreen shade
Where the flowers from the river’s green margins did grow 
And spread their sweet scent through the glade

Oh the path to our cottage they say has grown green 
And the place is quite lonely around
I know that the smiles and the forms I have seen
Now lie in the dark mossy ground

Take me back, let me see what is left that I knew
Can it be that the old house is gone?
Dear friends of my childhood indeed must be few
And I must face death all alone

But yet I’ll return to the place of my birth
Where the children have played round the door
Where they gathered wild blossoms that grow round the path
They’ll echo our footsteps no more

Take me back to the place where my little ones sleep
Poor Massa lies buried close by
By the graves of my loved ones, I long for to weep
And among them to rest when I die

Take me back to the place where I first saw the light
To the sweet sunny south take me home
Where the mockingbirds sing me to rest every night
Oh, why was I tempted to roam?

            This song is titled “The Sweet Sunny South”.  This song dates back to sometime in the 19th century.  There is no evidence of exactly where or when this song was first played.  According to Chalres Wolfe some sheet music indicates that it could have been written in the  1840’s (Wolfe 24).  If that is the case, there is a good chance is was written for a minstrel show, which was very popular at that time.  It is mostly thought of as a traditional song though there are different early copyrights on it.  John C. Schreiner and Raymond are two names that have copyright claims (Wolfe 24).

According to Paul Cohen this song is sung from the viewpoint of a slave, though that is not apparent from the lyrics (Cohen 7).  When looking at the lyrics from the viewpoint of a slave, this song is very similar to may other minstrel songs at the time, which would justify slavery by portraying slaves who were happy with their situation. 

            During the folk revival of the 1950’s and 1960’s this song began to regain it’s popularity.  The lyrics were interpreted as a song about Southern pride despite the few lines that mention death.  This  version of the song The Sweet Sunny South was sung by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman in 1991. 


Works Cited

Cohen, Paul. “Shady Grove”  San Rafael: Acoustic Disc, 1996


Wolfe, Charles.  ”Masters Of Old-Time Country Autoharp” Washington: Smithsonian Folkways, 2006


Crazy Horse

March 19th, 2009

  This photoprint is of an illustration from Frank Leslie’s Newspaper, October 12, 1877.  It is a depiction of Chief Crazy Horse’s funeral procession passing through camp Sheridan on the way to the grave on September 5, 1877. He had been stabbed by one of  the reservation officers when he resisted arrest; his hands were bound behind his back. In an excerpt from “American Indian Biographies” it is  reported that Crazy Horse’s parents alone took his body into the hills and buried him in a place only known to them.  However, other accounts claim that he is buried near Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  This print shows an extensive funeral procession and seems to be made up of women. However, the Library of Congress website describes the figures in the print as both men and women. 

Crazy Horse was an Native American icon.  His charismatic leadership yielded him many followers.  He refused to sign treaties and remained on his land to protect it even after other tribes had relocated on reservations or fled to Canada.  He eventually surrendered to General Crook in Nebraska and went to live at the Red Cloud Agency.  Rumors that he was going to escape forced his arrest and subsequent death.

Leslie has chosen to depict the funeral of Crazy Horse with messianic overtones.  Though it may have been the custom, his body is wrapped and the presence of female characters surrounding the body resembles the crucifixion of Christ leading up to the events at the tomb. Over time, it has been revealed that Native American spirituality has been strongly influenced by Christianity.

Frank Leslie was born Henry Carter in Ispwich, England. He was an illustrator and moved to the U. S. in 1848.  He is famous for his illustrations of the Civil War as well as several Native American prints.  On the back of this print “Indians-Dakota Biography-Crazy Horse Funeral” is written. Repository: Western History/Genealogy Depart, Denver Public Library, 10 W. 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, CO 80204


 Library of Congress. “Indians-Dakota-Biography-Crazy Horse Funeral.” (accessed March 17, 2009).

Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Vol. 3. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1997.

Markowitz, Harvey, and Barrett Carole, eds. American Indian Biographies. Pasadena: Salem Press, 2005.

Frank Leslie Civil War Illustrations. (accessed March 15, 2009).

Racist Cartoon

March 19th, 2009

Racist Picture, 1899

Racist Picture, 1899

The image displayed was created by the United States Printing Company in 1899. The picture portrays a stereotypical view of an African American. The African American’s physical characteristics are modeled after an ape, with dark furry skin and excessively large lips. His facial features show confusion on how to play the trombone while the white man is trying to correct the African American. The African American is also being portrayed as a careless and clumsy person because he is stepping on the violin. The white man also seems to be trying to calm down the African American and keep him under control. The painting also gives the interpretation that African Americans do not know how to dress; the white man is in a nice tuxedo while the African American is in scruffy non-matching clothes. All of these are stereotypes society tried to apply to African Americans in an attempt to prevent them from becoming socially acceptable in our culture.

After the Civil War, many cartoon pictures were created such as the one displayed to ridicule the freed African Americans. Society still did not except African Americans despite the abolishment of slavery. These humiliating images were displayed in widespread newspapers, magazines, and posters.

The Sons of the South currently houses the racist image. The company’s website provides historic resources about slavery before and after the Civil War. The image is under the section called “African American Art” on the web page. The painting is oil on canvas.

Link Source


March 19th, 2009



This is a political cartoon from “The Mascot” newspaper published on September 7, 1888 in New Orleans. Through out the 19th century many Americans were angry at the influx of immigrants coming over from Southern and Eastern Europe.

            The Italian immigrants were discriminated against in both the north and south. Often working in northern sweatshops for little pay or on southern farms doing the hard work of former slaves. There were also discriminated against because of their skin color. Coming from Southern Europe most Italians had darker skin colors and we often treated no better the freed slaves, and frequent victims of lynching.

            The above cartoon is an example of the discrimination the Italians faced in America. The top part of the cartoon shows how Americas feel about the Italians, crowding the streets and apartments, and starting fights. This stereotype has often been encouraged, even today, as Italians being violent people and participating in organized crime. The bottom of the cartoon gives ways to get rid of the perceived problem of Italian immigrants, either “dispose” of them or arrest them.

           During this time the Italians faced a large amount of discrimination in New Orleans, especially by the Irish immigrants already living there. In 1890 the many people in New Orleans blamed the Italians for the murder of David Hennessey. Hundreds of Italians were arrested and even though they were eventually released, eleven Italians were lynched by a mob. 



Today this cartoon can be found in the New Orleans Public Library.

What Will He Do?!

March 19th, 2009

This 1898 political cartoon from the Minneapolis Tribune (author unknown) depicts President McKinley with a “savage child,” labeled as The Philippines. McKinley is trying to decide whether to keep the child or give it back to Spain, which the cartoon indicates is akin to throwing it off a cliff. An anthropomorphized world looks on, indignantly.

The little savage child representing The Philippines depicts the typical image many Americans had for groups deemed to be racially inferior. The author made the native a child, referencing the child-like tendencies those classified as inferior were supposed to possess. It also is a nod to the United State’s attitude at the time towards countries they were annexing: that these countries (such as Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico etc) needed to be taught how to be civilized.

The end of the nineteenth century signaled the beginning of the United State’s imperialism. In the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the United States received the Philippines from Spain. The above cartoon is a question many Americans had as to what the government would do with the nation: Take it under its wing and bestow up them the gifts of civilization and democracy or throw them into the bottomless Catholic pit of Spain? This is where the man-earth figure in the image comes into play. The Minneapolis Tribune’s cartoonist uses this figure with his inquiring look to indicate that the correct action would be to save the savage child from the ‘Pit’ of Spain. This reflects the feelings at the time of animosity towards Spain due to the Spanish-American War and Catholicism.  Obviously, giving The Philippines independence was not an option for either the cartoonist or the American government. When it became obvious that the U.S. wasn’t going to give the native Filipinos their own government, revolt broke out. [source]

Though hotly debated, the Philippines was finally given independence through the Hare-Hawes Cutting act in 1945, of course not before the country had been physically and economically devastated by World War II. [source]


Future President Taft was Governor-General of the Philippines. Here he is on a water buffalo: 

This object is a painting of an Osage scalping. It was painted by John Mix Stanley in 1846 and was titled “An Osage Scalp Dance”. In the painting Osage natives surround a white woman and child. The Osage are dressed elaborately, carry weapons, and many wear full body paint. The white woman holds her hand out in supplication while the baby clings to her. The sky behind the figures is dark and stormy. This painting was a part of Stanley’s American Indian exhibit displayed in Cincinnati Ohio in 1846. It was noted as entry number 80 and in the exhibition catalog it was accompanied by this note:

All Tribes of Wild Indians, scalp their captives, save the women and children, who are treated as slaves, until ransomed by the United States Government. On returning from the scene of strife, they celebrate their victories by a scalp dance. The Chiefs and Warriors, after having painted themselves, each after his own fancy, to give himself the most hideous appearance, encircle their captives, who are all placed together. Thus stationed, at a tap on their drums, they commence throwing themselves into attitudes, such as each one’s imagination suggests as the most savage, accompanied by yells for the purpose of striking terror into the hearts of their captives. This picture represents the scalp dance of the Osages, around a woman and her child; and a warrior in the act of striking her with his club; his chief springing forward and arresting the blow with his spear.

According to the Smithsonian’s website, the chief that is stopping the scalping is wearing a Presidential Peace Medal. These medals were given out by American explorers into the west on behalf of the President. The use of these medals in American art was very popular during the 1850’s and 1860’s. By painting the chief adorned with the Peace Medal stop the slaughter of the captives, Stanley was showing the beneficial, peaceful influence of the United States on the savage Native Americans.

This painting would have fed directly into American fears of Native Americans. The group of strong, war-like natives surrounding the helpless woman and child would provoke a visceral response in white Americans in the 19th century. Continuing into today, a scalping is something we stereotypically associate with “savages”. By calling his painting “An Osage Scalp Dance,” Stanley went straight to the heart of that fear, combining the “exoticness” of Native dances and the violent image of scalping.

The painting acts as a visual captivity narrative. Captivity narratives were popular in American throughout the 17th through 19th centuries. The narratives began Puritan documents about kidnapped settlers who were saved by their faith. As time went on, the stories became thrillers more concerned with scaring audiences than influencing their souls. Stanley’s painting is more like the latter, as the opening sentence of the exhibit’s catalog shows; however, the painting also preaches the good influence of American expansionism into the western United States.

The painting was made by John Mix Stanley, an American painter known for his landscapes and Native American pictures. The picture is an oil painting on canvas. It can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, under the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington D.C.

[For more information on captivity narratives, see “The Significances of the Captivity Narrative” by Roy Harvey Pearce (American Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Mar., 1947)).

For more information of Indian Peace Medals, see “Strategies of Appropriating the West: The Evidence of Indian Peace Medals” by Klaus Lubbers (American Art, Vol. 8, No. 3/4 (Summer – Autumn, 1994)).]