Skewered: The Art of the American Political Cartoon

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Newspapers have always played an important role in the American democratic experiment; providing a forum for discourse, informing the public, and holding the powerful to account. But some of the most incisive works in American journalism weren’t written at all—they were drawn!

For students and educators, political cartoons offer an exciting visual lens on different chapters in American history, from the early days of colonial protest to the political controversies and foibles of the modern day. Whether they’re used as interest catchers to begin a lesson or primary sources for in-depth analysis, political cartoons are sure to inspire and provoke your students—just as they inspired and provoked generations of American readers.

Help students discover the powerful influence of political cartoons with these iconic samples from various eras in American history!

“Unite or Die” political cartoon (1754)

This early political cartoon, published during the tension prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, called for the colonies to unite against the British.

The Big Type War of the Yellow Kids political cartoon (1898)

This cartoon depicts New York World owner Joseph Pulitzer and New York Journal owner William Randolph Hearst using the Spanish-American War to increase the circulation of their newspapers.

John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil political cartoon (1900)

This political cartoon’s portrayal of John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil monopoly criticizes the wealth and power of Rockefeller and his company.

And the Waters Were Divided political cartoon (1912)

This cartoon satirizes the 1912 presidential election, in which former president Theodore Roosevelt split from the Republican Party and ran against Republican nominee William Howard Taft on the Progressive Party ticket, splitting the Republican vote.

These resources are part of ABC-CLIO’s American History database, a survey of American History from the colonial era through the modern day. Click here to activate your free preview of this database and gain access to thousands of primary sources, biographies of famous political, military, and cultural figures, student activities for historical investigation, and more than 360 Course Essential Video modules!