Political cartoons have been around for hundreds of years and are still around to this very day. While their popularity ebbs and flows with each generation, during the Victorian Era of comics political cartoons were the norm. While most of us can enjoy these one-panel wonders in museums or online, sometimes the opportunity arises where you can own a piece of cartoon history. On October 15 – 16, collectors will have a chance to bid on hard-to-acquire political artifacts, collectibles, and cartoons. These cartoons provide a unique look into history, and how the political landscape has changed but also stayed the same.
This 1839 cartoon by Whig Party member Henry R. Robinson depicts Democrat President Andrew Jackson lording over bankers. Robinson used this satirical cartoon to criticize Jackson’s fight against the Bank of the United States, and how he used his status to help smaller banks. Jackson is depicted sitting on top of a “Surplus Fund”, which likely represents money, as bankers beg at his feet. A reporter observing the scene is the gentleman in the back holding the “Courier & Enquirer” “Spy in Washington” paper.
Heritage notes this cartoon as being in overall good condition, but there is minor foxing throughout the paper. There is also minimal loss at the top edge center. Finding an appropriate price point for something like this can be difficult. Similar cartoons from the period have sold for over $10,000.
In 1864, publisher M.W. Siebert published this cartoon depicting Republican President Abraham Lincoln and his Democratic opponent George B. McClellan during the 1894 election. This side-by-side comparison shows Lincoln shaking hands with a “workman”, as black and white children are exiting a schoolhouse behind them. On the other side is McClellan shaking hands with Jefferson Davis, as a slave auction goes on behind them. This cartoon doesn’t mince words and is very clear with its message.
Heritage notes this cartoon as being in overall good condition with some wear and tear. Other Lincoln cartoons from the era have sold for between $5,000 – $7,000, so expect to pay within that range. This was released during his re-election campaign, so this does have the possibility of going higher.
Since the early 1800s, the cartoon personification of Uncle Sam has been a marketable American icon. He’s been depicted in countless cartoons, call-to-action posters, toys, and even horror movies. In this cartoon, Uncle Sam is sick as he holds a paper with a list of failures. Beside him are an American Bald Eagle, Andrew Jackson dressed as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Hart Benton, and Martin Van Buren dressed as “Aunty Matty”.
This satirical cartoon from 1837 is commenting on Jackson and Van Burren’s banking policies. The Library of Congress says this cartoon was most likely published after the collapse of the cotton market. This cartoon seems to go hand in hand with the “Seventh Ward Beggars” cartoon.
While Heritage doesn’t note the condition of this cartoon, they do mention that it has adhered to a thick paper board and that the cartoon’s image is still bold. This cartoon will likely fetch a few thousand dollars but could go for more due to the depiction of the politicians and Uncle Sam.