Political Cartoons: An Introduction What is an editorial Political cartoon?



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Political Cartoons: An Introduction
What is an editorial Political cartoon?

  • Newspaper editorial cartoons are graphic expressions of their creator’s ideas and opinions. In addition, the editorial cartoon usually, but not always, reflects the publication’s viewpoint.

  • Editorial cartoons are based on current events. That means that they are produced under restricted time conditions in order to meet publication deadlines (often 5 or 6 per week).

  • Editorial cartoons, like written editorials, have an educational purpose. They are intended to make readers think about current political issues.

  • Editorial cartoons must use a visual and verbal vocabulary that is familiar to readers.

  • Editorial cartoons are part of a business, which means that editors and/or managers may have an impact on what is published.

  • Editorial cartoons are published in a mass medium, such as a newspaper, news magazine, or the Web.

  • Editorial cartoons are tied to the technology that produces them, whether it is a printing press or the Internet. For printed cartoons, their size at the time of publication and their placement (on the front page, editorial page, or as the centerfold) affects their impact on readers. The addition of color may also change how readers respond to them.

  • Editorial cartoons differ from comic strips. Editorial cartoons appear on the newspaper’s editorial or front page, not on the comics page. They usually employ a single-panel format and do not feature continuing characters in the way that comic strips do.

  • Editorial cartoons are sometimes referred to as political cartoons, because they often deal with political issues.

What tools does the editorial cartoonist use to communicate ideas and opinions with readers?

  • Caricatures are drawings of public figures in which certain physical features are exaggerated. Caricatures of Richard M. Nixon often show him as needing to shave.

  • Stereotypes are formulaic images used to represent particular groups. A stereotypical cartoon mother might have messy hair, wear an apron, and hold a screaming baby in her arms.

  • Symbols are pictures that represent something else by tradition. A dove is a symbol for peace.

  • Analogies are comparisons that suggest that one thing is similar to something else. The title of a popular song or film might be used by a cartoonist to comment on a current political event.

  • Humor is the power to evoke laughter or to express what is amusing, comical or absurd.

How can an editorial cartoon be evaluated?

  • A good editorial cartoon combines a clear drawing and good writing.

  • A good editorial cartoon expresses a recognizable point-of-view or opinion.

  • In the best instances, the cartoon cannot be read or understood by only looking at the words or only looking at the picture. Both the words and the pictures must be read together in order to understand the cartoonist’s message.

  • Not all editorial cartoons are meant to be funny. Some of the most effective editorial cartoons are not humorous at all. Humor is only one tool available to editorial cartoonists.

      1. Political Cartoon: Reconstruction



This political cartoon from the period of Reconstruction depicts how Southern society was oppressed by Radical Republican policies. The main congressional action that led to the Southern viewpoint expressed in this cartoon is the military occupation of the former Confedeate states from 1865 to 1877. Thus this cartoon shows that Reconstruction was a burden on the South and was forced on the South by the federal government.




  1. What U.S. President is seated atop the carpet bag?

  2. What do the weapons and soldiers in the cartoon represent?

  3. What is this cartoonist’s view of Reconstruction?




      1. Political Cartoon: Reconstruction



This cartoon from a Southern Democratic newspaper depicts German born Carl Schurz, a liberal Republican U.S. Senator from the State of Missouri who advocated legal equality for African Americans. Schurz is shown as a carpetbagger trudging down a dusty Southern road as a crowd of people watch his arrival.

  1. Is Schurz shown in a positive or negative light? How can you tell?

  2. Why do you think the cartoonist chose to place the crowd of onlookers at such a great distance from Schurz?



      1. Political Cartoon: GILDED AGE and The Industrial Revolution

It says: The Trust Giants Point of View



What a fussy little government
This cartoon was drawn by someone who was obviously very critical of John D. Rockefeller's policies. It was drawn during the height of Rockefeller's power and wealth. The cartoon shows Rockefeller as a giant, completely in control of the Supreme Court, as he is apparently putting bags of money inside the building. The background shows the US Capitol Building with smoke stacks on it, surrounded by a huge field of oil drums. Rockefeller had much government influence, being the richest man in the world at the time. His use of horizontal integration gave him an oil monopoly, which would have given him enough money to make sure his supporters would be elected to powerful offices. The cartoon was obviously designed for people that weren't rich. The poor and middle class Americans who felt the economic strain of Rockefeller's monopoly would get the full effect of the cartoon. The cartoon shows how Rockefeller's business practices are not in the best interest of anyone other than himself. The main idea is that Rockefeller has complete control over the US government. The cartoon would serve to make people who were previously unaware of Rockefeller's practices angry with him, and also affirm the suspicions of those who had questioned him already.


  1. Who is the man pictured in the political cartoon?

  2. List what symbols you see in the political cartoon

  1. Why is he putting bags of money in the Supreme Court Building?

  2. What is the meaning of this Political Cartoon?

  3. How does the artist feel about the person depicted in the political cartoon?



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