Political cartoons are ever-present in our world today. It would be difficult to find a daily or weekly publication today without at least one. And they have been around for a long time–perhaps longer than you might think.
There was the occasional political cartoon in 18th century magazines, only a few of which are American-themed, and fewer still can be found as most have been removed years ago. Although we have had a few in years past, we recently purchased not only a very nice one, but one from a title difficult to find in today’s world of collecting.
The November, 1776 issue of “The London Magazine: Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer”, not to be confused with the more common “Gentleman’s Magazine”. A full page plate in the issue has a very political cartoon themed on the Revolutionary War, captioned: “News From America, or the Patriots in the Dumps.” and shows Lord North standing on a platform holding a letter announcing successful campaigns by the British troops in America. A distraught woman, ‘America’, holding a liberty cap, sits at the base of the platform. Others present react to the news. There are several websites concerning this political cartoon, one of which can be seen here.
Finding reports in centuries-old newspapers which read like they came from today’s papers are always fascinating. They provide interesting evidence that life today, in many ways, is not necessarily so much different from years ago.
A report in the October 12, 1776 issue of “The Pennsylvania Ledger” newspaper (see below) of Philadelphia contains a very interesting piece which accuses the manipulation of news, reading: “It is astonishing to see daily the insults offered by the Tories…since the news of the skirmish on Long Island; on the first report…congratulate each other…They have the effrontery to assert that it is much worse than reported, that it’s so bad that the Sons of Liberty are afraid to let it be known least the people should be discouraged. Is not this intolerable?…they propagate every intelligence they receive, taking care to calculate it so as to serve their own turn; its beyond a matter of doubt that they keep up a secret correspondence through the colonies in order to comfort one another to keep up their sinking spirits and to propagate falsehoods…” (see).
In light of on-going accusations by political parties today that news reports are manipulated to serve their own interests, it is fascinating to find the same happened during the Revolutionary War so many years ago.
One of the joys of reading newspapers of a bygone era is the opportunity to put yourself in a very special moment in history. One fine example is the report in the August 22, 1776 issue of “The Continental Journal” from Boston, which notes that: “…immediately after divine worship, the Declaration of Independence was read by Col. St. Clair, and having said, ‘God save the free independent States of America!’ the army manifested their joy with three cheers. It was remarkably pleasing to see the spirit of the soldiers so raised after all their calamities, the language of every man’s countenance was, now we are a people! we have a name among the states of this world.“
Such editorial commentary brings the excitement of the period to life. This is truly the way to enjoy history–what a wonderful hobby!
On this (American) day of thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reflect on such a day from the past through the eyes of those who were embarking on what may have been the most historic event in U.S. history – July 4, 1776. A special thanks is in order for our friends in Scotland who captured this significant moment on the pages of the Edinburgh Evening Courant, dated September 2, 1776. Please enjoy:
Magazines published in 18th century America were relative few & far between when compared with newspapers of the same era. From the first magazine in 1741 through the Revolutionary War only 18 magazine titles were published, most lasting but a few issues. During the Revolutionary War only one magazine was in print, and it only lasted from January, 1775 through July, 1776, this last issue containing the Declaration of Independence.
Magazines have always been of interest to me since almost all titles carried various news of the day, typically within the back several pages, much like the British “Gentleman’s Magazine” had done since 1731. Some American magazines contained plates as well, but finding issues with the plates still intact can be extremely difficult and frustrating. The more noteworthy the plate, the less likely it will be present, typically removed by some previous owner many years ago. So when issues come on the market with significant plates still bound within the issue, it’s a moment of much excitement.
Here is one from our private collection, The Columbian Magazine from Philadelphia dated January, 1787, which contains a full page plate of “General Washington”, in addition to a foldout plate of the “Meteorological Observations” for the month of December, 1786. We are pleased to share these photos with our fellow collectors, and wish all of you the great luck in finding your own American magazine with notable prints!