Abraham Lincoln


No event in the history of the United States has resonated more in the hearts and minds of the American people than the nation's Civil War. A central figure in that conflict was Abraham Lincoln. His rise to the presidency and term in office, his insistence on maintaining the union at all costs, and his remarkable physical appearance drew much ink from the pens of caricaturists. The images in the Election of 1860, Election of 1864, and Civil War galleries are devoted to Lincoln as candidate, president, and commander in chief as portrayed by both northern and southern artists in print and in pencil sketches.

About the Abraham Lincoln cartoonists:

Advancements in the technology of lithography reduced printing costs and promoted the dissemination of political cartoons in newspapers, periodicals, and as individual prints for private purchase. Firms such as Rickey, Mallory and Company in Cincinnati and M. W. Siebart and T. W. Strong in New York supplemented their book trade by employing artists and publishing caricatures. Currier & Ives, the most famous of the nineteenth century New York lithographers, began producing political cartoons during the Mexican War (1845-1848); however, it was not until the presidential election of 1856 that the company began publishing political caricatures in earnest.

Joseph E. Baker (fl. 1860-1867), a lithographer and pencil portrait maker, and Benjamin H. Day, Jr. (1838-1916), an illustrator and the son of the publisher Benjamin H. Day, both had drawings reproduced by Currier & Ives.

Adelbert John Volck (1828-1912) came to the United States from Germany in 1848 and eventually settled in Baltimore where he practiced dentistry. Volck was also a painter and possessed a flair for caricature. Signing his work V. Blada, Volck is known as the only Confederate cartoonist whose influence was on par with Thomas Nast. His Confederate War Etchings and Sketches from the Civil War in North America are stinging satirical depictions of northern hypocrisy.

Thomas Nast, his Union counterpart (1840-1902), was also of German birth and emigrated to the United States in 1846. As an artist he worked for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, the New York Illustrated News, and Harper's Weekly. It was Nast who drew Santa Claus as the jolly, rotund figure of today and who created the Republican elephant. And it was Nast, who moulded northern public opinion in regard to Lincoln and the Civil War.

David Hunter Strother (1812-1888) began his career as a illustrator of books and magazines. Employed by Harper's Weekly in 1853 he wrote and illustrated a series of articles under the pseudonym of Porte Crayon. Included in these were several pieces on southern living. Strother served in the Union army and achieved the rank of brevetted brigadier general. After the war he continued his work for Harper's Weekly. His pencil sketch of Lincoln depicted as a monkey issuing the Emancipation Proclamation is a searing comment on the expansion of the goals of the Union's war effort.