This paper analyzes political cartoons from Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler from the late 1860s through the mid-1880s. It argues that through use of effective symbolism and memorable illustrations, these cartoonists created and popularized caricatures of politicians, laborers, Irish Catholics, African Americans, and women that validated stereotypical views of the late nineteenth century and influenced later historical interpretations of the era. Analyzing the Nast and Keppler cartoons as significant historical resources rather than as interesting illustrations for historical monographs reveals the layers of literacy, social and political thought present in the drawings that the readers of the day would have readily understood. Caricatures deeply grounded in English and German literature as well as the most offensive stereotypes demonstrate the complexity of 19th century American views in a nation emerging from civil war and entering modernity. An analysis of more than a thousand cartoons within the cultural, and literary contexts in which they were produced suggests the need for greater attention to these underutilized data sources. The 19th century political cartoons should be viewed as a shaping factor when studying popular images of people in the late 19th century, their memorable depictions of contentious political and social issues, and their role in the struggle for rights and status in a rapidly changing country. This study uses increased critical analysis of political cartoons which allows them to become a more central source in supporting historical hypotheses.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Dorsch, Timothy, "Deeper Impressions of Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler: Analyzing the Role of Political Cartoons in the Development and Perceptions of Late Nineteenth Century Group Images" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 347.