Friday, July 02, 2021

Two Videos: Stephen Hess on "The Ungentlemanly Art" and "American Political Cartoons 1754-2010"

Iowa State University is digitizing its audio library, and this lecture by Stephen Hess has popped up. Hess is the co-author of The Ungentlemanly Art, a book first published in 1968 about the history of American political cartoons. The book has been revised a couple of times since then, and there are a number of new editions. The date for this Iowa State talk does not appear on the YouTube page, but it could be any time since then. I am hoping, since this was just recently posted by the Iowa State University Lecture Series Archive, that the missing information will be added soon.

Although it's audio only (The original lecture is on "reel to reel quarter inch" tape -- another reason to think it's probably an older lecture.), Hess does a good job here of describing the slides (yes, SLIDES) of the cartoons from The Ungentlemanly Art and, generally, squeezing in the history of political cartoons into about a half-hour.

From the dust jacket:

"'Stop them damn pictures,' demanded William Marcy Tweed of his henchmen. 'I don't care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can't read. But, damn it, they can see pictures!' Since Boss Tweed's outburst, inspired by a cartoon in an 1871 issue of Harper's Weekly, political cartoonists have fearlessly continued to expose corruption and elicit wry laughter. The Ungentlemanly Art presents for the first time the fascinating history of American political cartoons from 1747, when a Philadelphia printer named Benjamin Franklin drew the first American political cartoon, right up to the work of such contemporary masters as Herblock and Mauldin. This lively and entertaining book reveals how Paul Revere's cartoons 'borrowed' freely from other artists and how Currier & Ives often produced election lithographs for both sides. Included are the famous War of 1812 cartoons by William Charles, who a latter-day cartoonist felt 'had not the least notion of what we call decency.' Illustrated with a selection of Thomas Nast's most powerful drawings, the book recounts the career of the man Lincoln called his 'best recruiting sergeant.' Nast invented the Republican Elephant and the Tammany Tiger: here are the stories behind these popular symbols, as well as John Q. Public, Uncle Sam, and the Democratic Donkey. The Ungentlemanly Art not only chronicles the careers of the statesmen, soldiers, and politicians who provided the cartoonists with cause for merriment or disdain,-but also gives a highly knowledgeable picture of the mass media through which the cartoonists have reached their audiences--the early broadsides; the nineteenth-century humor magazines, such as Judge, Life, and Joseph Keppler's Puck; and the rise of the newspaper cartoons during the era of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. 'Caricatures,' Emerson said, 'are often the truest history of the times.' And through the over 300 brilliant cartoons that Stephen Hess and Milton Kaplan have chosen to illustrate this book, we see the political fads and foibles of the American past come alive before our eyes. In these pages we see how other generations of Americans viewed Prohibition and Woman's Suffrage, Theodore Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan, the First World War and the Civil War. 'Americans not only have had the capacity to poke fun at their politics and their politicians, but they have often done it exceedingly well.' Considering such cartoonists as Jules Feiffer, David Levine, Patrick Oliphant of the Denver Post, and Paul Conrad of the Los Angeles Times, the book provides abundant evidence that the state of the art in the United States today is very healthy indeed."




By way of wanting to give you more visuals, here is Stephen Hess and Sandy Northrop talking at a  2011 Library of Congress event about their new book American Political Cartoons 1754-2010. This books supersedes the older Ungentlemanly Art.

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