Keeping you current

The Illustrator of Alice in Wonderland Also Drew Abraham Lincoln. A Lot

John Tenniel was a well-known editorial cartoonist as well as the man who gave Lewis Carroll’s books their visual charm

Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were often portrayed together. Here, Davis is drawn as a Confederate general. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
smithsonian.com

The White Rabbit and Alice aren’t the only people illustrator John Tenniel put a face to.

Anyone who has read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass knows Tenniel’s work. Less well-remembered today are his political cartoons, mostly created during his lengthy tenure as the chief political cartoonist for a well-known British weekly, Punch.

Though Punch was published across the pond, Tenniel, born on this day in 1820, on occasion drew American politicians as well as Queen Victoria and "The Spectre of Neglect." And given that his time at the magazine (1850-1901) encompassed the Civil War, he certainly had some things to draw.  

Tenniel produced over 50 cartoons satirizing and examining the Civil War between December 1860 and May 1865. They illustrate “British perceptions of the war, slavery and the American political and social scene,” according to a text from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, which owns a large collection of the illustrations. “They also offer examples of period dress and popular illustration, showcasing Tenniel’s fine draughtmanship and keen satiric eye.”

These images offer an opportunity to see the extremely American conflict from an international perspective, writes Russell Smith for The Globe and Mail. Among other things, he writes, to the mighty seat of the British Empire the war was seen as “an embarrassing conflict among hicks.” The British also supported the South, according to the Minnesota College of Art and Design’s library blog. Allan Kohl, an MCAD librarian, was responsible for bringing a collection of the cartoons together after studying them, and among the other things this study revealed was an overwhelming dislike of Abraham Lincoln. Take a look at the gallery below and see how Lincoln’s portrayal changed as the war went on:

Early in the war, Lincoln was portrayed as raggedy and incompetent. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were often portrayed together. Here, Davis is drawn as a Confederate general. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
Lincoln’s relationship with the press was also a theme in the cartoons. Here he serves up a cocktail of “Bunkum,” “Bosh” and “Brag.” (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
Here Tenniel satirizes Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with Tsar Alexander II of Russia. In September 1863 Russia sent warships to help the Union cause. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
From the National Portrait Gallery: “This cartoon, satirizing President Lincoln’s initial failed efforts to defeat the Confederacy and win the war, suggested that the interests of the North would be better off in someone else’s hands.” Lincoln won a second term in 1864 despite this kind of rhetoric. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
This cartoon appeared only a few days before the 1864 presidential election. The ropes that bind them are labeled “DEBTS.” (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
Lincoln, here a phoenix, soars into his second term. Tenniel’s satire shows logs labeled “COMMERCE,” “UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION,” “FREE PRESS,” CREDIT,” “HABEAS CORPUS” and “STATE RIGHTS” going up in flames under him. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
After satirizing Lincoln in dozens of cartoons, Tenniel eulogized him in this one which appeared in “Punch” after the president’s April 15, 1865 assassination. (John Tenniel. Courtesy Allan T. Kohl/Minneapolis College of Art and Design)
About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance journalist based in Toronto who focuses on technology, culture and ethics. She recently graduated from the master’s program in journalism at Ryerson University, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

Read more from this author |
Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus