"Our National Dog Show"
June 16, 1880

The caricature of public men as different breeds of canine affords plenty of humor in itself: they are all of a similar non-human species, but they have each been endowed with peculiar personal traits by nature of their specific pedigrees. Puck holds his entry while standing next to sturdy reform-oriented mastiffs Grover Cleveland and Seth Low, as the canine contestants pose on the semicircular stand. The middle level of the stand displays the clownish minister Samuel J. Talmadge as a "Toby Dog", philandering Reverend Henry Ward Beecher as a poodle, and Grant's corrupt Navy Secretary George Robeson as, of all things, a "Water Dog". On the upper tier are Carl Schurz, appropriately as a dachshund; Congressman Franklin Edson receives the awful pun of "House-Dog"; Boss Tweed's successor John Kelly is likened to a "Tammany Tarrier" (sic). The lowest part of the stands contains "Hybrid Hayes", a reference to the former president's moderate and decidedly unpartisan politics; Grant's Attorney-General George Hoar is labelled as a "Hoarhound", which puns off a kind of candy-- not to mention whore-hound and all its connotations; finally, Benjamin Butler's verminous nature is represented as a "Tewksbury Ratter". Much of the lower right corner of the cartoon is taken up by contestants "from Stalwart Kennels": Grant begs with a dish in his mouth, while Logan and Cameron proudly point their snouts in the air; Conkling is caricatured as a greyhound, the favorite breed of dog racers and other betting men.

In the right foreground specimens from the "Lap Dog Monopoly Breed" perch on a plush red pillow under the protection of Chester A. Arthur. The implication that robber barons Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt live the lives of pampered house pets is a dig at the extravagant lifestyle of these ruthless businessmen. Although the Mugwumps were a relatively wealthy group of people they despised these kind of financial and industrial giants, for they neither had the education nor the breeding requisite for the high social position their wealth enabled them to occupy. In addition, the monopolistic practices of the robber barons ran contrary to the Mugwumps' lassiez-faire economic philosophy, which preferred as much competition as possible to keep the market energetic and healthy.

Besides these individual barbs, the upper right side of the cartoon satirizes the system of partisan journalism which marked Gilded Age newspapers. The editors of various party organs are accurately caricatured as rolled-up copies of their own publications; almost every successful publication in New York is included in this group, such as Whitelaw Reid of the Tribune, Charles A. Dana of the Sun, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., of the Herald, and George W. Curtis of Harper's Weekly. Their appearance in this scene, whose overall motif is one of voting for the best contestant (whether a dog or a political candidate), is a testament to their role in conveying opinions to the public and therefore exercising great influence over the popular decision-making process. However, the true humor from this part of the image lies in the fact that the entrants they scrutinize are Democratic Party losers from the two previous presidential elections, Samuel J. Tilden and Winfield Hancock Scott. In this context the editors, despite their position as shapers of public opinion, are seen as being hopelessly behind the times. Keppler exercises his independence from dual perspectives by making fun of all the prominent figure in contemporary public affairs, regardless of party affiliation; this stance mirrors the freedom that Mugwumps highlighted in their patronage of objective intellectual journals and third-party politics.

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Introduction | A Brief History of Cartoons | Mainstream & Elite Political Culture | A Popular Medium
"Our National Dog Show" | The Campaign Against Grant | Caricature and the Carte-de-Viste | "Inspecting the Democratic Curiosity Shop"
End Notes | Cartoon Archive | Bibliography