Home > 1896 Campaign, 1896-1928 Campaigns > 1896–Anti-Semitic Cartoon–Dennis O’Neill

1896–Anti-Semitic Cartoon–Dennis O’Neill

The election of 1896 was heavily based around the currency situation in the United States.  For some people, mainly Democrats and Populists, free silver was the obvious choice.  For the republicans, the appropriate choice was abiding by the gold standard.  This issue alone is a primary staple of the election of 1896’s legacy. 

This political cartoon would be entirely too controversial and inappropriate to be printed in any newspaper today.  This is a fantastic example of how the times have changed and how the ideals of the American people have changed; a lot less propaganda and rhetoric is tolerated in today’s society.  This cartoon is titled “History Repeats Itself.”  The anti-Semitic undertones of this cartoon are unpleasant and offensive, but regardless of the offensive content it certainly gets the message across.  If something with this type of content was printed today it would gain an existentially larger amount of publicity because of the shock value alone, but it would not be as effective due to its offensiveness. 

Social prejudice was much more widely accepted in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.  In the late nineteenth century, Anti-Semitism was actually a plausible variation of social prejudice, if there even is such a thing.  Anti-Semitism was especially prominent in the western societies, and had been for years.  The political party that exercised their distaste for the Jewish people the most was the Populists.  The Populists placed blame on the Jewish people for many of the hardships that their people have faced, such as farmers who are in a serious amount of debt.  These farmers helped induce the growth and stability of the Populist Party.  It is especially disgusting to consider the attitudes of these western Populists, because their exposure to people of the Israeli culture was limited.  This means that the majority of these harsh judgments made by the Populist Party were based on stereotypes alone. 

In the top left corner of the cartoon there is an image of a man hanging himself and a caption that says: “What Judas ought to do.”  Also, above the cross that Uncle Sam is being crucified upon there is a sign that reads: “This is U.S. in the hands of the Jews.”  Both of these anti-Semitic visuals on the cartoon are awful to consider, but during the late nineteenth century they spread the message of the Populist Party effectively.  The title alone sends a strong message about how the Jewish people ought to be seen.  “History repeats itself” this image and idea draws many parallels to Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech.  This cartoon is once again comparing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to what the Jewish people in America are doing to Uncle Sam and all that he represents.  But what initiated the prevalence of this anti-Semitism in American culture during the late nineteenth century? 

A book titled “A Tale of Two Nations” written by a man named “Coin” Harvey, told a story that drew much attention to the negative effects of Jewish men having any control over money in the United States.  The character development is basic, but some characters possess obvious personality traits to people involved in the election.  The story told is about a London Banker who comes up with a fine plan to prevent the U.S. from ever using Silver as currency.  He sends a man named Rogasner to the states to persuade the United States congress to abide by the gold standard.  Unfortunately, Rogasner gets sidetracked by falling in love with a woman who is in love with a Nebraska congressman who happens to be pro-silver.  Rogasner is supposed to represent a dark Jewish man who is out to destroy the Caucasian race.  As ludicrous as this sounds, it actually did have an impact on the minds of many Western Americans.  “Coin” Harvey saw the Jewish Banking Houses as the main reason for the working mans problems.  This led to a negative generalization of the Jewish people.  You see in this cartoon that there are republicans on one side and democrats on the other.  They are both essentially doing the same thing to Uncle Sam, but notice the bucket of debt on the side of the Republicans.  This is a clear representation of they debt that they do not seem to be clearing.  Nowhere on this cartoon is the word Populist, so I assume this was a pro-Populist cartoon.  Regardless of political position, this is an interesting yet offensive cartoon to publish in papers, but the message does get sent for all to interpret.

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  1. Hannah
    May 5, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    I don’t appreciate the usage of the cross to represent the U.S. It is wrong and disrespecting Jesus. the U.S. is know where near great full enough to represent something else on the cross. what has the U.S. done that is worthy of being praised. If you want to use Jesus then just ask him.

  2. Martin J Kelly Jr
    September 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    It is quite necessary to cite exactly where the cartoon appeared!

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