Home > 1896-1928 Campaigns, 1908 Campaign > 1908–Puck Cartoon–Kate Hamill

1908–Puck Cartoon–Kate Hamill

In the late 1800s German political cartoonist Joseph Kepler created and founded America’s first humor magazine. Named for the mischievous Fairy in Shakespeare’s “Mid Summer Night dream,” Puck was only published in German. After a year of distribution and extreme popularity Puck rose to the top. It was then printed in both English and German. In 1920 publishers continued producing the English edition, but discontinued the German edition. The periodical was designed for criticizing and commenting on governments and political leadership through colorful political cartoons, caricatures and political satire. Puck primarily favored bourbon democrats. These democrats were considered conservative, classical liberals. The magazine also favored large corporations like banks and railroads. It was also said to support German American ideals and proficiently attack Irish Americans. Historians believe that the artists of the magazine enjoyed depicting political leaders over everything else, especially during political campaigns.

Released during the 1908 presidential campaign Samuel Ehrhart constructed a political cartoon depicting Theodore Roosevelt handing a baby off to William Taft. It was a popular piece of rhetoric during the campaign.  Shown here on the right one can see the importance of Taft and Roosevelt’s comradely and friendship.  

 Roosevelt had been the President of the United States from 1901-1909 and decided not to run for a third term. It was believed that Roosevelt hand- picked Taft for the position and was going to do everything in his power to make sure that Taft won the presidential election. Teddy Roosevelt is depicted here as a cowboy. He was often depicted as a cowboy because of his robust “masculinity”. Though Roosevelt was neither from the South nor the West he remained true to his Cowboy association. Before becoming President, Theodore purchased land in North Dakota where he was able to practice his cowboy nature and experiment with land protection.  In the early 1900 Cowboys were hired to maintain ranches and cattle. They often maintained and protected the land and its surroundings, which in some ways is easily compared to the principles of commander and chief.

In the background a bell hop is carrying Teddy’s “big stick”. The stick refers to Teddy’s popular saying “speak softly and carry a big stick and you will go far”. Roosevelt used this message while negotiating the Monroe Doctrine.  He made it clear that he was willing to negotiate, but in a threatening manner. The big stick was representing Roosevelt’s military ties and the force behind them. Roosevelt was known to use his “big stick” metaphor continually throughout his presidency. The bellhop in this photo was meant to depict William Loeb, Roosevelt’s right hand man and head of advisors.  William Loeb was an extremely knowledgeable political leader, but was mostly in the background. Loeb was given credit for assisting the President in the decision of not running for a third term. Loeb also assisted in finding a good replacement candidate that Roosevelt could endorse.  

The baby in the picture is meant to depict the responsibilities of the presidency. Here Roosevelt is handing his responsibilities to Taft, who is well prepared in his maid’s uniform to accept the ongoing responsibilities. As one can see, the baby looks like Roosevelt because it is supposed to represent all his own plans and policies. The baby looks as though he will allow Taft to hold him, however it is clear that he would rather be held by Roosevelt.

Taft is depicted here as a man in a maid’s uniform. This has multiple dimensions of its own. Firstly, under his maid’s uniform is a suit, which shows Taft’s professionalism as the President to be. However the maid’s uniform shows his loyalty to Roosevelt as a servant of his plans, responsibilities, and policies for the country.

Samuel Ehrhart used his knowledge of history and the presidency to create this political advertisement.  As it was distributed around the United States many Americans saw the add for what it was. It was viewed as Roosevelt leaving office, and handing all his responsibilities and policies to Taft. It was reassuring to the American people that Roosevelt left the office in good hands.  He had left the presidency up to Taft, which was fine because Taft had the same beliefs and plans that Roosevelt had when he left office. The magazine also created several cartoons which completely discredited William Jennings Bryan.

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