Political cartoon

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Famous Join or Die cartoon by Benjamin Franklin

A political cartoon is a cartoon or comic which is often humorous but also contains a political or social message. Caricatures and symbols (such as the iconic Uncle Sam or Republican elephant) are staples of political cartoons. Among the most famous of all political cartoonists is American Thomas Nast. Among the most famous political cartoons is Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die." Nast was known to have drawn cartoons single-handedly exposing the extreme corruption of William Tweed, the infamous leader of Tammany Hall.


Political cartoons originated in Britain in the mid 1730s. A law called "Hogarth's Act" was passed which gave copyright protection to re-productions of cartoons made off of copper plates.

Bejamin Franklin published the first political cartoon in America in 1747 entitled "Plain Truth." His well-known "Join or Die" was drawn in 1754. Both of these cartoons incorporated folklore and mythology.

By 1812, banners, posters, and cartoons were used during the election campaigns. By 1860, they were appearing in newspapers.[1]