The Lines Are Drawn: Political Cartoons of the Civil War

By Spencer, David R. | Journalism History, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

The Lines Are Drawn: Political Cartoons of the Civil War


Spencer, David R., Journalism History


Smith, Kirsten M., ed. The Lines Are Drawn: Political Cartoons Of The Civil War. Athens, Ga.: Hill Street Press,1999. 155 pp. $18.50.

The Lines Are Drawn contains 138 cartoons published during the Civil War and arranged chronologically. Editor Kirsten Smith chose representative examples from the popular magazines of the day including Harper's, Vanity Fair, Southern Illustrated News, and London Punch. To her credit, the search went beyond popular publications and included some obscure prints from houses such as Carrier and Ives.

Most of the notable, mid-nineteenth century names are represented: Thomas Nast, Frank Bellow, Adalbert Johann Volck, Louis Maurer, and Joseph Keppler. The Smith collection is a welcome addition to a small but growing literature on the role that cartoons have played in mass communication and journalism history. As she suggests, in many ways the images reproduced in her book represent some of the earliest attempts by journalists, or in this case cartoonists who worked in journals, to persuade an audience to accept their specific points of view.

At the time that the Civil War broke out, the cartoon was the logical method through which comment and persuasion could take place considering that the quest for universal literacy in America had yet to be close to a final goal.

As cartoon researchers will attest, the most interesting challenge to the scholar is the explanation of what sometimes appears to be quite obscure details in the images. In this respect, Smith deserves an A+. Each page contains only one cartoon along with a one-paragraph explanation of the work. …

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