Long Abraham Lincoln a Little Longer

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Long Abraham Lincoln a Little Longer
November 26, 1864
Frank Henry Temple Bellew
Harper's Weekly
Chicago History Museum

Even though this picture was made one hundred and fifty years ago, it is still very funny. Do you understand the joke? This drawing was made just after Abraham Lincoln was elected for a second presidential term, and it is a good example of caricature. Newspapers had long made fun of politicians using drawings by illustrators such as Winslow Homer and the famous Thomas Nast, the first artist to draw the Republican Party elephant and the Democratic Party donkey. Frank Henry Temple Bellew, the creator of this picture, worked for several newspapers and in 1852 was the first artist to depict “Uncle Sam,” the mascot of the United States, in human form.

Lincoln was six-feet-four-inches tall, which made him extremely tall in his own time (the average height for men was about five-feet-six-inches tall). He was used to people calling attention to his height. Years earlier, Lincoln had been part of a group of politicians called “The Long Nine,” because several of them were quite tall. In this piece, Bellew exaggerated Lincoln’s famous height to make a pun about his bid to stay in office “a little longer.” Besides poking fun at Lincoln, Bellew’s drawing is actually very good. Look how, even though the president’s body has been all stretched out, every part is still in proportion. Although Lincoln was reelected in 1864 with plenty of votes (he defeated one of his own former generals, George B. McClellan), there had been no guarantee that he would continue as president during the costly, devastating war. 

1. If you had to draw a caricature of someone famous, how would you match your funny drawing to a current event? 

2. Is the picture “on Lincoln’s side”?  

3. How would this caricature have looked on the page of the newspaper? 

Further reading: 

Backer, Dan. “A Brief History of Political Cartoons.” University of Virginia. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/puck/part1.html. Accessed July 22, 2011.

Hess, Stephen E. The Ungentlemanly Art: The History of American Political Cartoons. New York: MacMillan, 1975.

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