The Graduate Center - City University of New York

An heir to the throne, or the next Republican candidate.

The 1860 presidential election sparked numerous political cartoons that were preoccupied with the looming issue of slavery and the opposition of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to its expansion. Portraying individuals (New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley on the left and Lincoln on the right) who were familiar to mid-nineteenth century Americans, many of the anti-Republican cartoons also exploited white voters’ beliefs in the inferiority of African Americans—in this case personified in the figure of the “What Is It?,” a handicapped black man who was an attraction in New York City’s Barnum’s American Museum at the time. Touted, in a grotesque reference to Charles Darwin’s recently-published evolutionary study On the Origin of Species, as the missing link between ape and man, the “What Is It?” was immediately recognizable, featured in numerous cartes de visite, magazine illustrations, and cartoons. Currier & Ives, the publisher of this print, also produced caricatures denouncing the opposing presidential candidates. (For another cartoon referring to the "What Is It?" click here.)

Creator: Louis Maurer

Date: 1860

Publisher: New York: Currier & Ives

Source: American Antiquarian Society