Young America


 "Young America Rising at the Ballot-Box and Strangling the Serpents Disunion and Secession"
  Cartoonist:  Jacob Dallas (?)
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   September 1, 1860, p. 560

Click to return to previous version of this cartoon...

Click to return to previous version of this cartoon

Caption: Columbia - "Well done, Sonny! 'Go it while you're young, for when you're old you can't.' "

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This cartoon is based on a Greek myth in which the jealous goddess Hera sends two serpents to kill the baby Heracles (Hercules), whom Hera's husband Zeus had fathered in an affair with Queen Alcmene of Tiryns. The attack is repelled, however, when the infant calmly grabs the snakes and strangles them to death.

The term "Young America" was used in the 1840s and 1850s to designate a variety of sometimes contradictory movements. It was claimed by some nativists as well as by some immigrant refugees of the failed 1848 revolutions in Europe. It was associated with Stephen Douglas and the younger members of the Democratic party as well as with Republican John C. Frémont’s presidential campaign in 1856. It was applied to the movement to create a distinctive American literature and to the movement of territorial expansionists to incorporate all of North America and the Caribbean into the United States.

In this Harper’s Weekly cartoon "Young America" may denote the younger generation of Americans in general who are urged to rise up and halt the unraveling of the union. They are to accomplish that goal through their votes in the general election, although the cartoon does not explicitly tell them for whom to vote.

Source consulted: William Kerrigan, H-SHEAR review of Edward Widmer’s Young America; Library of Congress, American Political Prints; and Michael Macrone, By Jove!













Website design © 2001-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to