Democratic National Convention


 “Barnum’s New ‘What Is It' ”
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   August 17, 1872, p. 648

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In this cartoon, circus and "freak show" pioneer P. T. Barnum, a close personal friend of Greeley, is quoted in the caption praising the candidate's character. The title's "What Is It" refers to a sham perpetrated by Barnum at his American Museum, circa 1859. Feeding on the new evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin and on anti-black prejudice, Barnum (despite being an abolitionist) billed a short, black man as the "missing link" between apes and humans. Here, Greeley fills that role by incorporating into his candidacy such contradictory notions as free trade and protectionism, pro- and anti-temperance, and pro- and anti-Ku Klux Klan. The Woolly Horse was another Barnum humbug, in which he took a horse with curly hair, reversed it in its stall, and advertised it as a horse "with his head where his tail should be." Its inclusion in this cartoon underlines Greeley's alleged nature of pretending to be something that he was not. The note attached to the horse mimics Nast's charge that the hypocritical New York Tribune was an organ that alleged it was not an organ.












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