Hancock's Uphill Battle


 “A Hopeless Undertaking”
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 9, 1880, p. 644

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In this cartoon, artist W. A. Rogers chose another unusual setting (like for the previous illustration) to communicate the message that presidential nominee Winfield Hancock's attempt to save the Democratic party was "A Hopeless Undertaking." Hancock has dived underwater to recover the sunken remains of the "Democracy," which went down to its watery grave in 1860 (again, "waving the bloody shirt" by associating the Democratic party with secession and the Confederate cause).

Hancock's air hose is connected to the Democratic dinghy on the water's surface, which is manned by (left to right): a former Confederate soldier, representing Southern Democrats; Tammany Hall boss John Kelly with Irish shamrock and pipe; Democratic party chair William Barnum at the rudder; another former Confederate soldier; Louisville Journal-Courier editor Henry Watterson peering through a spyglass; Speaker of the House James Randall steering the vessel; 1876 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Thomas Hendricks holding the hatch open; Senator Allen Thurman of Ohio; 1876 Democratic presidential nominee Samuel Tilden standing by the mast; Senator L. Q. C. Lamar of Mississippi peeking out from behind the mast; and Senator Wade Hampton of South Carolina sounding the "Lost Cause" trumpet. Former congressman Benjamin Butler swims awkwardly toward the Democratic dinghy. Meanwhile, in the right-background, the Republican ship steams effortlessly towards the capital.

Humans have used various diving techniques since ancient times, but the practice of diving with compressed air from above the water's surface is of more recent vintage. In 1690, the first "diving bell" was patented. It consisted of an underwater compartment, which was connected via a pipe to weighted barrels of air on the water's surface. A diving suit had been developed by 1828, and was used successfully in salvage operations during the 1830s and improved upon over the years. In 1865, two Frenchmen, a mining engineer and a naval lieutenant, created a diving suit with compressed-air chambers on the diver's back (which does not seem to be the case in this cartoon). It was used by the French Navy, copied by other navies, and featured in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870).













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