“The Writing on the Wall”
  Cartoonist:  Joseph Keppler
  Source:  Puck
  Date:   June 18, 1884, p. 199

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Puck cartoon by Joseph Keppler uses the biblical analogy of Belshazzar's feast to convey the terror that the revolt of the Republican Independents (Mugwumps) has supposedly caused the campaign of Republican presidential nominee James Blaine. At a sumptuous dinner for the rich and royal, a hand appeared out of nowhere, writing strange words on the wall. The prophet Daniel was called in to interpret the words, which were a promise of divine judgment on King Belshazzar. The ruler died that evening.

Here, the words "Republican Revolt" appear luminously on the wall (right), provoking Blaine and his supporters to recoil in fear and trembling. The candidate, appearing as the tattooed man (see also "Love's Labors Lost," and "Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal"), covers his sinfulness with copies of the New York Tribune. In front of him, Senator John "Black Jack" Logan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, is in American Indian attire.

The cowering crowd of Republican movers and shakers in the back row include (left to right): James Husted, speaker of the New York assembly; Chauncey Depew of the New York Central Hudson River Railroad Company (and later senator); former senator Powell Clayton of Arkansas; editor Joseph Medill of the Chicago Tribune; and former senator Stephen Dorsey of Arkansas. In the front row are (left to right): financiers Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Cyrus Field; New York Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid; naval contractor John Roach; and Robert Ingersoll, legal defender of the perpetrators of the Star Route scandal (the bone with which he flees), and the renowned speaker who christened Blaine "the Plumed Knight" in 1876. The politicos had been dining on "Pension Pie," "Monopoly Stew," and "Star Route Shortcake."

Penetrating Blaine's cabbage-hat is the quill pin of Gail Hamilton, his campaign biographer. Hamilton was the pen name of Mary Abigail Dodge, a journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and women's rights advocate, who was a cousin of Blaine's wife. She spent winters in the Blaine household, and may have been his speechwriter. The cabbage-hat possibly refers to a passage in her book Gala Days (1863). "Cabbage" is also a slang term for petty theft.













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