19th Century Political Cartoons And Chinese Immigrants

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was an illustrator and cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly from 1857 to 1887. He might be considered the pioneer political cartoonist and his work was highly influential on public opinion. In his 30-year career with the magazine, Nast drew approximately 2,250 cartoons, including 46 related to "the Chinese Question." Nast’s Chinese drawings align with Harper’s Weekly editorial position of inclusion and tolerance for all immigrants. They depicted the plight faced by the Chinese created by anti-Chinese feelings and generally contributed a rare, positive voice for Chinese American immigrants – setting him apart from the work of his peers.

In contrast, George F. Keller, cartoonist for The San Francisco Illustrated Wasp, an illustrated weekly magazine of “commentary and satire” often took cruel aim at the Chinese by exaggerating physical and cultural differences with his drawings to create fear and animosity toward Chinese in the American public. 
Keller’s images were some of the most vile distortions against the Chinese in California. In the four images below, Keller attacked two clergymen, Gibson and Loomis, who in defense of Chinese immigrants in 1877 testified to a Senate Committee of California that they were of "good character." Keller's cartoons, however, questioned whether they were peaceable, clean, honest, and suggested they were likely to have children with white women.

More details about the work of Thomas Nast and other political cartoons about topics other than Chinese immigrants can be found on the excellent website created by Michele Walfred.



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  2. You can view cartoons about Frederick Bee at www.frederickbee.com.


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