Political Cartoons

The pen is mightier than the politician.
–President Gerald R. Ford, 1975

Using drawings or cartoons to comment on the actions of a president is a tradition nearly as old as the nation. Political cartoons were the creation of the politically partisan press in the early 1800s. They became staples of weekly magazines during the 19th century and, eventually, a cornerstone of the modern newspaper industry.

Cartoons help make complex issues and personalities more accessible. They often have a great impact on attitudes about a chief executive. Many presidents felt like 19th-century New York politician William "Boss" Tweed: "Stop them damn pictures.... I don't care much about what the papers write about me. My constituents can't read. But, damn it, they can see pictures."

Jackson political cartoon
Andrew Jackson was a strong president who used the office to forcefully pursue his agenda. Many political opponents, fearing Jackson's use of power, called him "King Andrew."

This 1832 cartoon uses that theme to show Jackson, dressed as a king, trampling on the Constitution. While the cartoon garnered support for the opposing Whig Party, it did little to thwart Jackson's desire to increase the power of the presidency.

Courtesy of Library of Congress

Teddy Roosevelt political cartoon
The presidency of Theodore Roosevelt reinvigorated the arena of political satire and cartooning. Roosevelt's features, especially his wide mouth and constant movement while speaking, were a cartoonist's delight.

This early-20th-century cartoon by Gustav Brandt for a German magazine captures the essence of Teddy Roosevelt, champion of the "square deal" for the American people.