55th Congress

55th Congress

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This object is an original pen and ink political cartoon hand drawn on white paper by Clifford Berryman circa 1897-1899 in Washington, D.C. It depicts Thomas Brackett Reed (Speaker of the House and of the Republican Party) standing beside a small picket fence enclosure inscribed 55th Congress. The fence traps men inside in a cramped, overly crowded manner, with several men holding signs. One sign reads "Here We Are." William Sulzer (of New York, also in the 55th Congress and supporter of Cuban independence from Spain) holds a scroll that reads "I can't get this Cuban Resolution in." One man has a tag inscribed "I'm dead" tied around an ankle. Still another has a tag hanging from a leg that reads "I'm mad." It is signed "Berryman" in the lower left area of the illustration. A newspaper clipping is glued to the upper left-hand corner reading: “Tom Reed's reconcentrados continue to mutter, but so far they have refrained from jumping the fence." This cartoon illustrates the difficulties and differing perspectives of the members of the 55th Congress in seeking resolution for Cuba during the time of the Spanish American War. The reference to reconcentrados in the clipping is taken from the term used at the time to describe Cubans forcibly “reconcentrated” from their homes in the rural areas to detention camps run by Spanish military authorities who subjected them to disease and starvation. From this usage, we can interpret that the members of the 55th House who were held captive in the fenced enclosure were opposed to Reed, who appears larger than life outside the enclosure. President McKinley initially sought to avoid war with Spain, but then changed his mind and supported Cuban freedom. Reed disagreed with the President’s decision to engage in war with Spain, resigned from his position as a result of the decision, and returned to private law practice.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Associated Date
House of Representatives
Berryman, Clifford
place made
United States: District of Columbia
associated place
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
pencil (overall material)
hand drawn (overall production method/technique)
overall: 15 1/8 in x 13 3/8 in; 38.41826 cm x 33.97479 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Spanish-American War
Political Caricatures
Spanish-American War
See more items in
Political and Military History: Political History, Campaign Collection
Government, Politics, and Reform
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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