Alice in Civil War Land
December 3, 2007 5:51 AM   Subscribe

John Tenniel and the American Civil War. Best known for his illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, John Tenniel also produced political cartoons for the British magazine Punch. This sites collects 54 of Tenniel's cartoons dealing with the American Civil War. In addition to the cartoons themselves, the site gives an explanation of the symbols and props in each cartoon and places them context with then-current events and issues.

I believe the best way to browse the cartoons is through this link.
posted by marxchivist (24 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
That's just about the perfect kind of site to my mind, irrespective of one's opinion about Tenniel's work. It's focused, easy to navigate, well researched and documented, has both thumbnails index and decently large images, and is not embellished with any functional whizzbang wankery. I prefer these (arguably) slightly oversized pages that take a little bit longer to load, than having to page through material as well. Goodonya Allan T Kohl! And thanks Marxchivist.
posted by peacay at 6:19 AM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pretty much what pecay just said, except with the addition that I reckon Tenniel a genius. Thanks, Marxchisit.
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:23 AM on December 3, 2007

Nice post, I love Tenniel's work in the Alice books but hadn't actually seen much of his political work. Hopefully, I wouldn't have agreed with him had I been alive at the time but the artwork is great. Weird to see the way that Lincoln was portrayed at the time.

There was a good post last year about his New York counterpart, Nast.
posted by octothorpe at 6:39 AM on December 3, 2007

Wow, these are great snapshots of the politics of the war from a fascinating perspective. Thanks, Marxchivist!
posted by mediareport at 6:48 AM on December 3, 2007

Muskrat Love was incredible.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:52 AM on December 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wonderful post, Marxchivist. Just exactly what I still read MeFi for. Thanks for sharing.
posted by anastasiav at 6:52 AM on December 3, 2007

It's good to hear such great feedback! I will have to let Mr. Kohl know that this collection is going over well on MeFi, he will be happy to hear it.

I don't want to toot my own horn, but I had a small part in putting this website together, along with another one of MeFi's own.

Thanks for sharing!
posted by erpava at 7:25 AM on December 3, 2007

It's interesting seeing these cartoons. In first sight, taking them out of context with my modern eye, then looking at them as a contemporary might view it. Nicely organized too. Seems like the technical wankery peacay mentions is for no other reason than "look at me, and what I can do" rather than elegant design. Thanks!
posted by Eekacat at 7:36 AM on December 3, 2007

Awesome post.
posted by seanyboy at 7:49 AM on December 3, 2007

Yeah, that's a great website. Best of the web.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2007

Oh my this is good. I am thinking of paper assignments already.
posted by LarryC at 8:24 AM on December 3, 2007

The explication of each cartoon is an excellent resource.
posted by ancientgower at 8:30 AM on December 3, 2007

This is really a great post about a great site. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2007

fascinating, thanks.
posted by patricio at 9:01 AM on December 3, 2007

The explication of each cartoon is an excellent resource.

Yeah, there are lots of interesting cultural tidbits. Loved the one with Abe as a bartender:

An accompanying verse, titled "Old Abe at the Bar (of Public Opinion)," scorns American fondness for mixed drinks and sweetened cocktails, in contrast to the honest Englishman's taste for unadulterated beer and ale. Americans, it seems, are unable to take either their liquor or their bad news straight: they can only swallow their "hard stuff" either watered down or sweetened up.
posted by mediareport at 9:38 AM on December 3, 2007

Great site, great post. And this one provides useful food for thought even today:
This provocative document was forwarded to Queen Victoria for her approval, as it seemed likely to provoke an outbreak of hostilities. Prince Albert, though fatally ill with typhoid fever, intervened to moderate the message's language and suggest a face-saving compromise. The British ambassador to the United States, Lord Lyons, also acted carefully to guide Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward towards a resolution acceptable to both nations. In the end, the United States government disavowed Capt. Wilkes' actions as not conforming to international law, and released Mason and Slidell to resume their voyage. Ironically, in the aftermath of the "Trent Affair," relief on both sides at having avoided hostilities actually made the British less receptive to any proposal for intervention on behalf of the Confederacy.
Gee, you mean a peaceful approach isn't only for losers and wimps?
posted by languagehat at 10:40 AM on December 3, 2007

Aw, man. Check out the poem from the May 1865 issue: "We're sorry we called Abraham Lincoln an moronic, simian, backwoods hick all those times." You 19th century British satirists are all right.
posted by ormondsacker at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2007

Damn that's a good post.
posted by Doohickie at 11:02 AM on December 3, 2007

Did we break it? I got to read the first few, but now it's timing out on me.

Great post!
posted by heatherann at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2007

Interestingly enough, this site was put together by MetaFilter's Own erpava and SoylentErin. They did the design/coding and were quite surprised to see it get posted here so soon after it was unveiled.
posted by baphomet at 2:45 PM on December 3, 2007

Great stuff, thanks very much!
posted by Wolof at 3:06 PM on December 3, 2007

These are really great. John Tenniel was really a master, not only of caricature, but line and composition- there's so much depth to his illustrations. A few of his illustrations in the Alice books are political caricatures as well; the Lion and the Unicorn as Gladstone and Disraeli are probably the best known. I like how the older Brittania looks an awful lot like Queen Victoria in these, and also how the Lincoln- Raccoon cartoon is reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat illustration. Thanks for the post!
posted by oneirodynia at 5:18 PM on December 3, 2007

While surfing through, I saw the cartoon where Lincoln is depicted in an outfit clearly representative as Uncle Sam. Looking at the Wiki for Uncle Sam and Brother Jonathan (another name used for a personification of America), it was interesting to note the evolution of the "typical American": Yankee Doodle, followed by Brother Jonathan, followed by Uncle Sam, with Columbia being a female embodiment of America.

Uncle Sam dates back to a meat supplier located in Troy, NY, for the Army during the War of 1812. Apparently soldier referred to meat shipments marked U.S. as being gifts from Uncle Sam Wilson. I went to school in Troy which prides itself as "The Home of Uncle Sam."

The best fpps lead us on hours of interesting pursuits of information on the net. This is one of them.
posted by Doohickie at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2007

Brilliant site design, nthing what peacay said. Bravo erpava and SoylentErin! Love the instant satisfaction of the large images with the intelligently informative description with juicy details below. Now that's the way an art/illustration site should look and function.

Marxchivist, this is a classic example of making history both fun, interesting and with plenty of footnotes for the approval of the academics. Bravo Allan T. Kohl.

Intense illustrations of racism, like this one, attempting to deal with it and how that war was perceived. Truly awesome illustrations and captions. wow.
posted by nickyskye at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2007

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