Five years later, with his inheritance exhausted and a net worth of three dollars, Remington arrived in New York City packing his voluminous portfolios resolved to break into art and illustration. Initial successes were thin, yet within 18 months editors were seeking him out and his painting, “The Courier’s Nap on the Trail” appeared at the annual exhibition in the National Academy. Within a few years he was recognized as the foremost western illustrator, short story author (Roosevelt preferred him to Owen Wister and Bret Harte) and sculptor of his day. Yet he continued to roam each summer for the increasingly elusive characters of the Old West. Fascinated with and befriended by the Indians, Remington anticipated the last rebellion by the Sioux. Narrowly escaping death in combat in the Badlands, he rushed to the East to document the events for Harper’s Weekly. Remington is unique for his “caught-in-action” style, a legacy of his lack in formal training and its stifling pedagogy--which he could never tolerate. He died in 1909 after surgery for appendicitis, his career at apogee, some 48 well-lived years of age.
There are essentially three types of original antique prints by Remington (there are lots of modern reproductions): magazine and newspaper illustrations, halftone prints sold separately or in portfolios, and original chromolithographs. These prints were all done for commercial purposes; that is, they were created with the intent to be used as illustrations in books or magazines, or for sale to the public to purchase to hang in their homes. They were issued in large numbers, though through attrition the antique Remington prints can be quite scarce.
Newspaper & Magazine Illustrations
During the first 25 years following the War Between the States, Nast became the most significant illustrator of American political and social issues. His pointed cartoons exerted a great impact on public opinion. Every presidential candidate to gain his support won and his stature increased with the successful campaign in 1870-71 to bring down “Boss” Tweed of New York’s corrupt Tammany Hall and his political machine. More than a mere cartoonist, Nast was an innovator of images, popularizing or instituting many now familiar subjects such as the Republican elephant, the Democratic donkey, John Bull, Uncle Sam, and Columbia. Nast’s Santa Claus, modeled from Clement Moore’s St. Nicholas in his Twas the Night Before Christmas, serves as our present-day jolly old elf. Harper’s Weekly was Nast’s principal forum, and those prints hold a significant place in our American past.
Most Democrats were soft-money advocates, hoping that inflation would be encouraged, so easing to some extent the extensive debt of their constituency, mostly farmers. Most Republicans, including Grant, were hard-money advocates, as were most of their capitalist supporters, and they believed that gold-backed currency would stabilized the money supply and sustained a prosperous economy. In the 1874 elections, the Democrats won enough seats that they were gong to take control of the House of Representatives, so the lame duck Republicans pushed through the Specie Resumption Act in early January, returning U.S. currency to a gold-based system.
Nast’s cartoon strongly backed this Act. Grant is shown standing on the “Ark of State, depicted as a Noah figure reaching out to the Dove of Peace, shown flying over a rainbow entitled “Our Credit.” Strewn behind the ark, floating in a sea of inflation, are the soft-money proponents.
Though the Act passed, the time-table for the retirement of the “green backs” was to take place over an extended period. The Democratic led Congress was not able to kill the act, but they were able to pass the Bland-Allison Act in February 1878, which succeeded in raising the amount of paper money not backed by gold allowed to be in circulation, thus diluting the Resumption Act.
This is all a rather obscure, and now the conflict seems totally out-of-date, but it is interesting to see Nast step into his own cartoons to reemphasize his position. He was a great innovator and print is a fascinating example of his work.
Another article noted that "When she appears on the stage any member or members of the audience is at liberty to put her strength to test in any way that he may choose." Turns out this wasn't always the best idea for "She took one luckless youth by the nape of the neck and slammed him into an empty barrel, which she then used as a baseball, scaring the life out of the fellow as she tossed him into the air, all this because the man said he thought she was but a trickster."
This marvelous chart, entitled “Plate VI. Diagram of the History of Political Parties in the United States”, is the work of American historian Walter R. Houghton. Houghton was a teacher, author and historian of politics and religion at Indiana University. In 1880 he issued a short work, Conspectus of the History of Political Parties and the Federal Government, expanded and issued over the next several years as History of American Politics (Non Partisan.). This work was the first really detailed look at the subject and its insights are of interest even in today’s world of very partisan politics. The most impressive and influential aspect of Houghton’s work is this chart which showcases the “History of Political Parties in the United States”. Although overwhelming at first glance, the chart is actually quite straightforward and easy to understand. Houghton shows American political history from before the Revolution until 1880 through the lens of political parties, with presidential terms indicated with vertical lines. Each political party is shown as a line, with the thickness or thinness of the line indicating its level of support. The political party that controls the presidency is on top, while the other party (or parties) is below. The party lines splinter and merge often, with various issues causing groups of people to leave one party and join another, or start one of their own. Houghton indicates the reasons for these departures with descriptive text, which briefly explain what fissures drove people to seek new parties.
In our hectic election season we are bombarded with claims that we are hopelessly divided by party, ideology and the breakdown of civil society. While hyperbole might sell papers and fill airtime, the struggles of today cannot hold a candle to the chaos of the 1850s and 60s, as Houghton’s chart perfectly illustrates. The years leading up to the Civil War is where the party lines veer from a mostly simple two party system to a tangle of competing vines. This accurately captures the political chaos of the period, where the struggle over slavery obliterated the Whig Party and severed the Democratic Party into Northern and Southern wings. New Parties like the Free Soilers, Native American [Know Nothings] and Silver Gray eventually coalesced around opposition to the Kansas Nebraska Act, and formed the Republican Party. A few years later, a reconstituted Democratic Party emerges from the union of former Confederates and Northern Democrats and the chart returns to a more simplified give and take between two major parties. People still splinter off and join the opposing Party, but this basic configuration of Democrats and Republicans remains even today, despite some occasional third party challenges over the years.
In light of our current political climate, studying this chart gives us a healthy and much needed dose of perspective. While we certainly have room for improvement, we are a far cry from the rhetoric and vitriol that tore apart all but a precious few American institutions 150 years ago. This marvelous chart is a fantastic tool for viewing America’s political history, as well as a beautiful piece of Americana.