Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Join, Or Die (In Context)

   As a crucial component in not just the history of cartooning but also for American history, this iconic image has started off many a lecture in my art classes, yet I hadn't ever seen it within the context of the surrounding text. From The Comics Reporter via a 4th of July-related comics post comes mention of Benjamin Franklin's "Join, Or Die" editorial cartoon forecast to fetch over $100k at auction. This "Signature Historical Manuscripts Auction" by Heritage Auctions features the woodcut as part of a lot containing one of the only two known original copies (the other is in the Library of Congress) of the iconic editorial. First published by the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754, Franklin's is believed to be the first instance of the editorial cartoon artform appearing in America... of course it also helped if one happened to own the paper too.
   A of the hallmarks of a successful editorial cartoon is that it transcends the topical nature of whatever political issue is in the headline, and endures over time. Given the divisive arena of American politics today, to quote Pogo, we have met the enemy, and it is us.

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