Historically, political cartoons expressed, shaped, reinforced, and reflected social, political, and racial attitudes, social conditions, and class structure. Therefore, some newspapers used cartoons as propaganda to shape public opinion. As mirrors to public knowledge, cartoons showed what the public knew about events and scandals. Because even illiterate people could understand the cartoons, some politicians feared them more than print editorials.
Cartoons illustrated how public figures and racial groups looked. In the 1800s, due to the pervasive racist attitudes at the time, non-Caucasion people would often be drawn with exaggerated physical features, such as large lips and nappy hair. Racist cartoons propagated negative stereotypes and implied that non-Caucasian people were primitive. On the U.S. mainland, some of the newspapers and magazines drew Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii, with features including feathers in her hair, nappy hair, thick lips, and bare feet, illustrating her as a primitive woman. The following cartoon portrays the queen as a dark-skinned, underdressed woman with thick lips who tries to give her crown to a pawnbroker for cash.
"PAWNBROKER---I might have let you have a few sandwiches a month ago, but it isn't worth a wisp of hay now."
St. Paul daily globe, February 03, 1893, Image 1
Text: "See-saw! Uncle Sam in Hawaii"
The evening world, November 14, 1893, BROOKLYN LAST EDITION, Image 1
In the late 1890s, the United States was determining whether to annex Hawaii and other territories including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. American political cartoons often illustrated the concept of manifest destiny, or America's geopolitical expansion through colonization. Some cartoons would draw the United States as Uncle Sam and the territories considered for annexation as children, as if the United States was their warden. The children would often be drawn with dark skin and sometimes with grass skirts, nappy hair, or bare feet.
Here, Uncle Sam, a personification of the United States, holds a knife, apparently about to cut a chicken. He asks, "Who'll get the wishbone?" to the two children, as they represent Cuba and Hawaii respectively. At the time of publication, the United States considered annexing them during the Spanish-American War.
Text: "Who'll get the wish-bone? -The Journal, New York."
The Hawaiian gazette, December 24, 1897, Image 1
In the 1890s, the Empire of Japan was considering which countries to colonize. This illustration portrays America's desire to annex Hawaii before Japan could, literally putting a lid on its ambitions.
"--From Chicago Inter-Ocean"
The Hawaiian gazette, April 09, 1897, Image 1
Uncle Sam gets first dibs on the "oyster sandwiches," or Hawaii, before Japan and other countries.
Text: "Uncle Sam--You fellows will please stand back while I try these oyster sandwiches myself."
The Saint Paul globe, June 17, 1897, Image 1
In this cartoon, Uncle Sam's pocket holds the sausage of Hawaii, which the dog representing Japan can't resist.
John Bull: "He smells the sausage, uncle!"
From Der Fish (Vienna)
The Hawaiian gazette., August 20, 1897, Page 3, Image 3
Uncle Sam catches the ripe apple that says "Hawaii" in his hat at the right time. In the background, John Bull, a personification of Britain, shakes his fist.
Text: "Uncle Sam Catches the Ripe Fruit"
The morning call, January 29, 1893, Image 1
The United States annexed Hawaii a year before, and this cartoon was published a week after the Fourth of July.
Uncle Sam:--Wake up Madam! Its time to celebrate. Fair Hawaii is annexed and its the Fourth of July
Madam Pele:--You caught me while I was napping, Sammy, but its down one so here goes."
Austin's Hawaiian weekly., July 15, 1899, Page 7, Image 7
A year earlier, the United States annexed Hawaii without a war and was fighting in the Spanish-American War. In 1899 was the Philippine-American War, and the United States would eventually annex the Philippines in 1901.
Left image: A woman (apparently Uncle Sam's "daughter") personifying Hawaii with a cornucopia by her and the scene of Diamond Head, the Pacific Ocean, and the sun hovering at the horizon with the word "prosperity."
Right image: Personifying the United States, Uncle Sam looks at the "Hawaiian Report," which says "peace and prosperity," "loyalty," "thriving industries," "increasing commerce," and "fine climate." In the back of him is a "report from the Filipines" saying to "send more soldiers."
Caption text: "Uncle Sam:--Blam in Gilead! Well, thank heavens both my new daughters haven't got the same disposition."
Austin's Hawaiian weekly., July 22, 1899, Page 7, Image 7
Personifying the United States, Uncle Sam chases a bee representing Emilio Aguinaldo, the president of the Philippine Islands from March 22, 1897 to April 1, 1901. Two years after this cartoon's publication, at the end of the Philippine-American War, Aguinaldo would surrender control of the Philippines to the United States, which then annexed the country.
Text: "Uncle Sam:--He's a son of a gun at dodging, and he's not worth much when you've got him: but I'll GIT him if it takes all summer."
Austin's Hawaiian Weekly, September 23, 1899, Page 7, Image 7
In the late 1800s, the Hawaiian Gazette's political cartoons often illustrated Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, the delegate representing Hawaii in the U.S. Congress from 1903 to 1922.
In the picture below, Kuhio shouts about political issues on a soap box. When "Duty" asks a citizen, "Have you registered?" he responds apathetically while yawning, "Oh there's plenty of time." Kuhio could not vote on issues presented in Congress. Hawaii did not have a vote, as it was not a U.S. state yet.
Text: "How about it, Mr. Good Citizen?"
The Hawaiian gazette, April 05, 1912, Image 1
With a tag that says, "Delegate for Sale," Kuhio stands by the box for the convention secret ballots.
Text: "United We Stand; Divided We Fall"
The Hawaiian gazette., April 12, 1912, Page 2, Image 2
The following cartoon makes fun of Kuhio and McCarthy's flip flopping ways. Text in the article that accompanies the cartoon: "Just how circumstances may alter cases and how politicians may be one thing one day and quite another thing the next is shown by a very interesting document ... "
I'm Kuhio, of whom you've heard;
At changing my mind I'm sure one bird
I came to Hawaii, Taft to kill,
But now I'm a shouter for Our Big Bill.
Oh, Charley McCarthy is my name,
As a backer of Link I won great fame--
Now they've got Link down, and so you see
I've launched a boon for to nominate Me.
It makes no different what we say,
For to change our minds only takes a day.
To swallow your words can be no sin
If only you swallow them down to win.
The Hawaiian gazette., March 12, 1912, Image 1
The Hawaiian Gazette's political cartoons also humorously illustrated local issues. For example, the illustration below makes fun of the Anti-Saloon League and the Women's Christian Temperance Union's campaign against the producers and sellers of beers in Hawaii. The woman from the W.C.T.U. pumps in water to a man labeled as "Honolulu Brewery," for a "water cure for brewery." In the background, seven people pump pressure to the water hose.
The Hawaiian gazette., May 23, 1902, Image 1