19th century political cartoons reveal timeless scumbaggery of US senators


Puck was a political satire magazine founded in New York in 1877. Each issue contained several beautifully-rendered cartoons.

David Donihue of I.T.C.H. (International Team of Comics Historians) has a nice post about one of Puck's most well-known cartoonists, Joseph Keppler.

By the early 1880s, Keppler was the most famous cartoonist in America. He and his team tackled a wide range of topics including political campaigns, religious hypocrisy, labor boycotts, international trade, immigration and more. One of their finest series focused on the growing economic and political threat of monopolies and the control they exerted on the media. Many of these cartoons ridiculed the men who became known as the robber barons. In 1882, Puck's editor, H.C. Brunner wrote, "There must be something wrong, either in the laws or social system, by which one man can acquire so much wealth and power to the detriment of other men."

One of Keppler's sharpest attacks on the collusion of business and government was featured as the centerfold of the September 20, 1882 issue of Puck. The cartoon, titled The Garden Party of the Monopolists – Louis XV Style, depicts U.S. senators dressed as courtesans in the service of monopolists. They dance, fondle and frolic while dressed in the frivolous, opulent fashions of the court of Louis XV. In Keppler's time, it was well known that the splendor and glitter of 18th-century Versailles was part of a culture of debauchery, political intrigue and dangerous royal family politics. The King's policies damaged the power of France and ultimately led to the French Revolution.

Caricature vs. the Corporation: The Garden Party of the Monopolists by Joseph Keppler