Nativism

 

Digital image via Cornell University Library.

Native Americans of Fifth Ward. Philadelphia, 1844. Textiles Collection.

This ribbon from the Textiles Collection in the Political Ephemera Collection documents a local political event organized by the Philadelphia Native American Party in 1844. Southwark incorporated into Philadelphia as the Fifth Ward—or so-called “Bloody Fifth”—later became infamous for Election Day riots between Irish immigrants, African Americans, and police.


 Digital image via Cornell University Library.

Digital image via Cornell University Library.

Henry ClayPhiladelphia, 1844. Textiles Collection.

This political ribbon (also from the Textiles Collection) was illustrated with vignettes and text in support of 1844 Whig presidential nominee Henry Clay.

Vignettes include (from top to bottom): the lower half of the Pennsylvania coat of arms; an eagle on a perch and holding a banner that reads “His Country’s Friend in the Hour of Danger;” a bust-length, profile portrait of Clay in a circular frame flanked by American flags, a sextant, drum, and other symbols of patriotism and commerce; and the “Protector of American Industry,” the figure of Liberty, seated, wearing a helmet, and resting on the American shield as she watches a ship in the distance. (This digital image does not reflect the content of the Library Company edition.)

In the election of 1844, Henry Clay ran on a platform that supported high tariffs and opposition to the annexation of Texas as a slave state. He was defeated by the pro-annexation Democratic nominee James Polk.


Digital image via Library Company of Philadelphia.

William and Frederick Langenheim. Northeast Corner of Third & Dock Street. Philadelphia, May 9, 1844. John A. McAllister Collection.

While this daguerreotype cannot be classified as a political cartoon, it certainly is political imagery. Captured by photographers and former newsmen William and Frederick Langenheim, this image is credited as both the earliest extant photograph of America’s oldest bank (the First Bank of the United States) and the earliest known Philadelphia “news” photograph.

A day after the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing riots (May 9, 1844), the Langenheims captured the image from their studio in the Merchant’s Exchange. After rioters burned the churches of St. Michael and St. Augustine, the Pennsylvania militia declared martial law and seized Girard Bank as its headquarters.

The Langenheims recorded this “news” photograph by shooting through a prism to prevent the reversal of the image. As newsmen, the Langenheims understood that the appeal of “news” would be disrupted if the spectator was distracted by visual inconsistencies (e.g. mirrored signs).

The brothers continued to push the boundaries of photography. The next year, their panorama of Niagara Falls earned them international fame. In early-1850s, they patented lantern slides for slide-show entertainment (i.e. glass transparencies) and published the first stereographs in the United States.


Digital image via Library of Congress.

Nathaniel Currier. The Propagation Society—More Free than WelcomeNew York, 1855. Political Cartoon Collection.

This anti-Catholic lithograph plays upon popular fears of Irish immigration and Catholic education. The title refers to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a Catholic proselytizing organization.

On the shore labeled “United States,” Brother Jonathan leans against a flagpoles beside “Young America,” personified by the boy in striped trousers holding a Bible. Both figures face Pope Pius IX, who steps ashore from a boat. The latter holds a sword in one hand a cross in the other. Five bishops remain on the boat.

Pope: “My friend we have concluded to take charge of your spiritual welfare, and your temporal estate, so that you need not be troubled with the care of them in future; we will say your prayers and spend your money, while you live, and bury you in Potters Field, when you die. Kneel then! and kiss our big toe in token of submission.”

Brother Jonathan: “No you dont, Mr. Pope! You’re altogether too willing; but you can’t put ‘the mark of the Beast’ on Americans.”

Young America: “You can neither coax, nor frighten our boys, Sir! we can take care of our word worldly affairs, and are determined to Know nothing but this book, to guide us in spiritual things.”

The term Know Nothing alludes to the nativist political party.

First bishop: “I cannot bear to see that boy, with that horrible book.”

Second bishop: “Only let us get a good foot hold on the soil, and we’ll burn up those Books and elevate this Country to the Same degree of happiness and prosperity to which we have brought Italy, Spain, Ireland and many other lands.”

Third bishop: “Sovereign Pontiff! say that if his friends, have any money, when he dies; they may purchase a hole, for him in my cemetery, at a fair price.”

Fourth bishop: “Go ahead Reverend Father, I’ll hold our boat by this sprig of shamrock.”


 Digital image via Cornell University Library.

Digital image via Cornell University Library.

Nathaniel Currier. Grand National American Banner. New York, 1856. John A. McAllister Collection.

This hand-colored lithograph presages the kinds of campaign portraits that circulated in the late-nineteenth century. This portrait features 1856 American Party candidates Millard Fillmore and Andrew Donelson, depicted in a stage setting and bordered by garland, American flags and shield, an eagle under the slogan “The Constitution and the Union,” and a banner inscribed “The Americans Choice for President and Vice President from 1857 to 1861.”


Digital image via Library of Congress.

John Magee. The Morning after the Election—November 1856. Philadelphia, 1856. Political Cartoon Collection.

In this lithograph caricaturing the 1856 election, a victorious James Buchanan sits below a trellis of grapevines grasping the election returns (“Telegraph Returns. Nov. 7”). On the left, four New York newspaper editors run forward holding bills for large sums of money: a bearded “German editor,” Horace Greeley, James Gordon Bennett, and James Watson Webb, all frustrated Freemont supporters. Freemont rides behind them on horseback, swarmed by mosquitoes. On the right, Millard Fillmore emerges from the mouth of a cavern, holding a lantern (a nativist symbol). He confronts a bearded man with two pistols at his waist, the Know Nothing leader “Ned Buntline.”

Buchanan: “What a happy morning for my country and myself. Here I find returns for myself & my Kentucky brother [John Breckinridge]—beginning with Maine in the North & concluding with Texas in the South. What welcome news to know that the People have not removed a plank of the Democratic Platform. Who will dare breathe Disunion now?” [behind him, ripe wheat]

Freemont: “I’m off to Mariposa—Like a foolish fellow, you Editors made me believe papers could do all things—The people you see have used us up. When I get my gold regions & back again, I’ll pay you in a horn.”

Fillmore: “Oh! Ned! Ned! This is all your doing. After being a popular Whit President—and walking in the footsteps of Clay, Webster, & Cass. I am thrown back by the People into the Dark & gloomy caverns of Know Nothingism.”