Politics in Graphic Detail

Exploring History through Political Cartoons

About This Project


Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal

Bernhard Gillam (artist), "Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal" Puck, June 4, 1884. This Puck cartoon pokes fun at 1884 Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine by depicting him as the courtesan Phryne in Jean-Léon Gerôme’s famous 19th century painting Phryne before the Areopagus.

“Politics in Graphic Detail: Exploring History through Political Cartoons” is a digital history exhibit that features political cartoons that span American history from the colonial period through the Progressive Era.  Many of the political cartoons portray well-known public figures like presidents and politicians, while others depict fictional or generic characters, such as Uncle Sam or figures embodying ethnic stereotypes. Reflecting the evolution of the political cartoon genre, the selected cartoons encompass a variety of visual styles, ranging from intricate scenes with a great deal of text to stark images with few or no words. Visitors to the site can search for cartoons on specific topics, analyze individual cartoons in depth, and follow links between cartoons and related contextual material. In addition to the political cartoons, the digital exhibit includes educational resources for teachers and students, as well as conceptual essays and other descriptive content. 

Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT)

“Politics in Graphic Detail: Exploring History through Political Cartoons” is part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT) project, a two-year project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s (NHPRC) Innovation in Archives and Documentary Editing program. The HINT project aims to enhance description and discovery of its graphics materials and promote the linking and sharing of content among institutions and scholars. As part of the HINT project, HSP has encoded over one hundred political cartoons in XML following Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) P5 guidelines and developed a new digital image viewer. The new image viewer enabled project staff to create TEI annotation and transcription "zones" on the political cartoons featured in "Politics in Graphic Detail: Exploring History through Political Cartoons".  When clicked on by a user, these “zones” display pop-up text containing editorial content and more information about the people, organizations, and symbols depicted.

To learn more about the HINT project and its evolution, check out the announcements, updates, blog posts, and related materials on our project page at hsp.org.

Interested in our metadata? Our TEI files are available on GitHub.

Want to use the HSP Image Viewer for your own institution or project? Check out the code on GitHub.

Copyright and Terms of Use

HSP makes a claim of copyright only to original contributions made by the Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT) Project participants and other staff. HSP makes no claim of copyright to the original text. Permission is granted to download, transmit or otherwise reproduce, distribute or display the text contributions to this work claimed by HSP for non-profit educational purposes, provided that this header is included in its entirety.

For inquiries about commercial uses, please contact the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. HSP retains the rights of all images unless otherwise noted. Possession of an HSP digital image does not constitute permission to use or publish it. Requests for digital imaging, other reproduction services, and the intended use of reproductions must be made in writing to the Rights and Reproductions Coordinator at rnr@hsp.org.

Project Team

Tamara Gaskell, Historian and Director of Publications and Scholarly Programs
Sara Borden, Project Manager (2014-2015)
Hillary Kativa, Project Manager (2013)
Diane Biunno, Project Associate (2014-2015)
Dana Dorman, Project Associate (2014)
Rachel Moloshok, Project Associate (2013-2015)
Sarah Newhouse, Project Associate (2013-2014)

Project Advisory Board

Andy Ashton, Brown University (2013-2015)
Liz Bishoff, Bishoff Group (2013-2015)
Tom Clareson, LYRASIS (2013-2015)
Martin Holmes, University of Victoria (2013-2014)
Jon Voss, Historypin (2013-2015)


This digital history project has been made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s Innovation in Archives and Documentary Editing program.

Additional support provided by The Richard Lounsbery Foundation.