Spectacular Puck cartoon skewering the era’s political partisanship

[Joseph Ferdinand] Keppler, THE SIREN SONG OF PARTISANSHIP. THE OLD STUFF DOESN’T GO ANY MORE. New York: Keppler & Schwarzmann, [June, 1, 1910].
Chromolithograph, image 11”h x 17 ¾”w plus title and margins. Vertical centerfold with small rust spots from original staple binding, small chips at lower corners, very good.

A striking 1910 chromolithographic political cartoon from Puck magazine, skewering political partisanship by skillfully deploying not one but two metaphors, the “ship of state” and the “Sirens’ song”.

“Illustration shows a galley labeled “Government Of, By, and For the People” sailing past rocks labeled “Bossism” where other ships have wrecked, drawn by “Party Solidarity” sung by Republican sirens “Connors, Aldrich, Cox, Penrose, Woodruff, [and] Lodge” and “Partisanship” sung by Democratic sirens “Mack, Conners, Murphy, [and] Taggart” sitting on rocks above the crashing seas.” (Library of Congress)

Ironically, one could argue that 1910 was a year that hyper-partisanship actually broke down. The Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909 split House Republicans between the “Old Guard” and “Progressives”, with the latter aligning with the Democrats, enraging Republican President Taft. Wracked by intra-party strife, Republicans went on to take a terrible beating in that year’s midterms. Taft went down to defeat in 1912 after Theodore Roosevelt split with the Republicans and ran as a third-party candidate, opening the door for Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Joseph Ferdinand Keppler and Puck
This cartoon was one of hundreds that appeared in Puck, a weekly humor magazine that was the first to use successfully color lithography on a regular basis. The front and back covers of each issue were printed in color, and each featured as centerfold a double-page cartoon such as “The Siren Song of Partisanship.” Puck was founded in 1871 by Austrian-American cartoonist Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1838-1894) as a vehicle for his own talents:

“In March 1871, he and fellow émigré Adolph Schwarzmann started Puck as a German-language weekly in St. Louis, which lasted until February 1872…. He was then hired as cartoonist by Frank Leslie about 1873 and within a short while took charge of most of the cover illustrations for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. In 1876, he left and with Adolph Schwarzmann successfully resurrected Puck in New York, publishing an English-language version the following year…. His cartoons were famous for their caustic wit, generating much publicity for Puck and pioneering the use of colour lithography for caricature.  Much of his success was due to a clever adaptation of classical and historical subjects to his criticisms of modern life.

“Keppler’s opinions and wit endeared him to large sections of the American public.  His illustrations cast light on complex politics, making issues clear to the average voter. Puck did not shy away from criticism of the administration and by influencing the perceptions of the voting public, certainly altered the course of American political history….” (Wikipedia)