Keith R.A. DeCandido (kradical) wrote,
Keith R.A. DeCandido

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Schott's Miscellany 15 September 2009

P.T. Barnum's elephant, Jumbo, was killed while crossing rail tracks; it was later stuffed and displayed (1885)


The Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant probably date to the congressional elections of 1874 and the work of German-born artist Thomas Nast--the father of U.S. caricature and cartoon (although some say that in the 1820s, Andrew Jackson was portrayed by cartoonists as a jackass). It seems that in 1874, the New York Herald ran a hoax about animals escaping the Central Park Zoo and scavenging for food. In a cartoon for Harper's Weekly, Nast combined the Herald's joke with Ulysses S. Grant's bid for reelection, depicting the Herald as a donkey disguised as a lion, trying to scare away a Republican elephant. (In 1877, Nast also depicted a Democratic tiger licking his chops while waiting for a Republican lamb.) Depending on your partisan persuasion, the donkey (an 18th-century euphemism for ass) represents either stubbornness and braying stupidity or cleverness, courage, and likeableness. (In biblical times, donkeys were thought suitable mounts for royalty in peacetime.) The elephant symbolizes either sturdiness, toughness, and a preternatural memory or blundering clumsiness and pachydermal insensitivity. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats have never formally adopted their animal as a symbol.

Thunder is the voice of God, and, therefore, to be dreaded.
Increase Mather (1639-1723)

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