The Old Print Shop

Every Public Question with an Eye Only to the Public Good.

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. March 15, 1873.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1873.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 12 1/2 x 20 7/8" (31.8 x 51.9 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: Additional text reads - "'Well, the wickedness of all of it is, not that these men were bribed or corruptly influenced, but they betrayed the trust of the people, deceived their constituents, and by their evasions and falsehoods confessed the transaction to be disgraceful.' - New York Tribune, February 19, 1873." The line below it continues - "Justice (to the Saints of the Press). 'Let him that has not betrayed the trust of the People, and is without stain, cast the first stone." <br><br> Like today, bribery was problem with political figures in the 1870s, perhaps even more so because it was the Gilded Age. Stock in hopeful, young companies was a common form of bribery in those days and directly relates to this engraving. A banner hanging in the upper left reads ,"Disgraced in the eye of the public for owning Credit Mobilier stock, which was in fact, and intent, a fraud upon the government. Also for deceit and evasion. - The high trust of legislation misused. - The people will not long respect the laws if they lose respect for the law-makers." <br><br> Credit Mobilier of America was a construction company formed by stockholders of the Union Pacific Railroad. They gave or sold stock cheaply to politicians who would favor them with votes and federal funding. Exorbitant amount of tax money flowed into the company because of this and much of it went right into the pockets of the stockholders. Many politicians found their reputations tarnished when news of their actions finally broke, including that of the incoming vice president, Henry Wilson (illustrated sitting on the wall, to the left). Congressmen James Brooks and Oakes Ames, two men well noted in the scandal, are also depicted in this cartoon. They are illustrated at the center of the political group. Brooks holds a paper reading "C.M." Ames hold a paper reading "Bait C.M." <br><br> In this cartoon the artist, Thomas Nast, reminds the public that the politicians aren't the only problem in the country. What they did was wrong, and he makes that clear, but the newspapers are not saints, either. Lady Justice, with her sword and scale, asks for any newspaper who is truly righteous to step forward. For only they have the right to declare the corrupt politicians sinners and betrayers. Anyone else is just as guilty as they. And indeed they were. While the editors may not have accepted stock-bribes, they lied to the public with slander and biased articles. This was particularly true during the last presidential elections, which had occurred just months prior. None of the newspapers will step forward. Many cannot even look Justice in the eye, too proud or ashamed to admit their guilt. Others, in the background, are trying to make a stealthy getaway. <br><br> Each of the newspaper editors has been illustrated holding their given paper. Examples include Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune, James Bennett Jr. of the New York Herald and Benjamin Wood of the New York Daily News (simplified to 'The News' in this cartoon).


  • CONDITION: Generally good condition, staining in upper and a repaired tear in the upper right margin.