The Old Print Shop

The Next Step - Look Before You ---

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. October 19, 1878.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1878.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 13 5/8 x 9 1/4" (34.7 x 23.5 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: Uncle Sam ponders his approach to the ballot box. On the ground is a bear trap labeled "Greenbacks $" with a tag attached to it reading "This is not a political trap." Already clamped onto his right foot is the "Silver Resolutions" trap, which also has the "this is not a trap" tag tied to it. <br><br> In January of 1878 the Matthew's Resolution passed in the House of Representatives, allowing silver, which had been removed from the money standard in 1873, to be used to pay off public debts, such as government issued bonds. It was followed quickly by the Bland–Allison Act in Congress, requiring the Treasury to re-instituted silver into the money standard. The Act had originally been vetoed by President Hayes, who favored the gold standard, but on February 23, 1878 Congress overrode the presidential veto to see it through. Silver had originally been removed because it was causing inflation. Large silver mines had been discovered in the west and the value of silver coins was plummeting as a result. Gold, on the other hand, was more stable. So the government removed silver through the Coinage Act of 1873. Naturally, owners of silver mines were outraged and cried for the government to reconsider. The cries only became louder when the Panic of 1873 hit several months later, leading the country into the Long Depression (1873-1879). <br><br> Thomas Nast had created "The St. Mathews' Trap. The First Step Towards National Bankruptcy" cartoon earlier in 1878 (a sketch of it is depicted in the upper right corner). It was a reaction to the Matthew's Resolution, which he felt was a financial trap for the country. Now, several months later, the Congressional elections were looming. This time greenbacks (paper money) were a central point of discussion. They, like silver, were causing inflation. For supporters this was a good thing because it would help struggling business during the depression. The opposition, however, feared what inflation would do in the long term and favored a full return to the gold standard, which would bring about deflation. Nast obviously favors the gold system because he has depicted greenbacks as a massive bear trap ready to ensnare the unsuspecting soul.


  • CONDITION: Good condition.