by Thomas Nast in the April 20, 1867 issue mocked the Alaskan
purchase by depicting Secretary of State William H. Seward as an
elderly mother caring for her child, who appears to be a
combination of Uncle Sam and President Andrew Johnson.
The figure wears Uncle Sam’s stars-and-stripes uniform,
but the “sore spot” on his head is labeled “Andy” after
the president. Nast
and other Radical Republicans were irritated by the lenient
Reconstruction policy pursued by Johnson.
In the cartoon, the child figure shakes his fist at a
portrait of “King Andy,” a satirical nickname alluding to what
Radical Republicans saw as Johnson’s monarchical ambition.
The picture frame shows a carved snake, probably a
reference to Northern sympathizers with the Confederacy who had
been called Copperheads (a poisonous snake). During Reconstruction, Nast continued to identify the
Democratic Party with Civil War Copperheads.
cartoonist, the purchase of Alaska was an administration ploy to
ease widespread resentment toward the president.
In the “Big Thing,” Seward tried to relieve the
national pain by applying Redding’s Russia Salve, a popular
ointment for skin maladies advertised in the pages of Harper’s
Weekly and elsewhere.
On the wall poster in the cartoon’s background, Uncle Sam
was shown trudging in snowshoes across the icy tundra, planting
American flags on Alaskan mountaintops, as polar bears and
walruses watched. A
picture of an Eskimo family was sarcastically labeled “One of
in perspective to Nast’s cartoon was the satirical commentary
in “Winglets,” a humor column, from the April 27 issue. Written as if the journalist had ventured into the Alaskan
wilderness to interview the new American “citizens” there, it
described the reporter’s encounter with bears, seals, walruses,
sables, cold weather, ice, and barrenness.
The author clearly considered the Alaskan purchase to be a
waste of money.
Forty or Fight!” in the first paragraph of “Winglets”
referred to the Democratic campaign slogan of 1844 concerning a
dispute with Britain over the northern boundary of the Oregon
Territory. After his
election, President James K. Polk agreed to a compromise at the 49th
parallel. The 54°
40' line of latitude is also the southern border of Russian
Alaska. The last
sentence lampooned the campaign tour, called the “swing ‘round
the circle,” undertaken by President Andrew Johnson
(“Andy”), Secretary of State William Seward (“Billy”), and
other administration members before the 1866 elections. It was a public relations disaster for the president, who was
verbally abusive and reportedly drunk, and a factor in the
Republicans winning veto-proof control of Congress.