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Friday, May 6, 2016

Why the donkey and the elephant?

The election season having sparked their curiosity, one of our patrons commented on our Facebook page to ask who chose the donkey and the elephant to represent Democrats and Republicans.

According to Smithsonian Magazine and, it was the famous nineteenth-century political cartoonist Thomas Nast who linked the donkey and elephant to the Democratic and Republican parties, though he was not the first person to use the symbols.

The donkey had been used in reference to Democrat Andrew Jackson during his 1828 campaign. While it was meant as a criticism, Jackson reclaimed it as his own symbol, drawing attention to the donkey’s positive qualities of steadfastness and determination.

The elephant may have been based on the phrase “seeing the elephant,” which soldiers used to refer to having experienced combat. It was first used in an Abraham Lincoln campaign newspaper in 1864, where it was depicted celebrating Union victories.

For more information, the biography Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons by Fiona Deans Halloran is available through CLEVNET

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