A new Keller Gallery exhibition, “Campaigns and Cartoons: The Role of Caricature In Political Persuasion,” opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.
The political cartoonists of President William McKinley’s day did not always treat him kindly.
“All you need,” explains the patriotically-dressed Uncle Sam as he sticks a rifle with a bayonet on its barrel down between McKinley’s spine and the back of the president’s topcoat, “is backbone.”
The Chicago Chronicle cartoon was Spanish-American War humor.
Now it is part of the the new Keller Gallery exhibition, “Campaigns and Cartoons: The Role of Caricature In Political Persuasion,” which opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum.
“It’s 36 original cartoons that are framed,” said Kimberly Kenney, museum curator, who added that the exhibit was obtained from the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis. “It’s their first traveling exhibit, so this is the first place its been, other than their museum.”
Stark County’s favorite son, President McKinley, understandably is featured prominently in the exhibit.
“Quite a few of the cartoons from their collection are McKinley,” said Kenney, who cited the Gold Standard and the Cuban civil war as dominant issues of McKinley’s day. “A lot of the difficult issues that cartoonists of the past were depicting were from McKinley’s era.”
The curator also created panels of McKinley cartoons for the exhibition from drawings in the McKinley Museum collection, examples of artwork that touch upon the president’s Front Porch Campaign of 1896 and his re-election in 1900.
“I added a whole panel of cartoons about the Spanish-American War,” she noted.
When putting the exhibit together for the Keller Gallery, Kenney accented the political drawings with historical artifacts.
“All the artifacts are ours,” said Kenney. “We’re displaying one of the 45-star flags that was on McKinley’s front porch during the campaign, an umbrella with McKinley and Hobart on it, several instruments that were used when people would get off the train and march up Market Avenue. And, we’ll have campaign ribbons and buttons, lots of them.”
To tie the summer exhibit into the current presidential campaign, the display will include photographs of the political process during McKinley’s campaigns.
“We’ll have a slide show going on continuously of some of the pictures we have in the collection of the Front Porch Campaign and the inauguration,” said Kenney.
The 2012 presidential campaign played a part in Kenney selecting the political cartoon exhibit, she said.
“I like to book at least one exhibit a year that has a presidential theme,” she explained, “and this is an election year, so it fit in perfectly.”