The 150th anniversary on the American Civil War is commemorated in this exhibition, which highlights the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s growing collection of nineteenth century prints. Editorial cartoons were not published in newspapers until after the Civil War, when technology made it possible to publish them in a timely way economically. Prior to that, broadsheet prints -- etchings, engravings and lithographs -- were the means cartoonists used for political commentary. Popular magazines, such as Harper’s Weekly, relied on wood engravings to provide graphic content.
The complexity of many of the works displayed here is striking. Intricate visual metaphors demand close reading in order to comprehend the meaning of the cartoon. These images were produced when the pace of life was much different. Prints such as these were intended to be read, reread, and then, perhaps, read again. When we step back in time to consider these images, their messages are clear, passions are heated, and a complex period in the history of the United States is revealed.