The astute and clever among you will have seen this coming after reading this post
Phyrne Before the Chicago Tribunal
by Bernhard Gillam (1884)
The caption reads:
Ardent Advocate.:—“Now, Gentlemen, don’t make any mistake in your decision! Here’s Purity and Magnetism for you—can’t be beat!”
Wow. Lots to talk about here, so let’s begin. For years I thought Joseph Keppler was responsible for this image, so I’m a bit surprised to learn it was actually Bernhard Gillam who’s actually the creator of this iconic artwork. One of the most (in)famous cartoons found in Puck
Essentially, a stylized image of Whitelaw Reid stripping James Blaine at the 1884 Repubican National Convention, only to reveal tattoos of all the scandals he was allegedly involved in. It’s also a parody of this image
. The “magnetic pad” is a reference to Blaine’s nickname: “The Magnetic Man,” suggesting that his supposed magnetism was artificial.
Needless to say, Blaine was not pleased by this image. Reportedly he tried to sue Puck
for “obscenity,” but the suit was thrown out almost immediately. Puck
’s edict in response: more tattooed man images, and it became a meme.
In fact, I can imagine the conversation that went on around this time:
Chauncey: Hallo, Edgar! Where are you off to?
Edgar: Good morning, Chauncey. I’m headed to the town square. Haven’t you heard? Blaine’s giving a speech.
Chauncey: Oh really? Do you think he’ll take his clothes off?
Edgar: [startled] Whatever for?
Chauncey: You know, to show off his tattoos?
Edgar: Tattoos? I don’t think he has any. He’s not exactly a navy man. Are you sure you’re not thinking of Robeson?
Chauncey: No, no. I’m certain I saw a picture of him somewhere where he had tattoos all over his body.
Edgar: Oh...I think I see.
Chauncey: I like the one that says “Mulligan Letters” the best.
Edgar: Chauncey, you do realize that’s just a cartoon?
Chauncey: No, I’m sure it was real! I saw several of them and they wouldn’t print something that wasn’t true now, would they?
Edgar: Very funny. Now if you’ll excuse me...
Chauncey: Say, you think Boss Conkling will show up in his exploding waistcoat?
Edgar: [sigh] Good-bye, Chauncey!