Taking the Stump

| 1 Comment

Taking the Stump or Stephen in Search of His Mother (New York: Currier & Ives, 1860). Lithograph. Graphic Arts division GA2007.04097

This political cartoon sets Democrat Stephen A. Douglas against Republican Abraham Lincoln during the presidential campaign of 1860. From left to right, the figures represent John Bell of Tennessee (Constitutional Union party candidate); John A. Wise (influential Democratic governor of Virginia); Douglas; James Buchanan (Democratic incumbent president); John C. Breckenridge (Buchanan’s vice-president and Democratic candidate); and Lincoln.

An interpretation of the scene comes from Americana dealer William Reese:
The cartoon is a play on the word “stump,” serving as a colloquial expression for both campaigning and a wooden leg. In “taking the stump” to campaign, Douglas is handicapped by a pegleg; in a dialogue balloon he explains his condition to Bell and Wise by stating that he “fell over a big lump of Breckenridge, and have been very lame ever since.” In turn, Breckenridge has his right foot and lower leg wrapped in bandages, and Buchanan presents him with a pegleg, telling his Vice President, “Here, Breck, as Dug [Douglas] has taken the stump, you must stump it too.” Breckenridge, perhaps alluding to his poor showing at the Democratic Party’s May convention, replies, “I suppose I must, but I know it will be of no use, for I feel that I haven’t got a leg to stand on.” Lincoln, leaning against a symbolic split-rail fence and the only figure depicted in casual dress, declares to the others, “Go it yet cripples! Wooden legs are cheap, but a stumping won’t save you.”

More information: Bernard Reilly, American Political Prints 1766-1876 (1991) GA Oversize E183.3.R45 1991Q and Currier & Ives: a Catalogue Raisonne (1983) GA Oversize NE 2312.C8 A4 1983Q.

1 Comment

You know I think it's sad when famous artists like Chuck Close get all the credit for imaginative work that they didn't even come up with first...if you go to the gallery site for Mixed Greens in New York City you would see that a young artist named Rob Conger did this exact piece...using a different portrait image and a much funnier medium at least 2 years ahead of Close. No it is not a print so perhaps you can't imagine delving out of your own little box far enough to experience other types of work..but Conger created the piece using black, grey and white latch hook, creating a circular rug and then placed a stainless steel trash can in the center to reflect the portrait. As far as I can see Close's piece is a rip off and not nearly as humorous or clever...two years after the fact.

Brenda Oelbaum