AJN On the Cover
In light of the prominent position health care has taken in the 2012 presidential race, this month's cover features a political cartoon of a nurse taking the pulse of both candidates, trying to decide between the two. Publication of this cartoon by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist David Horsey may be the first time AJN has used a political cartoon on the cover. Presidential campaigns have always provided good fodder for political cartoons, which typically make use of caricature, satire, and allusion in their visual statements.
The modern political cartoon has its origins in Great Britain in 1735, when the passage of “Hogarth's Act” gave copyright protection to the producers of original engravings. Thus satirists of British politics like William Hogarth were now free to have their work viewed throughout Britain and in colonial cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
Benjamin Franklin is acknowledged as creator of some of the first American political cartoons. In 1754, he created a woodcut of a snake cut into pieces, the pieces labeled with the initials of the various colonies, and the words “join, or die” beneath them. Playing on an idea from American folklore, that a cut-up snake could reconnect its parts and live, the cartoon symbolized the need for colonial unity against common enemies.
Since then, the political cartoon has held an integral place in American politics, especially during campaign season, appearing in daily newspapers as early as the 1860 presidential election. Political cartoons have changed over time, but they still retain the ability to reach a wide audience and provoke controversy. For more information about the political cartoon on our cover, see this month's Editorial. —Michael Fergenson, senior editorial coordinator