The purpose of this two-part activity is to learn about techniques for working with political cartoons.

Read a scholarly article on how to analyze 1898 political cartoons

Read Fred Gleach’s article, “Images of Empire: Popular Representations of the 1898 War.” and respond to the following:

  1. In your own words, how does Gleach define “representations”?
  2. Did American image representations of Caribbeans start in 1898? If not, then when?
  3. What were the cultural meanings assigned to non-European Others by Americans in the 16th century? What about the 19th century?
  4. According to the author, why is it so difficult to make sense of visual representations produced in the past?
  5. What does it mean to “read against the grain”? Name some of the techniques used by the author.
  6. How did visual representations in the 1890s depict Spanish barbaric incompetence?
  7. Based on the images studied in the article, would you say U.S. newspapers were in support of American imperialism? How do they illustrate American military might?
  8. How do representations of “The Maine” through political cartoons convey meanings that change over time?
  9. Why are the 1898 War depictions of the Caribbean landscapes and peoples so problematic? How are each culture characterized?
  10. Could these short-lived period of 1898 American political cartoons have long-term impacts still felt today? Think of current examples.
Analyze a Cartoon

In this activity, you will choose one political cartoon from the following selection. Describe your observations and write down historical questions you may still have.


  1. Name your selected cartoon.
  2. List the symbols that you see and describe what is interesting about them.
  3. In what ways does symbolism help the cartoonist make his point?
  4. What is the main message depicted?
  5. Take a closer look and explain how the captions (words) in the cartoon clarify the symbols and the main message.
  6. Do you find the cartoon persuasive? What are the main techniques used?
  7. What type of audience would agree or disagree with the cartoon’s message?
  8. What are the diminishing processes behind these depictions of Caribbean populations? Can these past viewings be persistent and problematic even to the present day? How so?
  9. Write at least three in-depth questions that can lead you to understanding the “big-picture” of this cartoon.