<Go back to the People Index results>

Patent Democratic Republican STEAM SHAVING SHOP.
Complete Explanation:
A cryptic satire possibly dealing with some facet of the 1844 presidential campaign. The print features two unsuccessful aspirants for the Democratic presidential nomination: Martin Van Buren and Richard M. Johnson.

In an interior a bearded man wearing a plaid vest attends a steam boiler (left), watching as several others are lathered and shaved by various steam-powered apparatuses. Around a large bowl of shaving lather sit (left to right) Van Buren, an unidentified young man, New York "Herald" editor James Gordon Bennett, and Richard M. Johnson. Over Johnson's head is a plaque advertising "Patent Tetragmenon formosum for turning grey hair black . . . ," perhaps a swipe at the ages of the veteran candidates (Johnson was sixty-three, Van Buren sixty-two). Another plaque, at left, reads "Rowlands Essence of Steam. For Promoting the Growth of Whiskers. Sold here."

In the foreground sit a gentleman and a seaman, both being shaved by machines that they operate by foot pedals. The mariner's hat hangs from a peg on the wall above his head. On the floor near the gentleman are his hat and cane, and a muzzled dog.

The cartoon has resisted interpretation. Murrell and Weitenkampf both suggest a date in the 1830s, but Davison's tentative 1844 is more convincing in terms of subject and on stylistic grounds.

Website design © 2010 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2010 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com