The 1898 Spanish-American War in cartoons


Spanish-American War in cartoons

*Spanish version oh this article. 

Spanish cartoons (La Correspondencia, Black and White, D.Quixote, Spanish Cuba) and Americans (The World NY, Herald) confronted in an "infographic" of the time. Source: The San Francisco Call, May 15, 1898, Page 18.

The Spanish-American War (25 April to 12 August 1898), also known as the "Disaster of '98" or the "War of Cuba", not only meant the decline of the Spanish empire and the loss of its last overseas colonies for a new division of the territories, also opened up another contest that was fought in the pages of the tabloids.

The war of 1898 was the first war, if not provoked, at least accelerated, by the sensationalism of the media. It is even set to be the year of the birth of the yellow press in the United States, spilling over into the Spanish one.

The American media represented their country with the traditional powerful and just "Uncle Sam", while showing the Spanish as barbarians, murderers, ignorant, liars, fake sympathizers, hypocrites and dressed up as bullfighters and bandits. They even invented massacres, humiliations and tortures by giving themselves up to propaganda without half measures.

The Spaniards also raised the tone of what was already beginning to be called "anti-Americanism" to depict the "Yankees" as invading pigs, looters and murderers while the image most used to symbolise the Spanish was that of a fierce lion.

Depending on how one reads the various parts on conflict, versions can be found that highlight the attacks by one side or the other by tilting the balance of blames.

There is much more documentation on American cartoons than on Spanish ones, which were more frequent in magazines than in newspapers, I suppose partly because of the coincidence of the beginning of the crisis in the Spanish press that took some newspapers away and also the credibility enjoyed by others at that time.

Cartoons from the Spanish-American War period

This is a review of a few cartoons, not all of them, that were crossed by both sides in newspapers and magazines, before, during and after the Spanish-American War. They are ordered by date, all dating back to 1898.

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Magazine La Campana de Gràcia number 1498 of January 29th.

Legend: "With the mask of friendship he already has one leg in it"

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11 February, Sullivan's cartoon in The Times (Washington D.C.) on the resignation of Spanish ambassador Enrique Dupuy de Lome for his comments on relations with the USA regarding the island of Cuba and on McKinley, doubting his ability to serve as president and describing him as weak, populist and "politicastro" (bad politician).

Four days later the battleship Maine exploded.

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Unsigned cartoon of March 11 published in Hot Springs Weekly Star. Eternal Uncle Sam rebukes the Spaniard: "Is this betrayal/false?" At his feet a dead sailor.

At the bottom the graves of the dead in the sinking of the Maine. On the US flag the legend "Heroes of Maine".

The Spaniard makes a gesture of reverence, above him there is a small sign that reads "hypocritical sympathy".

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Cartoon published in The Salt Lake Herald on March 27. Brokers try to stop "Uncle Sam" to avoid the confrontation with Spain, in the background the sunken American battleship "Maine", one of the triggers of the war and origin of the phrase and war cry: "Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!

Spanish Barbarians

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Also on March 27th in The Anaconda Standard (Montana), they dedicate a good space to the cruelty of the Spanish and assure that they carry it in the mixture of their different bloods. "They have no mercy because they are ruthless," they said without further argument. In three illustrations they show Spaniards roasting a man to death and torturing and killing others in different ways.

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Chicago Cronicle cartoon published in The Herald on April 1st

War seems imminent, in the picture an "Uncle Sam", determined to fight the Spaniard, tries to push President McKinley away, depicted as a babysitter who warns him to be careful not to wake the child king (Alfonso). In his cradle appear words related to the economic situation of Spain.

On 10 April The Saint Paul Globe wrote on its cover: "The semi-barbarians of the Iberian Peninsula have hung up the white flag for a period of five days".

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Cartoon from The New York World published on 21 April on the cover of The Topeka State Journal. Uncle Sam inviting Spain to leave the Western Hemisphere:

"Your choice, sir, peaceably or by force".

What Spain Has Lost

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Page of The San Francisco Call of 24 April, one day before the start of the war, under the title "What Spain has lost, countries that have slipped away from the crown since 1640".

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30th April 1898. Cartoon by Ramón Cilla entitled "warrior purposes" in the magazine Madrid Cómico. The expression "no sea mackinleiro" refers to the American President McKinley. The tone of humour in Spain denotes a certain distance, almost carefree.

In fact, some documents point out that for many it went almost unnoticed in that the effects of it fell more on those with commercial interests in the colonies than on the ordinary people.

Many even breathed a sigh of relief knowing that they would no longer be sent to serve in those places.

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From the pages of the newspapers they already warned the Spanish cartoonists, by way of threat and prediction, that they would have to change their way of drawing the "American pig". Instead of the fat, inactive, lazy and harmless pig, they would have to draw it as a more ferocious and terrible creature with tearing fangs

The Evening Star, 12 May, see page.

The Maine, the big excuse


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The Herald, May 15. "Remember the Maine". Despite not being able to prove Spain's involvement in the sinking of the Maine (which may have been due to an accident although others claimed it was sunk by the Americans), the press continued to repeat that it was the Spaniards.

The Spanish fleet is destroyed in Manila, and Uncle Sam, seeing the wreckage of the Spanish ships, asks Spain, "Remember the Maine?"

Cartoon of May 3, 1898, published in "Cartoons of the Spanish-American War" book of cartoons by the cartoonist of the Minneapolis Journal Charles Lewis Bartholomew ,"Bart" (1869-1949).

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Legend: Way of the M. (It is understood that it refers... to shit?) from the spanish expressión "A la mierda"

Spanish ships expelling the Americans represented once again as pigs.

Illustration published in the magazine Don Quixote number 21 of Friday 27 May,

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Cover of the magazine La Campana de Gràcia, number 1518 of 28 May.

Title: "Desperation of Spain". Caption: "To save the rights of Europe in America, I am giving my children, my blood and my treasures... And Europe is abandoning me!

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22 May, collection of cartoons from different American media published in The San Francisco Call.

Cartoon in The Herald, 3 June. President Sagasta surrenders with the king, dwarfed, crying, touched in his honour, the bank of Spain sinks to the bottom.

Madrid Cómico magazine number 799 of June 11. The cartoon extols Spain's historic victories and despise the Americans by pointing out that their only power is money.

Compilation of cartoons published in The San Francisco Call, Sunday 3 July.

The Spanish "monster"

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Judge magazine, although it was not a sensationalist publication, already at the beginning of the war published some images going with the flow, such as the cover illustrated by Grant Hamilton (1862 - 1926) on 9 July 1898 with the legend: "The Spanish brute adds mutilation to murder", related to the death of the sailors in the explosion of the Maine.

July 10th. Another "Barber" cartoon in The Herald with the caption "Will Spain let it fly? In the image a Spaniard throwing salt on the wings of the dove that represents peace.

Cartoon by Joaquín Xaudaró from 23 July 1898 in the magazine Madrid Cómico.

Xaudaró draws on a mixture of self-criticism and irony and say:

"Now it turns out that the most powerful nation in Europe will, in a fight, be inferior to the United States, and I am disappointed, after having called them pigs so many times!"

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Again Barber in The Herald, August 2. A Spaniard knocks on Europe's door asking for intervention in the war. The sign reads: "Closed to cheaters" (or vagrants?)

4 August, unsigned cartoon in The Valentine Democrat.

Description. A figure representing Spain looks at a painting on the wall that reads: "your days are numbered and you will no longer make mankind miserable". In the book, on his knees, he cites the Inquisition, the sinking of the Maine, murders, tortures and other international "records of glorious spain".

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On 14 August, the war is over. The Herald publishes this cartoon entitled "The Evacuation of the Western Hemisphere" with a Spaniard retreating on a donkey, holding in his right hand a parchment with the legend "honour". The painting "Prince Balthasar Charles on horseback" by Velázquez is parodied. The author apologises to Velázquez along with his signature.

"The lesson is learned". In the scene, again Uncle Sam with the rule of war in his hand, forces the Spanish to learn the lesson of peace.

Cartoon of September 2nd published in The Kinsley Graphic and reproduced by many other media.

Sources consulted:

Biblioteca Virtual dePrensa Histórica

Arca, arxiu de revistes catalanes antigues

Biblioteca del Congreso de Estados Unidos

Cartoons of the Spanish-American War. Charles Lewis Bartholomew, 1869-1949

Los periódicos de Madrid en 1898, Concha Edo, UCM (PDF)

1898: Prensa y opinión pública en España y los Estados Unidos, Juan Jiménez Mancha , UCM Revista SEECI

Prensa sensacionalista americana en el S.XIX y su contribución en la guerra hispano-estadounidense. Análisis de las portadas americanas de la época. Fernando Barahona. (PDF)

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