Essay 3: Robber Barons, Industrialization, and Political Cartoons

For this essay, students will analyze and interpret two turn-of-the-century political cartoon intended to transmit American views of the “Robber Barons,” or if you take a more sympathetic approach, the “Titans of Industry.”  The leaders of America’s Second Industrialization Revolution (1877-1917) were as controversial in their own age as they are today among some historians. 


For this essay, students will analyze two cartoons from the resources noted below.  Students should spend about 1-2 pages explaining and interpreting the significance and context of each cartoon.  Two cartoons, 1-2 pages of discussion for each cartoon, 3-4 pages total. 


The essential question students should answer is:


What is the perspective/opinion that the artists is attempting to convey about American industrialization and the leaders of American industrialization? 

The writing in the body paragraphs must make an obvious attempt to address this question. 


Students might also want to integrate and think about some of the following questions when writing their essay:


-What is the cartoonist trying to convey to his audience?

-How do you think contemporaries interpreted the cartoon?

-What is the historical context of the cartoon?

-What perspective do you think the cartoonist favors (capital or labor)?

-Do you get the impression the cartoonist supports the business leader(s) pictured, or favors reforms of American business culture?

-What do the cartoons say about American economic culture during the Gilded Age?

-Is the cartoon an accurate depiction of American economic culture during the Gilded Age?

-What does the cartoon tell historians about American perceptions of the political process?

-Is the cartoon encouraging equality? Wealth accumulation? Fairness? Competition?


Make sure you identify the artist, cartoon, publication date, and where the cartoon was published in your essay. 


Use the below on-line resources to select a cartoon.  There are hundreds of cartoons to choose from.  If you discover a different cartoon on a different site that deals with the assignment topic, feel free to use that one.  But make certain that you are writing about a cartoon that was produced between 1877-1914 and deals with the assignment topic. 


Be sure to do a little research on the cartoonists and the historical context of the cartoon. (Links to an external site.)

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