Political Cartoons and Immigration: Then and Now

Since the publication of the very first newspapers, political cartoons have been used to express ideas and opinions about important issues in the news. These cartoons allowed people in the U.S. (even those who could not read or understand English very well) to gain an understanding of how others felt about the important issues of the day. Historically, they were also used as a way to insult or stir up hatred against people who were considered by some to be “Un-American” because of where they were born or what they looked like.

Click on the links below to explore political cartoons addressing the issue of immigration in the U.S. Compare the anti-immigration cartoons of last century with those from today that address the issue of immigration. Use the information from these sites to complete the worksheet on political cartoons and to post a ONE PARAGRAPH comment using the writing prompts below. Remember to follow the steps for posting comments listed in the “…welcome to the blogosphere” post below.

Anti-Irish political cartoons from the 1800s

Anti-Immigrant cartoons from history

Immigration political cartoons from today

political cartoon worksheet

How would you compare the political cartoons from one hundred years ago with the cartoons from today? What is the difference in the way that immigrants were drawn in the past compared to how they’re drawn today? Who did the cartoonists from the 1800s appear to be blaming for the immigration issue? Who do they appear to be blaming today? Why do you think that people like the Irish and the Italians who were treated so badly in the past are no longer discriminated against in the U.S. today?


  1. I think these images are very sad. They have lots of details but they show how the people lived back then. I wouldn’t have liked to be an immigrant at that time because they were very uncomfortable. The things costs but they were not good. The places where they sleeped were horrible. I think that images help more than words because images can be proof but the words can be mostly opinions not so much facts. Also the images have alot of details and can’t be exaggerated. On the other hand using words you can exaggerate as much as you want to and put lots of false information.

        Posted September 10, 2010, 9:18 pm

  2. I think that the immigration status has not changed much a 100 years ago they didnt want immigrants and now they still dont want immigrants so I still dont think that the immigration has changed exept 100 years ago they didnt want chines and irish immigrants now they dont want asian and mexican immigrant.

        Posted September 13, 2010, 10:55 am

  3. I think that these pictures are really sad because they are demeaning and messed up to immigrants. I think that the Americans should have met the the actual immigrants before they had said anything about them. The pictures exaggerated I think a little too much exaggeratio0n because they compared immigrants to primates.

        Posted September 13, 2010, 7:00 pm

  4. One hundred years ago the political cartoons were very rude and disrespectful. The images of the immigrants were exaggerated and sometimes even rudly expressed. The immigrants who were being blamed back then were the irish. They came out drawn like apes or with a flat nose etc. Now they are being drawn more like real humans there is a little of exaggeration still but not as rude as back then. the italians and irish are not being blamed anymore because the amount of italian and irish immigrants have decreased and the mexican number has increased and since the mexicans have more problems the U.S. has more things to blame on them.

        Posted September 13, 2010, 9:14 pm

  5. They are very different from now all the way up until back then . Back then they were ruder and had much more detail, and as much bad things to say about immigrants. Most of the things people say about immigrants in the political pictures are extremely exaggerated/overdone, just to say things about another race, just because you don’t know about them or their culture. The images said more about the person who drew them than the people who were in them, it showed how rude and how inconsiderate them illustrators are.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 10:46 am

  6. I believe that the pictures of the distorted immigrants was quite insulting,especially to immigrants which were the targets, for the features either possessed animalistic features of the face, or were distorted differently to make the immigrants differ from the “natives.” The images one hundered years ago really were straight to the point. The ones now are similar to comics, where dialogue is expressed between multiple characters concerning topics of interest among steroetypers. Of course, color has been added to political cartoons over time as technology progressed. Back then, cartoonists were blaming the immigrants for all of the turmoil and messes turning up all over the place. They are still blaming the immigrants today, but not nearly as often, and the economy is in a crash, so it also has to do with the change in the immigrant flow. The Civil War was caused mainly by discrimination and slavery, which the South had supported. As you saw, the North had different opinions of the slaves imported from Africa. Well, opinions shifted for the immigrants from Europe and China likewise. The people who shifted their opinions saw the true good of the slaves, as well as of the immigrants from the other continents.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 10:55 am

  7. The political cartoons one hundred years ago are basically simlar today. There may be differences but they’re still the same like how one hundred years ago “Americans” considered immigrants apes and gave them nast facial and bodily features. In the 1800′s political cartoonists blamed the Irish, Italians, Asians and Europeans for the issues that were occurring during there time. But today the cartoonists are blaming Mexicans for the issues like the economy crashing. If “Americans” took the time to actually think for a while they’d find out that immigrants are also leavng because of the issues like the economy and unemployment. I believe that Italians and the Irish were discriminated against because “Americans” considered them “bad apples” and didn’t want to go near them. Just like Jacob Riis calling the Italians bad gamblers who will stab you if they lost their bet. The Irish because they had no food so people considered them needy and poor so nobody wanted to help them. But where would our nation be if immigrants never came to America? Where would our nation be if we never stopped the Japenese from fighting if the atomic bomb was never dropped on Hiroshima? Answer that political cartoonists!

        Posted September 14, 2010, 4:59 pm

  8. To be honest, going through these messed up cartoons made me realize a few things about our modern-day lifestyle. First of all, I would say that the Americans are very stereotypical against other immigrants because of the way they talk, act, dress, etc. Another thing I noticed is that we are a very criticizing nation and we pretty much make the decisions on how the immigrants coming into our country are going to be. However, I wouldn’t say that its bad compared to how the political cartoonists exxagerate the Irish immigrants, to the point where its just unnecessary. For example, in one of the pictures, an Irish immigrant is sitting on top of a powder keg, and appearing to be dangerous and evil. I believe that the cartoons about the immigrants aren’t nearly as bad as they were back then just beacuse the cartoons were more exagerated, and they represented their supposed “lifestyle” in a rude and inappropriate way. The cartoonists blame the Chinese and Irish for the most of the problems back then, whereas Mexicans are getting blamed for job losses, drug issues etc. Obviously, there are more Mexicans in here then ever recorded in history, and there are less European immigrants.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 5:12 pm

  9. It doesn’t matter if they’re cartoons from today or hundreds of years ago, they are still insulting to all immigrants. Its rude and disrespectful to draw a certain race in a distorded way or to make harsh racial comments through the cartoons. Even though political cartoons back then and now are wrong, there is a distinction between them. The distinction is that the cartoons back then were more simple and straight to the point and cartoons now are longer and more comical.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 5:42 pm

  10. The political cartoons one hundred years ago are very similar to the ones of our time. They still made stereotypes of different groups of people. All of witch is unfair, and not true. A difference from back then and now is the group of people they make fun of, back then there were a lot of Irish political cartoons. In our time now, there are many of immigrants coming in from Mexico. Different artist had done the drawings and the same for our time. Multiple people are being stereotypical! This is completely unfair, just because something is going on with a small group of people, belonging to a bigger group, means that everyone is like that? NO!
    The Irish and Italian people were treated unfair more because they were considered colored. In reality they couldn’t tell the difference! The reasons they were left out was because they looked and acted different. Also they didn’t speak English, and they had different customs. Now they are considered, “white”, and you can obviously not tell the difference between who is who, unless you personally know that person. People discriminate by color of the person’s skin!

        Posted September 14, 2010, 5:57 pm

  11. One hundred years ago all immigrants were targeted based on their race.They were blamed for all the bad things that were happening. Example Italians are messy and ruin everthing.Now we pick on one or two groups that are part of the issue. Example Mexicans are taking our jobs. Back then the people were drawn looking non human. Now we usually show the immigrants as cartoons that look human but they have larger faces and look funny. It’s like we are talking about them behind their backs and don’t care what they think. Not much has changed in the cartoons who is blamed though, is always the immigrant or the goverment. The Irish and Italians are not discriminated against today because Irish and Italians immigration went down and other immigrants started to come to the U.S from a whole diffrent direction. Now they are targeted.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 8:18 pm

  12. I think that the pictures of the irish immigrants were the most messed up,of course thats my opinion. i also think that back then the pictures were more rude in the pictures now. i also think that many of the pictures were sterotyped, like with the irish being heavy drinkers, and the mexicans sitting on a cactus and many other stuff. i think people should stop being so stupid and accept were all humans… and stop being so stereotyped and rude. im not saying ive never stereotyped and been rude,because of course i have, but i wish everyone could just stop. well bye..

        Posted September 14, 2010, 8:20 pm

  13. It is difficult to compare political cartoons from back then to todays because today there are rules. Rules that keep people from being to offensive and insulting. Back then there was no laws about discrimination so people could say what the heck they wanted to, but today people see its wrong and take it to account instead of ignoring it. Today they aren’t as rude and offensive but can still hurt peoples feelings. In the past people blamed the immigrants for all the problems. They didn’t know who to blame it on so they just blamed it on the new people in this country. Today most people blame the government because they aren’t doing there job if things are messed up. But still they sometimes they blame immigants for problems that the government can’t do anything about. I think people now like the Irish and Italians today because maybe they feelbad in how they were treated back then and also they have alot to offer the United States.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 9:02 pm

  14. I think that the political cartoons 100 years ago were way more exaggerated and meaner, than those of today. I think that back then they didnt use words as much, unlike today where we have the pictures and a phrase or “joke”. I think cartoonists back then drew their pictures so that th immigrants are very different from the others. Either way, political cartoons are stereotypical.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 9:11 pm

  15. I believe that political cartoons 100 years in the past were extremely insulting toward the people they were meant to be about. This being the immigrants that the already existing American population didn’t want coming into the U.S. The artists drawing the cartoons were also making an insult by completely exaggerating the facial features on their faces, an example being the photo with the “how the woman should look like- how an Irish woman looks like.” Today, one big difference about the comics is that we now make you have to really think about what the comic is saying rather than the comic actually expressing itself. Another is that today’s comics aren’t as majorly detailed then that of 100 years ago. Two similarities are both target a single thing and both can be seen using one or more drawings. back in the 1800s the Irish, Chinese, and Italians were (to my understanding) the main immigrants being blamed for all the troubles in America. today. the Mexicans are being blamed for the decrease in the economy and loss of jobs. i believe that the Irish and Italians are no longer treated so badly because more different people came to America and these new people make the Italians and Irish seem more similar than what they thought before.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 9:50 pm

  16. I can easily see the differences between the political cartoons today and from 100 years ago. But at the same time there are also many similarities. Just like 100 years ago today cartoonists are srill using characterisation for the facial and body qualities of the characters shown. Today though the exxagerations are not as bad as theywewrw back then.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 9:56 pm

  17. I can easily see the differences between the political cartoons today and from 100 years ago. But at the same time there are also many similarities. Just like 100 years ago today cartoonists are still using characterization for the facial and body qualities of the characters shown. Today though the exaggerations are not as bad as they were back then.But i noticed that in the older political cartoon the cartoonists blamed the immigrants and targeted the immigrants for coming to America and accused them of causing all of the problems going on back then. Today on the other hand many political cartoons are blaming the government and saying that its the governments fault that immigration is such a problem.IN the 1800′s targets of the political cartoons seemed to be insulted and made fun of to a higher extent than today. In my opinion political cartoons give off the wrong messages to people and hide a lot of the truth about issues in society. I believe that Irish and Italian people are no longer treated as bad as they were in the past is because they two groups are an influential and deep part of American culture and history now and peoples sense of what ethnicity is right and wrong has toned out and been replaced a majority by equality.

        Posted September 14, 2010, 10:08 pm

  18. I believe that the political cartoons are sad and unhumane. No one deserves that and neither do immigrants. People exaggerate too much on the political cartoons. Today, political cartoons are focused on the issues of immigration. Political cartoons are simply a way of expressing the cartoonist’s bad feelings towards the immigrants. Besides, its not like immigrants actually lokk like that.

        Posted September 15, 2010, 8:03 am

  19. I think that these pictures are very mean because immigrants or not we are ALL human and no one deserves to be made fun of like that. One hundred years ago, people were very rude to immigrants in their cartoons. They were too exaggerated with them, Irish people shouldnt look like monkeys they are humans just like everyone else. If immigrants come or came to the United States it isnt to be made fun of, its for a better life. Today political cartoons aren’t as harsh as back then, but just because they aren’t harsh, that dosent mean they don’t hurt other people’s feelings. I think all people, even immigrants, should be treated equally. People think that immigrants are causing problems in the U.S. but, if anything, they were and are helping the United States with our economy. I mean how many immigrants do you know that dont buy food in our stores? They have to eat don’t they? How many immigrants don’t pay bills? They have to pay their home bills like water, gas, electricity and sometimes even phone bills. The government is basically kicking hundreds of dollars out of the U.S. by getting rid of immigrants.

        Posted September 15, 2010, 3:49 pm

  20. Posted by Zyanya Navarro
    “The difference from political cartoons then and politcal cartoons from now is that politcal cartoon from then are mostly about Irish and the politcal cartoons now are about mostly about Mexicans. In the past immigrants came here mostly for freedom and a new start, immigrants now come for money. The cartoonists from the 1800s were blaming the Irish immigrants for the immigration problems. Today the republicans are being blamed for immigration problems. The Irish and Italians are no longer badly discriminated against because there are laws against it.

        Posted September 19, 2010, 9:49 pm

  21. i think this pictures were very mean because there were making fun of the irish and the immigrants coming to the united states. one hundread years ago they were very rude to immigrants and also there were making sterotypes.

        Posted September 26, 2010, 7:33 pm

Leave a reply