Cartoons and Caricatures of Mark Twain in Context: Reformer and Social Critic, 1869-1910. By Leslie Diane Myrick and Gary Scharnhorst. University of Alabama Press, 2024. Pp. 119. Hardcover: $110.00, ISBN 9780817321727. Paperback: $29.95, ISBN 9780817361044.

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The following review appeared 6 June 2024 on the Mark Twain Forum.

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Reviewed for the Mark Twain Forum by:
Barbara Schmidt

Our late colleague Hal Bush is quoted in the Afterword of Cartoons and Caricatures of Mark Twain In Context that Mark Twain's likeness was probably "the most frequently reproduced of any person in all of human history." It is always a pleasure to see a new edition arrive that provides fresh evidence from historical archives demonstrating that Bush was correct.

In their Introduction, the authors state that this volume is their first step toward establishing a finding list of Mark Twain photographs, portraits, and cartoons. Milton Meltzer was one of the first to publish a volume with rare cartoons and caricatures in Mark Twain Himself in 1960. Thirteen of Melzer's 41 cartoons and caricatures are reproduced in this volume. In 1984 Louis J. Budd published Our Mark Twain: The Making of His Public Personality which more precisely focused on how newspaper and magazine artists helped shape readers' perceptions of Mark Twain. Budd's volume featured over 46 editorial newspaper and magazine graphics gathered from old newspaper and journal clippings and microfilm. Eleven of Budd's 46 graphics are reproduced in Cartoons and Caricatures of Mark Twain In Context. This is the first volume since 1984 that returns to the source of nineteenth century archival newspaper and magazine visuals to continue the study.

Amid the growing proliferation of online historical newspaper databases with their search engines, new discoveries are becoming easier and more frequent. This volume features 79 cartoons and caricatures from about 600 that were collected by Myrick and Scharnhorst by the year 2020 (including the files of the late Lou Budd that were graciously provided by Elmira College). The graphics provide another window into how Mark Twain's reputation grew and was perceived via editorial opinions expressed in a comic visual. Many graphics in this book have probably never before been seen by present-day Mark Twain scholars.

The volume features nineteen chapters, brief contextual notes, and an appendix with minimal biographical data for about 60 illustrators. Myrick, a former editor with the Mark Twain Project, has a keen eye for deciphering signatures and glyphs of illustrators as well as tiny details in the drawings that are significant. Among the faces that appear alongside Mark Twain in these illustrations are luminaries of the nineteen century. However, many are now long-forgotten and likely presented challenges to identify: Anthony Comstock, W. H. Vanderbilt, Roscoe Conkling, Samuel Tilden, and Henry Bergh, for example.

Among the topics covered in this book are Mark Twain's campaign for international copyright reform. The topic caught the attention of noted illustrators such as Thomas Nast and Joseph Keppler. Keppler's illustration "The Pirate Publisher" (p. 15) from an 1886 edition of Puck features at least sixteen identifiable faces of other famous nineteenth century authors alongside Mark Twain battling a pirate publisher. These include Bret Harte, William Dean Howells, George Washington Cable, Charles Dudley Warner, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Lewis Carroll among others.

Other topics that Mark Twain became involved in, and that graphic artists hastily cashed in on, include language and spelling reform, anti-imperialism, anti-Russian sentiments, and the ridiculed Concord School of Philosophy. As Mark Twain's reputation grew, there is the noticeable movement of newspaper artists across the nation from the East Coast to the West caricaturing his activities on their editorial pages.

When Mark Twain returned to the United States in 1900 after living abroad for a number of years, American newspaper and magazine cartoonists lost no time taking advantage of his presence again on the national scene. His involvement in hauling a cabman into court for the crime of overcharging his maid for a ride provided humorous fodder in newspapers from New York to Philadelphia. His political campaign against a corrupt Tammany Hall in New York was caricatured in newspapers in New York, Minnesota and as far west as Montana. Mark Twain's animosity toward Christian Science and its founder Mary Baker Eddy was another topic that provided more rich veins for humorous editorial illustration.

The New York press took advantage of numerous opportunities to caricature Mark Twain in the company of his wealthy friends and benefactors. Among these were Henry Huttleston Rogers (misspelled and indexed as Henry "Huddleston" Rogers in this volume); Andrew Carnegie; John Pierpont Morgan; and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. During the later years of Mark Twain's life, editorial artists living in the cities of Pittsburgh and St. Louis, plagued with air pollution and soot, lost no time in using Mark Twain's white suit as a protest against their own environment as they depicted Mark Twain unable to walk through their cities without coming out a visual ruin.

This volume is a quick, easy, and entertaining read that subtly depicts how America progressed from regarding Mark Twain as a mere jester in 1874, to a writer holding a dangerous pen-like deadly weapon, and finally to a lost national treasure when he died in 1910 and the nation grieved.

Only a small fraction of the approximate 600 known cartoons and caricatures collected by Myrick and Scharnhorst appear in this volume. The good news is that more volumes are planned. This project is one that lends itself to the consideration of establishing an online database of cartoons and caricatures by date, topic and locale. Putting the difficulty of this task in perspective: In June 2020, the historical newspaper database listed a searchable database of over 594 million pages. Today, just 4 years later, the database lists 963 million pages and still growing. More discoveries of Mark Twain cartoons and caricatures from around the world are inevitable.