Lilly Library

Picture Album
The War of 1812 was sparked by the maritime policies of Great Britain, its war with Napoleon, and the relationship between Native Americans and their British allies in Canada and the Old Northwest. The situation was aggravated by Americans living in the southern and western portions of the United States, who were interested in attaching Canada and Florida to the new nation.

Having emigrated to New York in 1806, William Charles (1776-1820) opened a book and print shop, but met with little success. In 1814 he moved to Philadelphia and published a series of caricatures on the War of 1812. These prints were to bring him fame as the first American political cartoonist. Charles' style is in keeping with that of James Gillray (1756-1815) and Thomas Rowlandson (1756/7-1827) with its rough humor. This gallery contains two of Charles' War of 1812 prints, the first done in 1813 while he was in New York and the other created in Philadelphia in 1814.

The third caricature in this gallery is the work of William Elmes (fl. 1811-1820). Little is known about Elmes, who seems to have had no formal training as a caricaturist. Naval topics frequently appear in his cartoons as is evidenced by The Yankey Torpedo published in 1813 by the London book and print seller Thomas Tegg.

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