Massachusetts Historical Society


A Nation at the Table


Author: Lucy E. Salyer, University of New Hampshire
Comment: Paul A. Kramer, Vanderbilt University

This is a hybrid event. The in-person reception will begin at 4:30 PM.

In the late 19th century, political cartoonists often pictured the nation at the table, consuming more than just food. The well-known cartoon, Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Table, by Thomas Nast in 1869 appears to have become a 19th century “meme” for later cartoonists. By 1900, cartoonists repeatedly seized on the motif of the nation at the table as the country debated immigration, citizenship, the growing power of the US in the world, and US imperial expansion. This paper explores what those images reveal about narratives about national identity and power in the late nineteenth century -- and asks why the dinner table proved such a popular vehicle for exploring those issues.

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