The Popish Octopus

Political cartoons are located somewhere between bonobo chimp vocalizations and bathroom graffiti on the spectrum of self-expression, and anti-Catholic cartoons are no exception. They tend to traffic in a few shopworn motifs to convey their contempt for Romish sorts, and the octopus makes regular appearances. This has the benefit of requiring no particular thought or artistic skill while also being applicable to anything from Standard Oil to Russia. Plus, they get to label each tentacle something to convey a point of some sort.

The majority of anti-Catholic cartoons emerged from the nativist movements in late 19th and early 20th century America. (My great-grandfather was a member of one of these groups. Most of his children married Catholics, because God is funny that way.)

Here are a few examples to show how we’re strangling the life out of America with our mighty labelled tentacles.

Octopus1
Jeremiah J. Crowley, The Pope: Chief of White Slavers, High Priest of Intrigue (1913)
94-RomanismAtWashington.jpg
American Protective Association propaganda depicting the Pope as the master decision-maker controlling the White House, Congress, and federal financial and publishing institutions. (Art from an 1894 book.)
octopus2
Source unknown.

Of course, editorial cartoonists still traffic in crass anti-Catholicism when it suits their purposes, but since they do so under the illusion of their own enlightened views, that’s totally different.