American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Grover Cleveland as Hamlet

Still am I called, unhand me gentlemen. . . .
George Yost Coffin (1850-1896)
"Still am I called, unhand me gentlemen. . . ." Hamlet, 1880-1900
Prints & Photographs Division (12)
LC-USZ62-10335

Reported to have painted scenes and characters from Shakespeare on the walls of his room at college, George Yost Coffin began his career as a political cartoonist in the mid-1870s. In 1891, he became the official cartoonist of the Washington Post, a position he held until his death in 1896. In this cartoon, Coffin depicts President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) as Hamlet, held back from pursuing reform by "spoilsmen," who favor rewarding supporters of the winning party with public offices. Elected as a reformer, Cleveland wanted to fill federal jobs on the basis of merit. However, leaders of the Democratic Party, which had not held the presidency in twenty-four years, pushed for replacement of all Republican appointees. Cleveland gradually gave in, dispensing most patronage to fellow Democrats.

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