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banner Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Elephant, Republican

The Republican elephant crashes onto the scene in 1874
The traditional symbol for the Republican Party first appeared in a cartoon in the 7 November 1874 edition of Harper's Weekly by the artist Thomas Nast.

In it Nast - who is also credited with establishing the donkey as the symbol for the Democratic Party - drew a stumbling elephant to represent Republican voters disaffected with the rule of President Ulysees S. Grant.

At the time pro-Democrat newspapers and politicians were accusing the Republican president of "Caesarism" for allegedly seeking a third term in office.

The accusations were given particular prominence by the New York Herald newspaper - largely, Republican historians say, as a means of building circulation.

Republicans see the elephant as dignified, strong and intelligent
At the time the Herald also ran a hoax story that all the animals in the city's Central Park Zoo has escaped and were roaming New York streets in search of prey.

Nast brought the two stories together in his cartoon for Harper's weekly showing an ass wearing a lion's skin to represent the Herald talking up the prospect of Caesarism frightening away the animals in the forest (Central Park).

The caption read: "An ass having put on a lion's skin roamed about in the forest and amused himself by frightening all the foolish animals he met within his wanderings."

One of these animals was the elephant labelled "Republican Vote", tripping up in its haste to escape the blown up scare of Caesarism as created by the Herald's proprieters.

After that year's mid-term elections, in which the Republicans did particularly badly, Nast returned to the elephant, picturing it in a trap to illustrate how the Republican vote had been decoyed from its normal allegiance.

The image was picked up by other cartoonists across the country and quickly came to symbolise the party, not just Republican voters.

Supporters of the Democratic Party regard the elephant as bungling, stupid, pompous and conservative. However Republicans, who have adopted the animal as their official symbol think of it as dignified, strong and intelligent.

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