Q:

What is the origin of the Republican elephant?

A:

Quick Answer

The Republican elephant made its debut in Harper's Weekly on November 7, 1874. It was featured in a cartoon by Thomas Nast, who was inspired by the Central Park Menagerie hoax of that same year and voter outcry over a possible third term for President Ulysses S. Grant.

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Full Answer

The menagerie hoax was perpetuated by a newspaper named The Herald. The newspaper published that the animals within the Central Park Zoo had gotten loose and were wandering the streets of New York. Nast latched onto the wildlife image and connected it to the controversy over Grant. He created a cartoon that featured a donkey wearing a lion's skin that was scaring away the animals, one of which was an elephant. In the cartoon, the donkey represented the democratic vote, the lion's skin represented The Herald, and the elephant represented the republican vote. In that first cartoon, neither the donkey nor the elephant were meant to represent the parties themselves, merely the voting members of the parties. After Nast used the elephant to again represent the republican vote in a follow-up cartoon a couple of weeks later, it became popular and eventually evolved to represent the party rather than the voters. The same happened with the donkey, which now represents the democratic party.

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