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Cartoon Analysis: A Lesson for Anti-Expansionists, Victor Gillam, 1899

Use this primary source imagery to analyze major events in history.

Suggested Sequencing

  • Use this Primary Source to have students discuss the progression of expansionism in the United States from conception to the early twentieth century.


The following cartoon,A Lesson for Anti-Expansionists: Showing How Uncle Sam Had Been an Expansionist First, Last, and All the Time, was published in 1899 in the weekly satirical magazine Judge. Uncle Sam is depicted at varying stages of life from infancy to old age, with dated milestones of U.S. territorial expansion listed underneath each figure. Each milestone marker lists the number of states in the United States, and the final one notes that the United States has claimed valuable interests in Cuba, Philippines, and Puerto Rico. At the far right, the arms of various European countries reach out to take Uncle Sam’s hand, with the marker reading, “And now all the nations are anxious to be on friendly terms with Uncle Sam.”

Sourcing Questions

  1. This cartoon was published in 1899. What events were going on in the country at that time?
  2. This cartoon was published in a satirical magazine. How does this fact affect how you will interpret the image?

Figure 1: Cartoon showing Uncle Sam in progressive stages from childhood in 1783 to 1899. (credit: University of Hawaii at Manoa Library)

Comprehension Questions

  1. (Figure 1) Why is Uncle Sam portrayed at various ages? What effect does this have?
  2. (Figure 1) What is the cartoonist’s message? Explain.

Historical Reasoning Questions

  1. The cartoon shown in Figure 1 refers to the Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition of Florida, and the annexation of Texas. Explain how these earlier territorial gains compare with U.S. actions in Cuba and the Philippines.

Cartoon: A Lesson for Anti-Expansionists