The Gerry-Mander Map
- Alternate Title:
- The Gerry-Mander, or Essex South District Formed into a Monster!
- The Gerry-Mander Map
- Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection
- Tisdale, Elkanah
- Posted Date:
- ID Number:
- Collection Number:
- File Name:
- 1800 - 1869
Politics & Government
- 19 x 16 (centimeters, height x width)
- This famous satirical map reflects the origin of the word "gerrymander." In 1812, the Massachusetts legislature redrew the state's Senate districts in an effort to benefit the Democratic-Republican Party of Governor Elbridge Gerry. The legislation spread the disfavored Federalist voters into senate districts where they would remain a minority, and concentrated Democratic-Republicans into districts where they could gain majorities. One result was the extremely distorted "Essex South" District. When a map of the revised district was shown at a dinner party of prominent Bostonians, "it was said that it resembled some horrible animal, and only wanted wings to make it a frightful political dragon." A guest sketched in the wings, and after someone noted that it looked like a salamander, it was quickly agreed that the beast should be named the "Gerrymander." (Dean 1892, 375). (Gerry's family name was pronounced "Gary," not "Jerry," which may spare his heirs some unwanted notability.)
The map first appeared in the Boston Gazette of March 12, 1812. The Federalist press seized on the name and the image, apparently using the same woodblock. (Griffith 1907, 18
Dean 379). The gerrymander was nevertheless successful in the election of 1812, yielding a state senate of 29 Democrats and only 11 Federalists, even though the overall senate vote was 51 percent Federalist (and Gerry himself was defeated) (Dean 381).
A year later, the story was very different. The Salem Gazette and other Federalist papers ran the map on the eve of new elections, in an effort to turn out the vote: "Federalists! Followers of Washington! Again behold and shudder at the exhibition of this terrific Dragon, brought forth to swallow and devour your Liberties and equal Rights. . . . Arise, then, injured Citizens! Turn out! turn out! let Monday next be the day of your Emancipation." In the April 5 election, the Federalists were successful, winning even the Essex South District itself. On the following day, the Salem Gazette said, "We announce in our paper of to-day, we confess with no great regret, the Death of that far famed and ill begotten Monster the Gerry-Mander." (Ibid). Alas, the announcement of the Monster's death was premature.
It is not entirely clear whether Gerry played a central role in the adoption of the original districting legislation, or precisely who first suggested his name be given to the dragon. Although there was initially some dispute about the artist who drew the gerrymander, it is now generally agreed that the artist was Elkanah Tisdale. (Dean 377
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- Salem Gazette, Friday, April 2, 1813, page 1.
- Cite As:
- P.J. Mode collection of persuasive cartography, #8548. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
- Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library
- Archival Collection:
- P.J. Mode collection of persuasive cartography
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