Something came up in conversation earlier today about the donkey and elephant of American politics and I found myself intrigued as to the history of it. From History.com, the donkey has a great history:
The origins of the Democratic donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson. During that race, opponents of Jackson called him a jackass. However, rather than rejecting the label, Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812 who later served in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was amused by it and included an image of the animal in his campaign posters.
The Republican elephant is a bit less interesting:
[T]he pachyderm didn’t start to take hold as a GOP symbol until Thomas Nast, who’s considered the father of the modern political cartoon, used it in an 1874 Harper’s Weekly cartoon. Titled “The Third-Term Panic,” Nast’s drawing mocked the New York Herald, which had been critical of President Ulysses Grant’s rumored bid for a third term, and portrayed various interest groups as animals, including an elephant labeled “the Republican vote,” which was shown standing at the edge of a pit.
Both animals were solidified as political representations by Thomas Nast in the late 19th century. I love nerdy things like this.