Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

[Lincoln, Abraham]:

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

[New York]: Currier & Ives, [1860]. Lithograph, 11 1/4″ x 15 1/2″.

Nicks and rough edges. Diagonal old tear through right middle, previously restored, improved and restored again to contemporary standards. Expertly cleaned and delicately strengthened. Overall quite good.

Provenance: The Eric C. Caren Collection.

One of the more potent political cartoons of the immediate pre-Civil War moment, likely drawn by artist Louis Maurer, who, if auction records are to be believed, generally specialized in views of the American West. Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner, overlooked for the nomination and still smarting from the 1856 beating about the head that he received from South Carolina congressman Preston S. Brooks, unleashes the panther Spirit of Discord on his ill- prepared Republican cohorts. New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley and New York Times editor Henry J. Raymond panic and lament Sumner’s unfortunate timing. Lincoln steps in with his “rail,” in a vain attempt to drive the cat back into the bag, at least until after the general election. William H. Seward, defeated by Lincoln for the nomination, stands smugly in the background warning his colleagues they are not as prepared as he to manage the beast. His position behind Sumner suggests he’s being disingenuous, though his bemusement was only temporary. Seward would go on to serve as Lincoln’s Secretary of State. In all, a terrific visual representation of the anxiety gripping the nation as we hurtled toward our internecine war.

Quite rare. Other than the present copy, this print has not appeared at auction at since at least 1992. OCLC locates only two copies, at the Boston Athenaeum and the University of Michigan.


Bernard F. Reilly, American Political Prints (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991), no. 1860-27. Weitenkampf, p. 122.

Wilson, p.66-67.

OCLC 56969480.