Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Origins of the Gerrymander

Through a tip from Cliopatria, I found my way to Strange Maps, where I found this image of what is apparently the original gerrymander. It got its name from Elbridge Gerry, signer of the Declaration of Independence, participant in the Constitutional Convention, Governor of Massachusetts from 1810-12, and Vice President of the United States, 1813-14. It was during Gerry's unpopular governorship that the gerrymander was created.

Strange Maps tells the story this way:

The painter Gilbert Stuart was inspired by the awkward shape of an electoral district on a map he saw in a newpaper editor’s office. He decorated the snake-shaped district with a head, a set of wings and claws, making it out to be some kind of antediluvian monster.

That will do for a salamander,” he said to the editor.

“Gerrymander!”, replied he to Stuart.

2 comments:

Chausovsky said...

This image, and the same story, appears in the textbook: Bardes, Shelly, and Schmidt, American Goverment and Politics Today: The Essentials, at page 349. They cite Congressional Quarterly's Guide to Congress, 3rd ed. (1982), p. 695.

I am pleased to see an online image.

Mojave Joe said...

This image is quite famous. Although it's been quite some time since I took American history, I'm pretty sure the image was in my textbook, and, I would guess, in most textbooks today (isn't it?). Anyway, if you do a Google image search for "gerrymander" you will see that the image is spread out across Cyberspace.