Tiger vs. Donkey

The New Tiger


Few people know that the Donkey, which has been used to represent the Democratic Party for over 100 years, was invented as a negative symbol by Republican satirist Thomas Nast. Nast chose the Donkey to brand Democrats as dumb, stubborn opponents of the Civil War.

We have revived the old New York Democratic Tiger to represent our new direction. The Tiger was originally the symbol of Engine Six, then a volunteer fire company in Lower Manhattan in the early 19th century. This company still exits, and was one of the first responders on 9/11 who lost four men on that terrible day. The Tiger is aggressive and demands respect. Our new Tiger will not be associated with the graft of yesterday. Since we have no tolerance for corruption, it will be a symbol for reform, a way of bringing the best practices of the past to help build our future.

The Tiger as a Democratic symbol goes all the way back to Chief Tamanend.

The Tiger was the favorite animal of legendary Delaware Indian Chief Tamanend, who negotiated with William Penn a boldly conceived treaty in 1683 that would allow Europeans and Indians to live together in peace.

The Society of Tammany was named after the Chief. It was founded in the 1780s as a benevolent and charitable organization to provide extensive social services and support to its members.

“The tiger affords a useful lesson for you. The exceeding agility of this creature, the extraordinary quickness of his sight, and above all, his discriminating power in the dark, teach you… to look sharp to every engagement you enter into; and to let neither misty days, nor gloomy nights, make you lose sight of the worthy objects of your pursuit.”

—Chief Tamanend (Attr.) (Connable and Silberfarb, 1967)

The Original Engine Six Tiger

The original Engine Six Tiger
The Tiger was the fierce symbol of the Big Six, a volunteer fire company based then (and still today) in Lower Manhattan, a short walk from the World Trade Center site. Those volunteer firemen and their chief, Boss Tweed, joined the Democratic Party and brought their symbol with them.

Satirist Thomas Nast admired the Big Six Tiger. As a boy, “Nast used to regard this tiger’s head, as it appeared upon the engine of the Big Six, with admiration and awe.” (Paine, 1904) Years later, Nast turned the Democratic symbol against them in his classic 1871 drawing “Tammany Tiger on the Loose: ‘What Are You Going to Do About It?'”

Artist Robert S. Greenberg, with editorial direction from Bill Samuels, have created a series of illustrations that bring the Tiger back to life, while transposing Nast’s original illustrations to comment on contemporary politics.

In 2006, Greenberg and Samuels began their collaboration with “The Blue Tiger Loose—What are you going to do about it?” Samuels uses Nast’s classic image of the Tiger in the Coliseum, but now the Tiger is attacking corruption in political campaigns.

On the Coliseum wall, we see a reference to the former Senator and two-time Democratic Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson was one of the great leaders of the Democratic Party, a bridge between the Truman era and the Kennedy era. He was one of the few nationally recognized politicians to oppose the scare tactics of the right-wing anti-Communists, and to defend the civil rights of African-Americans—both acts of profound political courage at the time.

The quote itself came from Stevenson’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1956, and was remarkably prescient. The television commercial has distorted the tenor of American politics and made the job of a politician a miserable one. Citizens have learned to distrust and tune out the condescending, buzzword-filled drivel that passes for political messaging on TV. For the candidates themselves, their job has become that of a fund-raiser, spending large parts of their workday dialing for dollars. The frequent result is a burned-out candidate going through the motions before a cynical and disengaged electorate.
Taken as a whole, the illustration suggests that some of the massive amounts of money generated for these TV commercials can be better spent on grassroots organizing, and the civic engagement grassroots organizing needs to flourish.

Greenberg and Samuel’s illustration from 2006, “The Key to Our FUTURE Is in Our PAST,” uses as a basis Nast’s “‘What Are You Going to Do About It’ If ‘Old Honesty’ Lets Him Loose Again?” The title of the image suggests that we must return to the pose of the powerful, active, engaged Democratic and progressive Tiger.

However, the Tiger being painted in blue with a bucket labeled “Reform” suggests that our Tiger will not be simply a throwback to the corrupt practices of the old Democratic Party. In this way, the image suggests that we are not indulging in mere nostalgia, but we’ll take the best of the past to inform our behavior today.

This is our image of the powerful, independent Tiger. We have brought the Tiger back stronger than ever, but embodying the new spirit of reform.

In 2010, Samuels and Greenberg have continued to create satirical illustrations on the corruption and dysfunction in Albany. Shown below is their recasting of a classic political illustration, “Campaign for Reform.” This image is based on the 1897 Lewis Dalrymple illustration for Puck, “The Campaign of Noise.” The original illustration depicted corruption’s hold over the state capital. This new version depicts the ending of it. This recasting features the Democratic Tiger, cheered on by Bill Samuels and a group of great New York reformers old and new, finally taking over the state capital.

Samuels has defined as the major role of New Roosevelt to change Albany and make our legislature the best in the country. In the illustration, he leads the charge to reform Albany, surrounded by Cuomo and Eric Schneiderman and Liz Krueger — two outstanding state legislators who Samuels has worked with over the years to reform Albany. These great modern leaders are joined by great reformers from New York’s past, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The National Tiger

The Tiger was frequently used to represent the national Democratic Party. Judge magazine’s 1890 cover “Tied Up!” is a typical example.

Here the Tiger represents the Democratic Party, chained in front of the House of Representatives (pictured as a doghouse!). The Tiger is chained on one side by the “Republican President” and on the other by the “Republican Senate.” The caption below the title reads “He’s got the House—but the Country is safe!” The heads on the posts depict on the left Republican President Benjamin Harrison and on the right, Senator Justin Smith Morrill.

After using the Democrat’s Tiger image to mock the Party, when Democrat Grover Cleveland regained the White House, there was a brief respite. To memorialize the change in government, Judge published a classier, celebratory Tiger taking over Washington in “Echoes of Inauguration Week.” This positive use of the Tiger is kind of Tiger we’re bringing back.

1876 being the year of the Centennial Celebration, there was a disposition toward harmony between the two parties in Washington. Both parties attempted to be on their best behavior in front of the expected foreign dignitaries visiting the National Show. However, by setting the confrontation in an arena, Nast reminds his audience that politics is a blood sport, and the Democrats are always on the attack. This aggressive Tiger is the one that Samuels and New Roosevelt has adopted as our symbol.