The Trouble in Cuba
- Author: GILLAM, Bernhard (artist)
- Publisher: Judge Magazine, New York
- Date: 1895
- Dimensions: sheet: 26 x 34 cms
Bernhard Gillam’s entertaining cartoon map of North America & Cuba, the cover for August 10th 1895 issue of Judge magazine
About this piece:
The Trouble in Cuba
Colour-printed cartoon, forming the front cover of the August 10th 1895 issue of Judge Magazine. Printed text and two small black & white engravings to verso. Couple of unobtrusive small fox marks in lower right blank margin, otherwise in excellent condition.
Entertaining and much-reproduced original map cartoon designed by Judge artist and illustrator, Bernhard Gillam [1856-1896], as the cover for the August 10th 1895 issue of this popular American satirical magazine.
The cover depicts a wall map of the United States which takes the form of Uncle Sam’s head, Canada taking the form of his top hat. The locks of his hair cover the Far Western States, some longer loose wisps cleverly forming the Baja peninsula. Mexico is his lower jaw and its southern border his goatee beard. Washington D.C is his eye and Florida his nose whilst the Mississippi delta and tip of the Yucatan Peninsula create the top and bottom lips of his wide open mouth which follows the sweeping curve of the Gulf of Mexico. Of the West Indian Islands only Cuba is shown and in the shape of a large fish.
“I’ve had my eye on that morsel for a long time; guess I’ll have to take it in!..” reads the accompanying text which is entitled The Trouble in Cuba.
1895 had indeed witnessed considerable trouble in Cuba, with the outbreak of a popular insurrection at the beginning of the year in what became known as the Cuban War of Independence in the ongoing struggle to free Cuba from Spanish colonial control. That struggle was largely financed and supplied by the Cuban exile community in Florida. Hostilities lasted for the following three years and, despite greater military resources and manpower, witnessed Spain’s gradual loss of control over the mountainous eastern half of the island. Terror, exile, destruction of homes & crops and summary execution were increasingly used by both sides leading to as many as 170,000 deaths, around 10% of the island’s population. In 1898 the conflict escalated into the American-Spanish War, which concluded in the overwhelming defeat of Spain. Peace was concluded under the terms of the Treaty of Paris [Dec 1898]. Spain gave up its sovereignty over Cuba and acknowledged Cuban independence. However the US 1901 Platt Amendment ultimately brought to fruition the prophetic vision depicted here in Benhard Gillam’s cartoon – a continuing American military presence in Cuba and ongoing US involvement in Cuban affairs, a situation which continued for the next thirty years.
Part of the initial motivation behind Cuban exile and independence leader José Marti’s decision to raise an insurrection in Cuba in February 1895 had been as a way of pre-empting the very real threat of American annexation of the island from Spain, a policy that had found growing support amongst US leaders in the 1880s & early 1890s. It was perhaps best summarized by Secretary of State James Blaine in 1881:
“That rich island, the key to the Gulf of Mexico, is, though in the hands of Spain, a part of the American commercial system… If ever ceasing to be Spanish, Cuba must necessarily become American and not fall under any other European domination”
It was a view reiterated by Senator Stephen Elkins following the passage of the 1901 Platt Amendment:
When Cuba shall become a part of the American Union and the isthmian canal shall be completed, which is now assured, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Hawaii and the Philippines will be outposts of the great Republic, standing guard over American interests in the track of the world’s commerce in its triumphant march around the globe. Our people will soon see and feel that these island possessions belonging to the United States are natural and logical, and in the great part we are to play in the affairs of the world we would not only give them up but wonder how the working of our natural destiny we could get on without them. The splendid chain of island possessions, reaching half-way around the world, would not be complete without Cuba, the gem of the Antilles.
Cuba and the other former Spanish colonial territories acquired by the terms of the Treat of Paris heralded the beginning of a new era of American imperialism and underlined the US’s newfound status as a truly global superpower.
British-born artist, Bernhard Gillam [1858 – 1896] was one of the star cartoonists of Judge Magazine during the 1880s and 1890s, when he formed a close friendship and creative working relationship with fellow cartoonist, Grant E Hamilton [1862 – 1926]. The magazine was owned and edited by William J Arkell [1860-1930] and his Republican-leaning stance garnered increasing political support. Started in 1881, by the early 1890s the magazine had increased its weekly circulation to around 50000 on the back of its predominantly Republican stance. In 1886 Gillam became Judge‘s Director in chief. Curiously despite Gillam’s Republican sympathies, his series of cartoons during the 1884 Presidential campaign for Puck Magazine did much to secure the victory of the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, in an era when Republicans largely dominated the US Presidency. Sadly this cartoon was amongst the last that Gillam produced. He died in New Jersey in January 1896 of typhoid fever at the age of just 39 and at the pinnacle of his artistic career. His younger brother, (Frederick) Victor [c1858-1920] would carry on the family connection with Judge, becoming, in his turn, one of the magazine’s best-known & most popular cartoonists.