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A West and East Coast Interpretation of Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner The first cartoon of the Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner was created by Thomas Nast in 1869. His cartoon shows a positive attitude towards and exemplifies a more unified American identity. His cartoon however, was lampooned eight years later in 1877 by G.F Keller, whom clearly did not have the same vision on immigration as Nast did. Through the stereotypes, variety of people, quotes, and symbolism shown in both cartoons, the illustrators reveal “a direct contrast on two different interpretations coming from the American East and the West coast on the issue of immigration.”
In Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner 1869, Thomas Nast shows ethnic diversity and proposes a vision of what could be a future possibility on political equality in the United States of America. The people seated at the dinner table come from all over the world, they are: Native American, German, French, Arab, British, African, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, and Irish. In this image Nast subtly includes a portrait of the “Castle Garden.” The Castle Garden was a place where most immigrants were processed, this was similar to a home for the immigrant. Another strong tie to this image is the Fifteenth Amendment which is, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by ant state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” During this time period Mexicans were being taken into account as “half civilized.” They were being granted even more privileged almost as a white person. “The Mexican’s distinctive mixed-blood ancestry apparently played a pivotal role in the extensions of the U.S citizenship to them. Unlike other minority groups in California, some Mexicans were arguably part of the “white race” A contributor that allowed Mexicans to vote and receive more privileged than the Indians or African American was, W. S. Sherwood who considered the Mexicans white men and therefore allowed them to vote. The second cartoon image was created by G.F Keller in 1877. His cartoon lampooned Thomas Nast original image by having his cartoon more disorganized. It too shows a diverse group of people at a dinner table however, only men are being shown. Unlike Nast’s image, the men here are separated there is no “coming together.” Each individual is feasting on their cultural dish, for example the Chinese man is eating a live rat which is both stereotyping and exaggerating. Uncle Sam is ready to dine the large turkey on his own this brings a sense of power and hierarchy. The turkey that is brought him is uncooked meaning, “lack of civilization and raw hunger.” This reflects the negativity with the immigration issue in the United States. In the back waits a large group of immigrants, squishing each other to try and get into the room with Uncle Sam. While many people are being rejected entrance due to space, the left corner of the cartoon proves otherwise. The corner of another table and an extra chair is drawn, stating their is space in the U.S however, the U.S is high selective on who it allows in.
In Nast’s, Thanksgiving Dinner cartoon he also projects a statement focusing on whether the Chinese belonged as part of the American community. “In New York Chinese women were extremely rare in the Unites States few merchant wives were allowed to immigrate to the United States with their husbands, primarily on the West Coast.” This cartoon includes a Chinese family at Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving table, not excluding the wife which many Chinese men were not able to have with them. The Chinese exclusion act is also presented in the cartoon by Keller. The Chinese man eating the rat is the only one that is the messiest and more “alien” like. “From the time of their arrival, Asian immigrants were subject to laws that served to exclude them from social and economic opportunities available to most white immigrants.”
In the readings by Zhou and Gatewood they explain the fight Asian Americans put up to try and eliminate discrimination and racial prejudice towards them, they were being excluded from other minority groups. “They want to be treated just like everyone else, like Americans. Asians were really bothered by the fact that people would look at them and assume they were foreigners and would question their English as well.” Their anger towards this was what led Asian parents to pressure their kinds into acting “more white.” Because of this, the children faced trouble identifying themselves. “They find themselves vacillating between the outside world from which they came from and an insider’s world into which they were born.”
Sucheng Chan supports Nast’s cartoon on Chinese in the East Coast by making a comparison through labor. He says, “Chinese Americans on the West Coast found it virtually impossible to secure jobs in the fields in which they had been trained in college.” An example is C.C Wing, who graduated from law school to find out later he would not be allowed a decent job due to his race. Keller’s image touches this through having the other guest stare at the Chinese man in disgust. Nast’s image, the East Coast, was more welcoming allowing Chinese male workers to bring their families and look presentable, the had more opportunities to grow from. Both cartoons include the queue which was a representation of obedience.
Nast includes illustrations of three presidents, Lincoln, Washington and Grant, representing some of America’s heroes. Lincoln, the president who issued the emancipation proclamation which declared “forever free those slaves within the confederacy.” Lincoln is assimilated with the writing underneath him, “With malice towards none, with charity for all,” this he gives the people a reminder that the war would soon be over and when it was over, to not to forgive and love. Next to Abraham Lincoln is Washington, he has two women by his side Liberty and Colombia, showing he is the founding father of the country and next to him is the portrait of Grant who led the Union armies to victory over the confederacy in the American Civil War. When he became president later, he worked to implement congressional reconstruction and remove the trace of slaver, he is acknowledged through the word, “peace” under his frame.
Thomas Nast wanted to promote an ideal image of the United States by using the “Come one, come all” and “Free and equal.” Through his cartoon, America was a perfect, loving country that welcomed everyone. However, Keller provides an opposing perspective in his time period. His image is supported by this quote, “The message is clear: it is a mistake to include these outsiders at American table,” implying that the Unites States is not opened for everyone, stay out because the United states will not welcome you and it is not “Free and Equal for all.”

"Abraham Lincoln." The White House. Accessed December 7, 2015 Almaguer, Thomas “The True Significance of the Word 'White'” In Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California, 55. 2008

Banfield, Susan The Fifteenth Amendment: African-American Men's Right to Vote. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1998

Chan, Sucheng. "Race, Ethnic Cultures, and Gender in the Construction of Identities among Second-Generation Chinese Americans, 1880s to 1930's." In Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities during the Exclusion Era. 1998.

Michele Walfred, "Illustrating Chinese Exclusion." Illustrating Chinese Exclusion.
Accessed December 7, 2015

Walfred, Michele "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner - Two Coasts, Two Perspectives."
Illustrating Chinese Exclusion. Accessed December 7, 2015

Zhou, Min and J. V. Gatewood. "Transforming Asian America, Globalization and Contemporary Immigration to the United States." In Contemporary Asian America: A Multidisciplinary
Reader 2nd Ed. 2007.

Michele Walfred, "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner - Two Coasts, Two Perspectives." Illustrating Chinese Exclusion, accessed December 7, 2015…...

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