Students analyze and interpret a political cartoon from the 1800s. They learn about the conflict between British Columbia and America over what is now the state of Oregon. Students interpret the cartoon to understand the conflict in establishing the Oregon territory.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Oregon | Unit 6: Statehood." A variety of historical sources provide the lens through which students will view Oregon’s emergence as a state in the mid-1800s.
4.7: Use primary and secondary sources to create or describe a narrative about events in Oregon history.
4.16: Explain the process of Oregon statehood.
- Image: 'What? You young Yankee-Noodle, strike your own Father?', cartoon from 'Punch' magazine, 14th March 1846
- An interactive whiteboard, projector, or another type of screen to show images to the class
- Class set of Yankee Noodle handout
Show students the cartoon image, 'What? You young Yankee-Noodle, strike your own Father?', cartoon from 'Punch' magazine, 14th March 1846.
Explain to students that political cartoons convey a political statement in a humorous way, often using a form of humor known as satire—ridicule that points out the shortcomings in a person, group of people, or situation, often in order to push for improvements. In this cartoon, the conflict between the Columbia District of British North American and the United States over the Pacific Northwest, which includes what is now Oregon, is depicted.
Remind students that the British Empire once included the United States, before the American Revolution. The young country was in dispute with its old ruler about the unclaimed land. Eventually, the Oregon Treaty of 1846 set the border at the 49th Parallel, giving America what became the Oregon Territory in 1848. The border remains the same today.
Distribute the Yankee Noodle handout, and have students interpret the “Yankee Noodle” cartoon. Tell them that interpretation is subjective (their opinion). Point out that one obvious observation is the standoff between the bigger England character, representing the entire British Empire, and the smaller America character. Why do they think that one is larger than the other? Ask students what else they notice about the cartoon. They should write these observations as part of their interpretation of the cartoon.
Points to look for in student responses, or additional prompts teachers can provide:
The cartoon is about the border dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom, which led to the Oregon Treaty of 1846, which set the border between present-day United States and Canada.
The England character has rosy cheeks and a big belly, which represents England’s desire to continue acquiring new land across the globe.
The tough stance of the America character is meant to show “might.” Although smaller, America is strong.
The caption, “Strike your own father,” references England as the United States’ colonial ruler.
“Yankee-Noodle” is a play on the term “Yankee Doodle,” which is an American patriotic song dating back before the American Revolution.