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Sketches from a young country : the images of Grip magazine

by Carman Cumming

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The Canadian political and social discussion of the late nineteenth century owed a great deal to Grip, the satirical magazine that kept a vigilant eye on national affairs from 1873 to 1894. Illustrated and edited by an energetic, talented young reformer named John W. Bengough, Grip featured sketches, poetry, and political invective. Bengough's caricatures of dignitaries and cartoons of political situations were supplemented in at least two periods by the acerbic commentary of socialist pioneer T. Phillips Thompson. Together, the two men provided a running account and critique of the era's attitudes on class, sex, race, and public policy. Bengough was part of a broad progressive alliance that linked farm and labour agitators with Christian intellectuals, alarmed about the worst excesses of turn-of-the-century capitalism. Grip was an early, and righteous, crusader for this liberal, Protestant, reformist view. Sketches from a Young Country is the first comprehensive study to evaluate this historically important magazine, assess the motivations of its authors, and set both in social and political context. The author begins by discussing the magazine's visual contribution to its time, then explores its relationship with the federal and Ontario reform parties and its anti-Tory bias. Later chapters examine Grip's response to Western development, its descent into 'race and creed' propaganda in the late 1880s, its anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist leanings under Thompson's influence, and its stance on such social issues as women's rights, aboriginal issues, and law and order. Containing over a hundred of Bengough's cartoons, with captions to clarify contemporary references, and offering an assessment of Grip in relation to its British and American counterparts, Sketches from a Young Country makes an exciting contribution to popular history, Canadian politics, and the history of journalism.… (more)

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The Canadian political and social discussion of the late nineteenth century owed a great deal to Grip, the satirical magazine that kept a vigilant eye on national affairs from 1873 to 1894. Illustrated and edited by an energetic, talented young reformer named John W. Bengough, Grip featured sketches, poetry, and political invective. Bengough's caricatures of dignitaries and cartoons of political situations were supplemented in at least two periods by the acerbic commentary of socialist pioneer T. Phillips Thompson. Together, the two men provided a running account and critique of the era's attitudes on class, sex, race, and public policy. Bengough was part of a broad progressive alliance that linked farm and labour agitators with Christian intellectuals, alarmed about the worst excesses of turn-of-the-century capitalism. Grip was an early, and righteous, crusader for this liberal, Protestant, reformist view. Sketches from a Young Country is the first comprehensive study to evaluate this historically important magazine, assess the motivations of its authors, and set both in social and political context. The author begins by discussing the magazine's visual contribution to its time, then explores its relationship with the federal and Ontario reform parties and its anti-Tory bias. Later chapters examine Grip's response to Western development, its descent into 'race and creed' propaganda in the late 1880s, its anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist leanings under Thompson's influence, and its stance on such social issues as women's rights, aboriginal issues, and law and order. Containing over a hundred of Bengough's cartoons, with captions to clarify contemporary references, and offering an assessment of Grip in relation to its British and American counterparts, Sketches from a Young Country makes an exciting contribution to popular history, Canadian politics, and the history of journalism.

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