The Acquisitions Table: A Representation of the Progress of Intemperance

A previously unrecorded satirical cartoon printed in Lowell, MA, by J.H. Varney, possibly a relation of (or pseudonym for) local newspaper publisher Samuel J. Varney. The cartoon references the 1840 repeal of a Massachusetts state law which regulated the sale of alcohol in quantities under 15 gallons. A large railroad carriage full of drunken men and topped by a devil firing a still is pulled by an enormous striped pig. The striped pig was the invention of a Massachusetts rum seller who, in order to get around temperance laws, set up a tent at a local militia muster stating that he had inside a rare striped pig, viewable for a small fee. In the tent there was indeed a large pig with garish painted stripes. Patrons, who technically paid to see the pig, also received a “complimentary” cup of rum upon exiting the tent. This flouting of the law was covered widely in the press, and large striped pigs representing intemperate behavior and low moral character soon began appearing in temperance literature and cartoons. Purchased from Fred Robichaud. Harry G. Stoddard Memorial and The Chair Funds.

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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