Donkey and Elephant.
The History of these Symbols in Politics.
Where did the Democrats and Republicans ever come up with the animal symbols of the parties we've become accustomed to?
The Democrats and the donkey came about first in History. But here's the story:
When Andrew Jackson ran for president in 1828, his opponents tried to label him a "jackass" for his populist views and his slogan, "Let the people rule." Jackson turned it to his advantage by using the donkey on his campaign posters. During his presidency, the donkey was used to represent Jackson's stubbornness when he vetoed re-chartering the National Bank.
In 1837, the donkey was used in a political cartoon for the first time to represent the Democratic party, again in conjunction with Jackson. Jackson was retired, but still considered himself the party's leader. Kind of like President Clinton was doing after he was no longer President. The cartoon, titled "A Modern Baalim and his Ass," showed Jackson trying to get the donkey to go where he wanted it to go.
Interestingly enough, the person credited with getting the donkey widely accepted as the Democratic party's symbol was Political Cartoonist, Thomas Nast. He first used the donkey in an 1870 Harper's Weekly cartoon shown above, to represent the "Copperhead Press" kicking a dead lion, symbolizing Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who had recently died. Nast intended the donkey to represent an anti-war faction with whom he disagreed, but the symbol caught the public's fancy and the cartoonist continued using it to indicate some Democratic editors and newspapers.
James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald raised the cry of "Caesarism" in connection with the possibility of a third term try for President Ulysses S. Grant.While the illustrated journals were depicting Grant wearing a crown, the Herald involved itself in another circulation-builder in an entirely different, nonpolitical area. This was the Central Park Menagerie Scare of 1874, a delightful hoax perpetrated by the Herald. They ran a story, totally untrue, (like Dan Rather would do), that the animals in the zoo had broken loose and were roaming the wilds of New York's Central Park in search of prey. Cartoonist Thomas Nast took the two examples of the Herald enterprise and put them together in a cartoon for Harper's Weekly. He showed an ass (symbolizing the Herald) wearing a lion's skin (the scary prospect of Caesarism) frightening away the animals in the forest (Central Park). The caption quoted a familiar fable: "An ass having put on a lion's skin roamed about in the forest and amused himself by frightening all the foolish animals he met within his wanderings." It showed the alleged Democratic uneasiness over a possible third term for Ulysses S. Grant. In conjunction with this issue, Nast helped associate the elephant with the Republican party. Although the elephant had been connected with the Republican party in cartoons that appeared in 1860 and 1872, it was Nast's cartoon in 1874 published by Harper's Weekly that made the animal stick as the Republican's symbol. A cartoon titled "The Third Term Panic," shown above and right, (click here for a larger view) showed animals representing various issues running away from a donkey wearing a lion's skin tagged "Caesarism." The elephant labeled "The Republican Vote," was depicting the Republican vote as running inexorably into a tar pit of inflation and chaos.
The Democrats think of the elephant as bungling, stupid, pompous and conservative -- but the Republicans think it is dignified, strong and intelligent. On the other hand, the Republicans regard the donkey as stubborn, silly and ridiculous -- but the Democrats claim it is humble, homely, smart, courageous and loveable.