Top of page

Terminology in Office

Share this post:

(This is the third in a series of posts featuring presidential campaign items from the Library’s collections. Read the others here and here.)

“The Gerrymander. A New Species of Monster.” Boston Gazette, March 26, 1812. Serial & Government Publications Division

Every election year, as candidates go head to head during their campaigns, a new wave of vocabulary is born. Political idioms that have found their way into our lexicon include POTUS, left-wing, right-wing, working class, bipartisan, pork barrel, pundit, swing state and the list goes on and on.

So, what’s the genesis of the jargon? Let’s take a look at one:

In 1812, Jeffersonian Republicans forced through the Massachusetts legislature a bill rearranging district lines to assure them an advantage in the upcoming senatorial elections. Although Gov. Elbridge Gerry had only reluctantly signed the law, a Federalist editor is said to have exclaimed upon seeing the new district lines, “Salamander! Call it a Gerrymander.” A political cartoon-map delineating these redrawn electoral districts first appeared in the Boston Gazette for March 26, 1812. Therein lies the origin of the modern day term “gerrymandering.”

The Library also holds the original woodblocks from the 1812 Boston Gazette cartoon “The Gerry-Mander.”



Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.