1. Category:
  2. Fine Art (2,667)

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

Currier & Ives
New York, New York
Origin Date:
overall: 17 3/4 in x 22 1/4 in
Item ID:
Holding Institution:
Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum
Available for Viewing:
Fine Art


A figurative portrayal of the rift within the Republican party resulting from the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for the presidency in 1860. Here New York senator and would-be nominee William H. Seward watches as the radical antislavery senator from Massachusetts Charles Sumner releases a snarling cat, the "Spirit of Discord," from a "Republican Bag." The cat bolts toward New York "Tribune" editor Horace Greeley and Lincoln, who wields a rail in his defense. Greeley exclaims, "What are you doing Sumner! you'll spoil all! she aint to be let out until after Lincoln is elected,--" Lincoln, also alarmed, rejoins, "Oh Sumner! this is too bad!--I thought we had her safely bagged at Chicago [i.e., the Republican national convention at Chicago], now there will be the old scratch to pay, unless I can drive her back again with my rail!" Sumner replies, "It's no use talking Gentlemen, I was'nt mentioned at Chicago, and now I'm going to do something desperate, I can't afford to have my head broken and be kept corked up four years for nothing!" The mention of his broken head refers to the widely publicized 1856 beating inflicted on Sumner by South Carolina congressman Preston S. Brooks. Seward warns, "Gentlemen be cautious you don't know how to manage that animal as well as I did, and Im afraid that some of you will get "scratched." Henry J. Raymond, editor of the "New York Times," stands in background shouting, "Scat!--scat!--back with her, or our fat will all be in the fire." Part of the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, courtesy of the Indiana State Museum.