Heck, let me just quote the Academy of Natural Sciences on this one:
“In 1874, the New York Herald printed an editorial accusing Republican President Ulysses S. Grant of “Caesarism,” in the belief that he would attempt to run for an unprecedented third term in 1876. About the same time the Herald concocted a scheme to increase its circulation and printed a fabricated story that the animals had escaped from Central Park Zoo and were roaming the city looking for prey.
“Thomas Nast, seeing an opportunity to combine the rumor about Grant with the animal story, created a cartoon for Harper’s Weekly. He drew a donkey clothed in a lion’s skin (labeled “Caesarism”), scaring away the other animals in the park. Among the animals in the cartoon was an elephant, labeled “The Republican Vote.” Nast chose the elephant because it was believed that elephants were clever, steadfast, and easily controlled, but unmanageable when frightened. After the election, Nast drew another cartoon depicting an elephant having walked into a Democratic trap. Soon, other cartoonists began using elephants to represent Republicans, and the elephant came to symbolize the Republican Party.”
So, the Republican elephant, conceived by cartoonist Thomas Nast, first appeared on thisÂ day in 1874. Cool?
— C. Yoe (in the funny papers)