Item: The Silence of Matt Quay

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Record Number: 11737
Call number: Bb 61 N269
Proofread by: Moloshok, Rachel
Artist: Nast, Thomas, 1840-1902
Depicted: Matthew Stanley Quay, 1833-1904, Delamater, George Wallace, 1849-1907, Tweed, William Marcy, 1823-1878
Relates to: The Illustrated American
Repository: Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Date of Original: 1890
Original Format: Collages, Political cartoons, Drawings
Image description:
This cartoon depicts Matthew Quay, a powerful Pennsylvania political boss and United States Senator and many of the accusations leveled against him. Extremely rich in imagery, this cartoon addresses the controversies surrounding Quay and his silence in the face of his critics. Known in some circles as "the Silent Leader," Quay made a habit of saying as few words as possible, particularly when addressing the press. Often, his silence was interpreted as acknowledgement of guilt. Matthew Quay was a political boss who can be compared to the most famous of all political bosses, William "Boss" Tweed. Nineteenth-century political bosses often had inordinate amounts of power through money and business connections, were capable of controlling voting patters and elections, and were generally associated with organized crime and corruption.
This is not a published cartoon but rather Thomas Nast's original artwork. Nast seems to have started by pasting a photograph of Matthew Quay on a board, then collaging over a layer of pen and ink drawings on a prepared Ben-Day shaded background. This layer has a tombstone-shaped hole cut out to frame Quay's portrait. A few pieces of paper containing label text ("A Branded Criminal," "Judas Iscariot," and Quay's quote, "I have been making governors all my life, but I have never had one of my own. I am going to nominate Delamater and know how it feels to own a governor just for once") were cut and pasted on later. The composition was subsequently published as the cover image of the October 25, 1890, issue of Illustrated American (vol. 4, no. 36).