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Images changed the way political commentary was delivered to the public during the Gilded Age, but not all images were equal. Some borrowed extensively from other images; some begat other images themselves. Using examples from known Gilded Age cartoonists—Nast, Gillam, Keppler, and Walker—the article differentiates between cartoons, which continue to offer political insight still today, and others, which fare less well under the scrutiny of a modern lens. Asking to what degree a cartoon's artistic antecedents influence its reception by the public, the article gives detailed readings of three Gilded Age cartoons and analyzes them against their source materials (sculpture and history painting). The essay concludes that those cartoons which best exploited three key factors of their source material—meaning, message, and visual elements—delivered the most nuanced and powerful messages and have the most longevity.