Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 282

Price Realized: $ 688
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(POLITICS.) Issue of the Boston Weekly Messenger featuring the map which inspired the Gerrymander. Volume I, No. 20. 4 pages, 19 1/2 x 13 1/4 inches, on two detached sheets; minor foxing and edge wear, a bit of soiling at one fold. Boston, 6 March 1812

Additional Details

In 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry pushed through a redistricting plan to create safe seats for his Democratic-Republican Party. The injustice of this complex maneuver was difficult to convey to rank and file members of the rival Federalist Party, so a graphic was in order. This front-page newspaper map was the first attempt. It shows the new lines drawn across two Massachusetts counties, Worcester and Essex. The accompanying text describes one of the new Essex districts as being "properly called by the name which children give to a letter in the alphabet, Crooked S." A long remonstrance against this redistricting fills much of pages 1 and 2, and two long editorials on page 3 continue the case, railing against "the crooked district in Essex."

Three days later, another Federalist paper, the Boston Gazette, issued their own version of this map as a broadside. Then, on 26 March, they hit on a stroke of genius, engraving the S-shaped Essex district as a horrible winged and clawed creature dubbed the Gerrymander. This was the winning combination to get the message across--and the term remains in common use among political commentators today.

The Weekly Messenger was issued in two editions, the city edition and this somewhat scarcer "Weekly Messenger for the Country" (as described at the end of the final page). We trace neither at auction, though Goodspeed offered one in 1929.