All Hands on Deck: Learning Adventures Aboard Old Ironsides
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Fulton’s Torpedo

Interpreting a political cartoon

American Robert Fulton invented a device (consisting of a mass of gunpowder) designed to be exploded under or against the side of a ship. He named his device after a fish that emits an electric ray, called a torpedo fish.

Cartoonists express their ideas by using captions, labels, symbols and humorous exaggeration. Read the cartoon and answer the questions below.

cartoon

1.

What was the cartoonist’s viewpoint? The Yankee torpedo broke the traditional rules of warfare. The cartoon portrays the Americans as evil and the English as brave. Answers will vary around this theme.
2. How did the cartoonist employ the tools of the cartoonist trade to convey this viewpoint?
He uses the symbols of evil — devil, fire-breathing dragon, skull and crossbones on the American side and a robust, stalwart sailor who will stand up to this evil force on the British; the humor is in the language of the captions and details such as the emaciated devil sporting antlers for horns and some of the objects in the dragon’s fiery breath.
3. How was the torpedo similar to Constitution? Both show American ingenuity
Extra Credit: research the story of the battle between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake and report to the class.
Extra Credit: draw a political cartoon that conveys another viewpoint on the new invention.

Have on Hand- photocopies of blank worksheet

Blank Worksheet (pdf)

 

 
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