Mr. Punch at the Great Exhibition: Stereotypes of Yankee and Hebrew in 1851

  • Frank Felsenstein


In his panoptic study of the early years of Punch, Richard Altick comments on the periodical’s traditional “mild xenophobia” in its depiction of foreigners and outsiders.2 The intention of the present essay is to try to substantiate this by reference to the magazine’s representation of two particular groups, the Jews (or “Hebrews”) and the Americans (or “Yankees”) in the year of the Great Exhibition. A principal reason for selecting these two groups is to probe the strange variance between Punch’s sharp yet self-righteous condemnation of America’s failure to free its slaves, and its simultaneous maintenance of an almost incessandy negative stance toward the emancipation of Britain’s Jews. Coincidentally, on the very day—May 1, 1851—when the Great Exhibition opened its doors to the public, Parliament was debating Jewish emancipation, causing the prime minister to miss the grand inauguration. The two volumes of Punch for 1851, issued exactly ten years after Mark Lemon with others had founded the journal, are volumes XX and XXI. In many respects, the attitudes represented in these two volumes characterize many of the intriguing contradictions and paradoxes concerning race and nationhood that are evident in the early years of the periodical as a whole and, by extension, in the bourgeois world of mid-nineteenth-century England.


American Custom American Manufacture Ritual Murder White Slavery Crystal Palace 
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Some Further Reading

  1. 2.
    David Vital, A People Apart: The Jews in Europe 1789–1939, Oxford History of Modern Europe, gen. ed. Lord Bullock and Sir William Deakin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    David Sorkin, New Perspectives on the Haskalah (London and Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2001).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Linda Colley, Britons: Eorging the Nation 1707–1837 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Alan H. Singer, “Great Britain or Judea Nova? National Identity, Property, and the Jewish Naturalization Controversy of 1753,” in British Romanticism and the Jews: History, Culture, Literature, ed. Sheila A. Spector (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2002), 19–36.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Edwin Jones’s thesis in The English Nation: The Great Myth (Phoenix Mill: Sutton, 1998).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Charles Duschinsky, The Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue, London, from 1756–1842 (London: Oxford University Press, 1921), 94.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Eugene C. Black, “The Anglicization of Orthodoxy: the Adlers, Father and Son,” in Profiles in Diversity: Jews in a Changing Europe, 1750–1870, ed. Frances Malino and David Sorkin (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), 295–325.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Anne J. Kershen and Jonathan A. Romain, Tradition and Change: A History of Reform Judaism in Britain, 1840–1995 (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1995).Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Jane S. Gerber, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience (New York: Free Press, 1992).Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    Michael Scrivener, “British-Jewish Writing of the Romantic Era and the Problem of Modernity: The Example of David Levi,” in British Romanticism and the Jews: History, Culture, Literature, ed. Sheila A. Spector (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2002), 159–177.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Felsenstein

There are no affiliations available

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