A thread of images from a Japanese illustrated history of America from 1861.

Here is George Washington (with bow and arrow) pictured alongside the Goddess of America. 1/

Here is Christopher Columbus (seated at center) reporting his discovery of America to Queen Isabella of Spain.

So far, kinda normal, but wait for it.... 2/
Now it's the American Revolution. Here is George Washington defending his wife "Carol" from a British official named "Asura" (same characters as the Buddhist deity). 3/
And here is Washington's "second-in-command" John Adams battling an enormous snake. 4/
Here is Washington and his wife "Carol" meeting an extremely youthful Benjamin Franklin, who has an impressive squat. 5/
Here's the incredibly jacked Benjamin Franklin firing a cannon that he holds in his bare hands, while John Adams directs him where to fire. 6/
And here is George Washington straight-up punching a tiger. 7/
Best buds John Adams and Ben Franklin must have had a falling out, because John Adams fires an arrow at Ben and then rides away like a cowardly little bitch. Of course Ben Franklin is a total badass, so he just stands there and lets the arrow fly by without even flinching. 8/
During a calmer moment, John Adams is just chillin' in the countryside, having a quiet picnic with his elderly mother... 9/
But then! While John Adams is too obsessed with the food and drink, a huge snake comes along and *eats* his mom!

Maybe the snake was a child of that other snake John Adams killed, or maybe it was sent by Ben Franklin as part of their feud? 10/
Here is Washington leading his army from behind in a carriage. The American flag has no stars, only stripes, and the author seems very impressed that the carriage has not one but TWO horses. 11/
Meanwhile, John Adams wants to get revenge on the snake that ate his Mom, so he goes to ask a magical mountain fairy for help! 12/
The mountain fairy does Adams a solid, and summons a gigantic eagle! 13/
Together, John Adams and the eagle kill the enormous snake that ate his Mom. The power of teamwork!!! 14/
This 1861 book was by author Kanagaki Robun (仮名垣魯文) and artist Utagawa Yoshitora (歌川芳虎).

The title is "Osanaetoki Bankokubanashi" (童絵解万国噺) and it was based on 2 other second-hand sources, "Kaikoku Zushi" (海国図志) and "Amerika Ittōshi" (亜墨利加一統志). 15/
These images, and the entire rest of the book, are available online courtesy of the Waseda University Library... 16/

https://t.co/OF1gSsavko

More from Culture

I just finished Eric Adler's The Battle of the Classics, and wanted to say something about Joel Christiansen's review linked below. I am not sure what motivates the review (I speculate a bit below), but it gives a very misleading impression of the book. 1/x


The meat of the criticism is that the history Adler gives is insufficiently critical. Adler describes a few figures who had a great influence on how the modern US university was formed. It's certainly critical: it focuses on the social Darwinism of these figures. 2/x

Other insinuations and suggestions in the review seem wildly off the mark, distorted, or inappropriate-- for example, that the book is clickbaity (it is scholarly) or conservative (hardly) or connected to the events at the Capitol (give me a break). 3/x

The core question: in what sense is classics inherently racist? Classics is old. On Adler's account, it begins in ancient Rome and is revived in the Renaissance. Slavery (Christiansen's primary concern) is also very old. Let's say classics is an education for slaveowners. 4/x

It's worth remembering that literacy itself is elite throughout most of this history. Literacy is, then, also the education of slaveowners. We can honor oral and musical traditions without denying that literacy is, generally, good. 5/x

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