Legalized Plunderers.

Item Description

Joseph Keppler. Chromolithograph. Puck. June 9, 1880.

Joseph Keppler’s 1880 caricature Legalized Plunderers criticizes corruption in the legal system during the Gilded Age. During this period, businessmen worked with lawyers in crooked methods to evade litigation which then allowed them to continue to steal money and exploit the system. Heads of businesses bribed lawyers to turn a blind eye on the reallocation of money into their pockets instead of their workers’. As a supporter of the working-class, Keppler condemns lawyers for manipulating the law to steal money from the common man by portraying them as scavengers: sharks, hawks, and wolves. Keppler shows their animalistic and vicious nature, but he also demonstrates their greed by depicting two lawyers sitting comfortably in a boat full of money who insist “the law must take its course.” Not only did legal corruption pervade the American Gilded Age, but it was also evident in English history during the 1870s as reflected in the image, Brutum Fulmen.