MassMoments: Birth of the Gerrymander

MassMoments tells us that on this day – February 11, 1812 – the political weapon known the “gerrymander” was born with the stroke of  Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry’s pen. The practice of gerrymandering in America  predates the invention of the term, but it was this Massachusetts law that gave rise to the “beastly” name  when Governor Elbridge Gerry, a Jeffersonian Republican, signed a reapportioning act that heavily favored his own party in upcoming elections in the closely divided Bay State legislature. Whether in action, result or cartoon, the term remains both in the lexicon and in fact. Some would say there is a “salamander-looking” district – even today – in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

On This Day...

      …in 1812, a political monster — the “Gerrymander” — was born in the Massachusetts State House. Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a bill that created oddly-shaped voting districts in several parts of the state. The lines of these districts gave Gerry’s party an advantage in the upcoming election. An artist added a head, wings, and claws to the strange shape that was the governor’s new home district and declared it looked like a salamander. A quick-witted friend decided a better name was “Gerry-mander.” Within a month, the image appeared as a cartoon in the local papers and gerrymander, later gerrymander [with a soft “g”], entered the language. The term has referred ever since to any deliberate redrawing of voting districts to influence the outcome of an election.
Read the full article here at MassMoments. Read related posts from back in August and December of last year about the current redistricting situation in the Commonwealth here and here.

2 Responses to MassMoments: Birth of the Gerrymander

  1. Publius says:


    Elbridge Gerry was a Democratic-Republican the predecessor of today’s Democratic party. Today’s Democrats claim Jefferson as one of their own. Why did you not use the full name of the party that Gerry belonged to? Is this just another attempt to unjustly smear Republicans?