Dropping the Pilot

"Dropping the Pilot". Caricature by Sir John Tenniel (1820–1914), first published in the British magazine Punch, 29 March 1890.[1]

Dropping the Pilot is a political cartoon by Sir John Tenniel, first published in the British magazine Punch on 29 March 1890.[1] It depicts Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, as a maritime pilot, stepping off a ship (perhaps a reference to Plato's ship of state),[1] idly and unconcernedly watched by a young Wilhelm II, German Emperor. Bismarck had resigned as Chancellor at Wilhelm's demand just ten days earlier on 19 March,[2][3] as Bismarck's political views were too different from Wilhelm's.

After the cartoon's publication, Tenniel received a commission from Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery to create a copy to be sent to Bismarck himself. The former Chancellor reportedly replied, "It is indeed a fine one."[4]

The cartoon is well known in Germany and often used in history textbooks, under the title German: Der Lotse geht von Bord, (literally, The pilot leaves the ship).[1]



  1. 1 2 3 4 "Dropping the Pilot (1890)". Wilhelmine Germany and the First World War (1890-1918). German History in Documents and Images (GHDI). Retrieved 1 March 2014. "Here, we see a weary Bismarck descending the ladder of the “ship” Germany, which he had steered for almost 20 years as chancellor. A young Wilhelm II looks on from the deck."
  2. The Times, London: Times Newspapers Ltd., March 19, 1890.
  3. The New York Times, New York: The New York Times Company, March 19, 1890.
  4. Engen, Rodney K. Sir John Tenniel: Alice's White Knight, Aldershot, Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1991, 140-142.
  5. Low, David. "Dropping the Pilot". politicalcartoon.co.uk. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  6. Bishop, Daniel. "Dropping the Pilot". Library of Congress. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  7. Bell, Steve (10 November 2006). "Vice-president faces isolation after key ally leaves Pentagon". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  8. Bell, Steve (1 July 2009). "Iraqis celebrate the withdrawal of American combat troops". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  9. Bell, Steve (25 June 2014). "David Cameron's response to Coulson's guilt". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  10. Rowson, Martin (5 March 2012). "The Guardian Comment Cartoon". Steve Hilton's Exit. The Guardian. Retrieved March 5, 2012.
  11. Rowson, Martin (7 December 2014). "The Guardian Comment Cartoon". Alex Salmond standing in the 2015 general election. The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
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