WASHINGTON (AP) — Just about forever, American politicians have been drawing odd-shaped election districts in an effort to give one political party an advantage over another. In 1812, the practice got a name: gerrymandering.
That year, Jeffersonian Republicans passed a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature to redraw state Senate districts. One district that caught the eye of opponents snaked around the western edges of Essex County in the northern part of the state. It was drawn to marginalize candidates from the Federalist Party.
Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry signed the bill approving the map, drawing scorn from a Federalist newspaper editor, who said the sprawling district looked like a salamander. On March 26, 1812, The Boston Gazette published a cartoon of the district, dubbing it, “The Gerry-mander,” according to the Library of Congress.
Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, later served as vice president under President James Madison.