1812, "arrange political divisions in disregard of natural boundaries so as to give one party an advantage in elections," also from 1812 as a noun, American English, from name of Elbridge Gerry + (sala)mander. Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, was lampooned when his party redistricted the state in a blatant bid to preserve an Antifederalist majority. One sprawling Essex County district resembled a salamander, and a newspaper editor dubbed it the Gerrymander. Related: Gerrymandered; gerrymandering.
[T]he division of this county into districts has given an opportunity for a Caracatura stamped at Boston and freely circulated here called the Gerrymander. The towns as they lie are disposed as parts of a monster whose feet and claws are Salem and Marblehead. It is one of those political tricks which have success as far as they go. [William Bentley, diary, April 2, 1812]