Really, when you look back at the life of Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), it's a shame that he is now known almost entirely for a negative aspect of his life, and not for all the impressive accomplishments he had.
I mean, the guy signed the Declaration of Independence, for crying out loud!
He was James Madison's second Vice-President (fellow Declaration signer George Clinton was Madison's first veep, before Clinton died in office). Gerry, too, died in office.
Gerry, though, is not remembered for these deeds, nor will he really be known for being the ninth Governor of Massachusetts, but for his support of the notion of redistricting for political gain.
Redistricting for political purposes is something that goes on today, where whichever party is in power tries to draw up the voting districts to help keep their party in power. So long as you aren't doing it to negatively affect ethic or racial groups, it is allowed.
In any event, in 1812, then Governor Gerry decided to have Massachusetts redistricted so that the Federalists would get their own district, but the rest of the districts would fall to Gerry's party, the Democratic-Republicans.
In the Boston Gazette, editorial cartoonist/painter Gilbert Stuart decided to compare Gerry's plan to a salamander. However, Stuart's editor, Benjamin Russel, suggested that he instead call it a "Gerry-Mander," after Gerry (by the by, the term "Gerrymander" is pronounced "jerrymander," but Gerry's name was actually pronounced with a hard G, not a J).
The cartoon appeared in the March 26th, 1812 edition of the Boston Gazette...
And the rest is, as they say, history.