clues: Cartoonist Thomas; 1800s Harper's Weekly cartoonist;
Democratic donkey creator; Boss Tweed’s lampooner; Creator
of party animals; Creator of the Republican elephant
5 times a year
Exhibit Celebrates 'Original Thomas Nast'
Thomas Nast has
been our best recruiting sergeant –
27, 1840–December 7, 1902) was a famous caricaturist and
editorial cartoonist in the 19th century and is considered to be
the father of American political cartooning.
was born in the military barracks of Landau, Germany (in the
Rhine Palatinate), the son of a musician in the 9th regiment
Bavarian band. His mother took him to New York in 1846. He
studied art there for about a year with Alfred Fredericks and
Theodore Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of
Design. After school (at the age of 15), he started working in
1855 as a draftsman for Frank
Leslies Illustrated Newspaper;
three years afterwards for Harper's
He drew for Harper's
1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886. In 1860 he went to England
for the New
York Illustrated News to
depict the prize fight between Heenan and Sayers, and then joined
Garibaldi in Italy as artist for The
Illustrated London News.
Nast's cartoons and articles about the Garibaldi military
campaign to unify Italy captured the popular imagination in the
U.S. In the early 1860s, he married Sarah Edwards.
first serious work in caricature was the cartoon "Peace in
1862," directed against those in the North who opposed the
prosecution of the American Civil War. This and his other
cartoons during the Civil War and Reconstruction days were
published in Harper's
He was known for drawing battlefields in border and southern
states. These attracted great attention, and Nast was called by
President Abraham Lincoln our best recruiting sergeant. Even more
able were Nast's cartoons against the Tweed Ring conspiracy in
New York City. His biting wit was generally focused on political
corruption, and was instrumental in the downfall of Boss Tweed.
It was said his caricature of Boss Tweed was used by the
officials of Vigo, Spain when Tweed fled justice there. In
general he was well known in his time for his political cartoons
supporting American Indians, Chinese Americans and advocating
abolition of slavery.
cartoons frequently had numerous sidebars and panels with
intricate subplots to the main cartoon. A Sunday feature could
provide hours of entertainment and highlight social causes. His
signature "Tammany Tiger" has been emulated by numerous
cartoonists over the years.
became a close friend of President Grant and the two families
shared regular dinners until Grant's death. Nast encouraged the
former president's efforts in writing his autobiography while
did some painting in oil and some book illustrations, but these
were comparatively unimportant, and his fame rests on his
caricatures and political cartoons, and introduced into American
cartoons the practice of modernizing scenes from Shakespeare for
a political purpose.
images and icons which he created or popularized were:
classic version of Santa Claus, drawn in 1863 for Harper's
Hall Tiger, a symbol of Boss Tweed's political machine
a graceful image of the Americas as a woman, usually in flowing
gown and tiara, carrying a sword to defend the downtrodden.
Sam, a lanky image of the United States (first drawn in the
1830s; Nast and John Tenniel added the whiskers).
Bull, a rotund image of Britain's spirit
Chinaman, a sympathetic image of Chinese immigrants.
1873, 1885 and 1887 Nast toured the United States as lecturer and
sketch-artist, but with the advent of new methods and younger
blood his vogue decreased. After the death of Fletcher Harper, he
focused on oil paintings and book illustrations. He shared
political views with his friend Mark Twain and was for many years
a staunch Republican; had bitterly attacked President Andrew
Johnson and his Reconstruction policy; had ridiculed Horace
Greeley's candidacy, and had opposed inflation of the currency,
notably with his famous rag-baby cartoons, but his advocacy of
civil service reform and his distrust of James G. Blaine forced
him to become a Mugwump and in 1884 an open supporter of the
Democrats, from which in 1892 he returned to the Republicans and
the support of Benjamin Harrison.
lived for many years in Morristown, New Jersey and in 1890, he
Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race.
tried to start a magazine, which failed, and in 1902 Theodore
Roosevelt appointed him as United States' Consul General to
Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America. During a deadly yellow fever
outbreak, Nast heroically stayed to the end helping numerous
diplomatic missions and businesses close to escape the contagion.
At age 62, in 1902, he died of yellow fever contracted there. His
body was returned to the United States where he was interred in
the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.
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