Nast and Political Cartoons

By | Nov 24, 2009

Thomas Nast was a 19th century caricaturist and editorial cartoonist. He is considered to be the father of the political cartoon. Nast was German born and came to America when he was 6. Nast drew for Harper’s Weekly from 1859 to 1886, with a break from 1861 when he worked in Italy for the The Illustrated London News. (Some mistakenly think his name was Thomas Nash).

His greatest fame came from his political cartoon. In general his cartoons supported American Indians, Chinese Americans and advocated abolition of slavery. Nast also dealt with segregation and the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. One of his more famous cartoons called “Worse than Slavery”, showed a despondent black family having their house destroyed by arson, with members of the Ku Klux Klan and White League are shaking hands in their mutually destructive work against black Americans.

Nast created the image of the Democrat Donkey in a cartoon that was published on January 14, 1870. The cartoon was titled ‘ A live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion’. The Dead Lion referred to Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War.

Four years later in 1874 he drew a cartoon with an Elephant to represent the Republican Party.

While Nast wasn’t the first, nor the last, to draw the character Uncle Sam he did help evolve Uncle Sam to what we know today. He drew many cartoon featuring Uncle Sam, but one published on November 24, 1876 features Uncle Sam with striped pants, a long overcoat, and a top hat.

Nast drew a series of cartoon of Santa Claus. His vision had him living at the North Pole with a workshop for building toys and a large book filled with the names of children who had been naughty or nice.


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