Happy birthday Thomas Nast!



Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American political cartoonist. He became known for his drawings in Harper's Weekly, especially for the ones that took down the corrupt New York politician Boss Tweed.


Nast was born in Landau, Germany to Appolonia and Joseph Thomas Nast. His father was a musician whose political leanings resulted in him leaving the country for the United States, sending his wife and children before him.

Nast began drawing from an early age. He studied with Alfred Fredericks and Theodore Kaufmann, and then went on to study at the National Academy of Design. By 1856, he began work as a draftsman at Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.



Nast spent 1860 and 1861 illustrating in London and then in Italy before returning to New York.

Nast had drawings published in the new Harper's Magazine from 1857 until 1862, when he became a full-time staffer.


Some of his most famous drawings include "Christmas Eve" (1862)



and "Compromise with the South" (1864).


Abraham Lincoln famously said that Nast was "our best recruiting sergeant." He was also the first to use animals to represent political parties, portraying the Democrats as a donkey and the Republicans as an elephant.



One of Nast's most famous accomplishments was his condemnation of Boss Tweed, New York City's corrupt public works commissioner. Tweed and his co-conspirators at Tammany Hall had defrauded the city out of millions of dollars and Nast launched a scathing cartoon campaign in Harper's. Tweed was so afraid of the consequences that he attempted to bribe Nast, but Nast only tricked him into offering more money before ultimately getting him out of politics and behind bars.




Other issues Nast took to in his drawings were Catholicism (which he rejected after being born and raised a Catholic) and race. Nast was racist against the Irish, often portraying them as drunks, but was an advocate for African-American slaves, Chinese-Americans, and Native Americans.

After Fletcher Harper died, Nast's contentious relationship with its succeeding editor led to a decrease in the publication of his drawings.

Nast's last Harper's drawing came in 1886. It was said by journalist Henry Watterson that "in quitting Harper's Weekly, Nast lost his forum: in losing him, Harper's Weekly lost its political importance."

He spent the last years of his life drawing for various other publications and published Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race (1890).


In 1892, he took over the New York Gazette, renaming it Nast's Weekly. However, the publication was unsuccessful and left Nast with substantial debt.

Nast died in a yellow fever outbreak in Ecuador after being appointed United States' Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 27 September 2014
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