Thomas Nast, Political Cartoonist (Friends Fund Publication)
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If it is true that the pen is mightier than the sword and that one picture is worth a thousand words, Thomas Nast must certainly rank as one of the most influential personalities in nineteenth-century American history. His pen, dipped in satire, aroused an apathetic, disinterested, and uninformed public to indignation and action more than once. The most notable Nast campaign, and probably the one best recorded today, was directed against New York City’s Tammany Hall and its boss, William Marcy Tweed. Boss Tweed and his ring so feared the power of Nast and his drawings that they once offered him a bribe of $500,000.
Six presidents of the United States received and gratefully accepted Nast’s support during their candidacies and administrations. Two of these, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, credited Nast with more than mere support. During the Civil War, Lincoln called Nast his “best recruiting sergeant,” and after the war Grant, then a general, wrote that Nast had done as “much as any one man to preserve the Union and bring the war to an end.” Throughout his career the cartoonist remained an ardent champion of Grant who, after his election in 1868, attributed his victory to “the sword of Sheridan and the pencil of Thomas Nast.”
Nast’s work is still familiar today. It was Nast who popularized the modern concepts of Santa Claus and Uncle Sam and who created such symbols as the Democratic donkey, the Republican elephant, and the Tammany tiger.
With more than 150 examples of Nast’s work, Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist recreates the life and pattern of artistic development of the man who made the political cartoon a respected and powerful journalistic form.
intimidate him and the Boss turned to his most trusted weapon—bribery. A lawyer friend of Nast mentioned that a group of wealthy business men wanted to send him to Europe for art study. The artist immediately divined the true nature of this offer and calmly played a waiting game. Pretending interest he drove the price from $100,000 to $200,000, and finally up to $500,000 before refusing to drop his campaign against the Ring with the statement, " I made up my mind not 20 THOMAS long ago to put
promised financial rewards. He turned them all down. The prospects for his future in cartooning seemed un limited. He did not need money, for his salary was high, his investments sound, and he owned a beau tiful home. By the end of the fateful year of 1877 even the Hayes administration had not proved to be as hopeless as Nast had feared. The Southern policy was irritating, but Hayes was a sound money man and on this issue the cartoonist could agree sin cerely with both his President and his
pictorial advocate, censor, and statesman of his age he w i l l always remain the prime example of the greatest possible force of political satire." Harper's, conscious of its loss, sought to hold Nast. He was urged to take a rest, and his retainer was paid for a year with the understanding that he would prepare books of his old Christmas drawings and Tweed Ring cartoons for publication. Only the first of these was completed. Under the title, Christmas Drawings for the Human Race, it repre sents
40) ; 16 (Nos. 37, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46) ; 17 (Nos. 40, 51, 59, 56, 46, 56, 60, 42, 43, 44) ; 18 (Nos. 45, 46) ; 19 (No. 47) ; 20 (Nos. 48, 49, 56, 50, 52, 53, 54) ; 21 (Nos. 55, 29, . 57, 58, 60, 59, 61, 146); 22 (Nos. 46, 62, 63, 64, 41, 52, 32, 47) ; 24 (Nos. 65, 66, 24, 67) ; 25 (Nos. 68, 73, 74, 75, 76, 7 8 ) ; 26 (Nos. 79, 81, 82, 8 3 ) ; 27 (Nos. 84-97); 28 (Nos. 98-103); 29 (Nos. 104-112); 32 (Nos. 114-118) ; 33 (Nos. 119, 120, 106, 121, 122, 123, 87); 34 (Nos. 124-131); 35 (Nos. 132,
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