Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thomas Nast, the master of political satire

Thomas Nast is perhaps 19th Century best political cartoonist. He came up with the idea of using animals to represent political parties. In his cartoons the Democratic Party was a donkey and the Republican Party an elephant. He also helped to develop the character, Uncle Sam, to represent the United States. In September 1869, Nast began his campaign in Harper's Weekly against William Tweed, the corrupt political leader of New York City. Pressure was put on Harper Brothers, and when it refused to sack Nast, the company lost the contract to provide New York schools with books. Nast himself was offered a bribe of $500,000 to end his campaign.

The Off Year, Harper's Weekly, (1877) Wood engraving

This was hundred times the salary of $5,000 that the magazine paid him but Nast still refused and eventually Tweed was arrested and imprisoned for corruption. Nast's campaign against Tweed was later described as "the finest and most effective political cartooning ever done in the United States."

Above, The American River Ganges. Harper’s Weekly (1871). Wood engraving.

After the ratification of the 14th Amendment, 1869.