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Thomas Nast

The Father of Modern Political Cartoons

Fiona Deans Halloran

Publication Year: 2013

Thomas Nast (1840-1902), the founding father of American political cartooning, is perhaps best known for his cartoons portraying political parties as the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant. Nast's legacy also includes a trove of other political

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Cover and Front Matter

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pp. 1-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-xi

Like any work of this nature, this book represents the contributions of many hands. I am grateful to a wide range of people who helped to make it possible and who supported me as I engaged in the research, writing, and revision of the manuscript. Joan Waugh was a model of cheerful patience, critical reading, professional...

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CHAPTER ONE: From Five Points to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News

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pp. 1-18

Thomas Nast enjoyed the knowing wink. To his biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, he told a version of his early life. Another version, more complete but less charming, lay within the reach of any knowing reader. Between the two lay not only Nast’s experiences, insofar as they can be reconstructed, but also his lingering discomfort...

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CHAPTER TWO: Early Work and Training

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pp. 19-38

Employment at Leslie’s offered Nast income and a position within the thriving center of New York illustrated journalism. But Nast was still very young. His work for Leslie served only a part of his artistic ambition. In search of more training, better technique, and wider experience, Nast roamed the city...

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CHAPTER THREE: Travel to Europe and Sallie

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pp. 39-57

As Nast absorbed politics in his neighborhood, at work, and abroad, he also, between 1859 and 1861, embraced adulthood. Travel in Europe provided Nast a window into the workings of the land he left as a child. He observed sport in Britain, war in Italy, and the uncertain charms of the Bavarian beer house. By the time...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Compromise with the South

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pp. 59-89

On September 3, 1864, Thomas Nast’s cartoon “Compromise with the South” appeared in Harper’s Weekly. The cartoon was a hammer blow for Lincoln and against peace. In it, a Union soldier, head bowed, reluctantly shakes hands with the Confederacy over the grave of Union men who fell for a worthless cause.1 A vote for the Democrats...

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CHAPTER FIVE: Falling in Love with Grant

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pp. 91-118

Despite the success of his employment at Harper’s, Nast continued to experiment with other art forms and other avenues for self- expression. Illustrating books offered one lucrative option. As with his work at Harper’s, Nast’s drawings for books ranged from simply illustrative to sentimental to overtly political. He continued to...

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pp. 119-143

In the late summer of 1871, Thomas Nast received a visitor to his Harlem home. The man was a representative of the Broadway Bank, and after an introductory period of small talk, he asked Nast whether it was true that he would be traveling to Europe soon to study art. Nast said that he was too busy to leave just then. “I have reason...

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CHAPTER SEVEN: The Campaign of 1872

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pp. 145-175

The fall of Boss Tweed firmly established Nast’s reputation. But the Tweed campaign represented only the beginning of a period of intense work and growing fame. Between 1871 and 1873 Nast demonstrated the power of his pencil beyond any doubt. In fact, while the cartoons of the fall of 1871 remain his most famous...

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CHAPTER EIGHT: Redpath and Wealth

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pp. 177-195

By early 1873 Nast’s position among Republicans could not have been higher. Their adoration “became something near idolatry,” Paine says. But for Nast, the previous few months had been both exhilarating and trying. As his star rose, Nast experienced all the pressures of success. Invitations arrived for social and political events...

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CHAPTER NINE: Access and Authority

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pp. 197-219

If the Morristown house cemented Nast’s status as a mature cartoonist— secure in his annual contract, lauded by his political party, and happy in his family life—it also served as a dividing line of sorts. From 1873 forward, Nast enjoyed a position of access and authority from which he could comment on practically any topic he...

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CHAPTER TEN: Conflict with Curtis

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pp. 221-244

By 1876, Thomas Nast had every reason to rest on his laurels. His personal income was substantial, his fame was widespread, and his position at Harper’s Weekly seemed unassailable. No one could have predicted that by the end of 1877 Nast’s ongoing conflict with editor George William Curtis would become a public clash, destroying...

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CHAPTER ELEVEN: The End of an Era

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pp. 245-264

Between 1877 and 1884 Nast’s presence at Franklin Square was intermittent and punctuated by illness and clashes over rejected cartoons. He continued to work, submitting cartoons on a variety of issues.1 But during these years, Nast’s fame and talent began to decline. Pain that had developed in his drawing hand in 1873 during his chalk...

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CHAPTER TWELVE: Nast’s Weekly and Guayaquil

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pp. 265-281

In the aftermath of the election of 1884, Nast was exhausted. He took some pleasure in a visit from his friend Mark Twain, who was in Morristown for a stop in his lecture tour with George Washington Cable. The lecturers dined with the Nast family, enjoying fresh oysters. Twain enjoyed them so much, in fact, that Nast offered him...

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pp. 283-291

Nast’s death left his family bereft. For Sallie, the void was not only emotional but also financial. With the loss of much of Nast’s fortune in the Grant and Ward debacle and the remainder sunk into the Colorado silver mine and Thomas Nast’s Weekly, Sallie had nothing left but her home and Nast’s collection of drawings, letters...


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pp. 293-340


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pp. 341-355


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pp. 357-366

E-ISBN-13: 9781469600239
E-ISBN-10: 1469600234
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807835876
Print-ISBN-10: 0807835870

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013