American historians remember Thomas Nast (1841-1907) for several creations that still live today: (1) he devised the animal icons of the country's chief political rivals, the Republican Party's elephant and the Democratic Party's donkey. (2) he invented the Tammany tiger as the iconic vehicle for his editorial cartoons in the anti-corruption crusade in his Harpers' Weekly series in that brought down the New York City political cabal of Boss W. M. Tweed and Tammany Hall. (3) he also created (something few people remember) the modern image of the American Santa Clause, as distinct from Britain's Father Christmas. In addition, literary historians still associate his illustrations with the novels of Mark Twain. Upon his death on 7 December 1902, Nast’s obituary in Harper's Weekly stated, "He has been called, perhaps not with accuracy, but with substantial justice, the Father of American Caricature."

Thomas Nast was not a native-born but a naturalized American, born in Landau, Germany, on 27 September 1840, son of a military bandsman who later emigrated to the United States. Having studied art in New York City, at the age of just 15 Nast had joined the artistic staff of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper; several years later, he shifted to the more prestigious Harpers' Weekly, becoming a staff artist in 1862.

According to the entry in Wikipedia ,

Nast drew for Harper's Weeklyfrom 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886. In February 1860, he went to England for the New York Illustrated News to depict one of the major sporting events of the era, the prize fight between the American John C. Heenan and the English Thomas Sayers sponsored by George Wilkes, publisher of Wilkes' Spirit of the Times. A few months later, as artist for The Illustrated London News, he joined Garibaldi in Italy. Nast's cartoons and articles about the Garibaldi military campaign to unify Italy captured the popular imagination in the U.S. In 1861, he married Sarah Edwards, whom he had met two years earlier.

One of his first serious works in caricature was the cartoon "Peace" (1862), directed against those in the North who opposed the prosecution of the American Civil War. []

In 1873, at the invitation of Samuel Langhorn Clemens ("Mark Twain"), Nast accompanied the rising American author to England to illustrate a new book. Nast famously lampooned Twain's travelling to Canada to assert his copyright on The Prince and The Pauper in a January 1882 editorial cartoon in Harpers' Weekly.


Related Material


Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File and Checkmark Books, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Il. Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Bros., 1873.

Patten, Robert L. Charles Dickens and His Publishers. Santa Cruz, Cal.: The Dickens Project, 1991; a rpt.. of the Oxford University Press edition of 1978.

Rasmussen, R. Kent. Mark Twain A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1995.

"Thomas Nast." Wikipedia, The Online Encyclopedia. Accessed 15 January 2012..

Last modified 17 January 2012