1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nast, Thomas

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NAST, THOMAS (1840-1902), American caricaturist, was born on the 27th of September 1840, in the military barracks of Landau, Germany, the son of a musician in the Ninth regiment Bavarian band. His mother took him to New York in 1846. He studied art there for about a year with Theodore Kaufmann and then at the school of the National Academy of Design. At the age of fifteen he became a draughtsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper; three years afterwards for Harper's Weekly. In 1860 he went to England for the New York Illustrated News to depict the prize-fight between Heenan and Sayers, and then joined Garibaldi in Italy as artist for The Illustrated London News. His first serious work in caricature was the cartoon “Peace” in 1862, directed against those in the North who opposed the prosecution of the Civil War. This and his other cartoons during the Civil War and Reconstruction days were published in Harper's Weekly; they attracted great attention, and Nast was called by President Lincoln “our best recruiting sergeant” Even more able were Nast's cartoons against the Tweed Ring conspiracy in New York city; his caricature of Tweed being the means of the latter's identification and arrest at Vigo. In 1873, 1885 and 1887 Nast toured the United States as lecturer and sketch-artist, but with the advent of new methods and younger blood his vogue decreased. He had been an ardent Republican in his earlier years; had bitterly attacked President Johnson and his Reconstruction policy; had ridiculed Greeley's candidature, and had opposed inflation of the currency, notably with his famous “rag-baby” cartoons, but his advocacy of civil service reform and his distrust of Blaine forced him to become a Mugwump and in 1884 an open supporter of the Democratic party, from which in 1892 he returned to the Republican party and the support of Harrison. He had lost practically all of his earnings by the failure of Grant and Ward, and in May 1902 was appointed by President Roosevelt consul-general at Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he died on the 7th of December in the same year. He did some painting in oil and some book illustrations, but these were comparatively unimportant, and his fame rests on his caricatures and political cartoons. Nast introduced the donkey to typify the Democratic party, the elephant to typify the Republican party, and the tiger to typify Tammany Hall, and introduced into American cartoons the practice of modernizing scenes from Shakespeare for a political purpose.

See A. B. Paine, Thomas Nast, his Period and his Pictures (New York, 1904).