Today is the birthday of German-born American cartoonist, Thomas Nast. Considered to be the father of the American cartoon, the artist whose sharp wit targeted the likes of Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall political machine would turn 172 if he were still miraculously alive today.
The Tammany Tiger Loose—"What are you going to do about it?", published in Harper's Weekly in November 1871, just before election day.
Nast was born on September 27th, 1840 in Landau, Germany, before moving to New York at the age of six. He began his career as a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated, eventually ending up at Harper's Weekly, where his politically-minded art thrived. He was an adamant opponent of slavery, depicting his unwavering support for the Union in cartoons like "After the Battle" and "Emancipation." But many of Nast's most famous cartoons took issue with the political machines operating at the state and local levels of his country, particularly New York's own Tammany Hall, led by William "Boss" Tweed. He followed Tweed so closely that, according to a number of Nast's biographies, one of the cartoonist's drawings of the criminal politician was used by authorities to identify Tweed during his arrest in Spain.
However, Nast's outspoken nature eventually created a rift between the draftsman and Harper's, as his contributions to the weekly became infrequent. After a few years of financial hardships, he was appointed consul general at Guayaquil, Ecuador by Theodore Roosevelt, where he would live the rest of his life until his death on Decemember 7th, 1902. But his legacy lived on through many of his original sketches, including the Republican Party's elephant and a bearded version of Santa Claus, both of which are still used today. He is also credited for popularizing the Democratic Party's donkey.
In honor of the crafty caricaturist, we've put together a slide of some of his best cartoons in a slideshow below. How do you think contemporary political art stacks up to Nast?