Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:
Date and Place of Birth:
September 27, 1840, Landau, Bavaria
Young Thomas emigrated to the United States with his mother and sister when he was six. His father joined them in New York City at a later date.
An abysmal, nearly illiterate student, Nast boldly procured himself a drawing job with Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper at age 15 and never looked back. The first great American political cartoonist's unlettered state proved a boon: Nast's woodcuts had enormous popularity with the public (many of whom also couldn't read, but absolutely understood a drawing). Nast is best known for popularizing symbols still in use today, particularly that of the jolly Santa Claus found in Clement Moore's poem.
- Santa Claus. Our first good look at him in his present form happened in 1865.
- Uncle Sam. Standardized, popularized and given a beard by Nast beginning in 1869.
- The Democratic Donkey. Popularized in 1870, seen kicking a dead lion that symbolized Lincoln's recently deceased Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton.
- The Republican Elephant. First shown in 1874.
Date and Place of Death:
December 7, 1902, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Nast had been appointed, by President Theodore Roosevelt (a friend and admirer of his work), as American Consul some six months earlier. This act of Public Service was cut short by a hungry tropical mosquito carrying the yellow fever virus.
Sources and Further Reading
- Keller, Morton. The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast. Oxford University Press; 1975.
- Nast, Thomas. Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings. Dover Publications; 1978.
- Pflueger, Lynda. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist (Historical American Biographies). Enslow Publishers; 2000