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Hidden Treasures from the Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell Museum

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thomas Nast Tearsheets

We recently received a donation of Thomas Nast tearsheets dating from 1862-1875. Thomas Nast was an important nineteenth century American cartoonist who produced some of the most influential political cartoons in American history. In 1859 he began working for Harper’s Weekly, where he would remain for most of his career.
During the Civil War, Nast worked as a war correspondent, traveling to the front lines and producing sketches of the battlefields. These were featured in Harper’s and helped inspire patriotic fervor in the North, to the degree that President Lincoln referred to him as, "our best recruiting sergeant.” By the end of the war, Nast became a nationally-known figure. He used this position to attack William “Boss” Tweed and his ring of corrupt Tammany Hall politicians. Nast was considered such an influential threat that Tweed attempted unsuccessfully to buy Nast off. Nast’s campaign proved successful and the Tweed ring was removed from power in the 1871 election.

Nast also proved to be an influential force in every presidential election from 1864 to 1880. He became known for his ruthless attacks on Democratic candidates in particular, as Harper’s typically supported Republicans. In addition to his political influence, Nast is credited with creating the popular images of figures such as Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, and the Democratic donkey that are still in use today. The donkey had been associated with the Democrats since 1837, but it was Nast who popularized it. He is also the origin of the elephant as a symbol of the Republican party.
"The Third-Term Panic," Harper's Weekly, Nov 7 1874

Some of the cartoons are a bit difficult to appreciate without having knowledge of the people and events they depict, but they are still enjoyable to look at and make a worthy addition to the museum's collection.

"The Modern Samson," Harper's Weekly, Oct 3 1868
 "Time Works Wonders," Harper's Weekly, Apr 9 1870