1840-1902. A major American political cartoonist
of the 19th Century
The man who invented, or at least popularized, the animal symbols for the two
political parties - the elephant
, representing the Republican
, and the donkey
, representing the Democrats
also devised the modern version of Uncle Sam
, and of Santa Claus
, with an illustration inspired by Clement Moore
's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ('twas the night before Christmas...
). He'd made his name with his cartoons
in Harper's Weekly
, but his stubborn independence of the publisher's editorial
stances eventually led to his ouster in 1888. His friend Theodore Roosevelt
, at a time when the formerly high-living Nast was broke, gave him a diplomat
's gig in Ecuador
, where he contracted yellow fever and died, shortly into his stint.
Nast is probably most famous for his long, and eventually successful, battle against William Marcy Tweed's Tammany Hall political machine in New York City. His cartoons regularly savaged Boss
Tweed's corrupt administration -- in an age when English-language literacy
wasn't as widespread as it is today, Nast could paint a thousand words about
the ills of Tammany rule. When Tweed tried to flee to Spain, to escape
prosecution, one of Nast's cartoons even served as an ad hoc wanted poster for
the Spanish authorities.