Nast, Thomas

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Nast, Thomas,

1840–1902, American caricaturist, illustrator, and painter, b. Landau, Germany. He was brought to the United States in 1846. He began his career as a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly. He was sent to England by the New York Illustrated News, served (1860) as artist correspondent in Garibaldi's campaign, contributing sketches to English, French, and American papers, and attracted wide attention with his cartoons of the Civil War, published in Harper's Weekly. He is best known for his clever and forceful political and personal cartoons, which were instrumental in breaking the corrupt Tweed Ring in New York City. It was Nast who created the tiger, the elephant, and the donkey as political symbols of Tammany Hall, the Republican party, and the Democratic party. Nast was also an illustrator of note and a painter in oil. He died at Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he was American consul general.


See biography by F. D. Halloran (2013); study by M. Keller (1968).

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Nast, Thomas

(1840–1902) cartoonist; born in Landau, Germany. When he was five years old, his family migrated to America, and at an early age he studied at the Academy of Design in New York City. He became a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper at age 15, and in 1861 he was engaged by Harper's Weekly (1861–86), where he defined the genre of the political cartoon. His crusade against the corrupt New York political machine known as the Tweed Ring in 1871 resulted in the removal from office of virtually every member of Tammany Hall. He also created such cartoon icons as the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, and he helped form the American notion of Santa Claus.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.