was born in Landau, Germany and came to America in 1846. His father was a musician who
played in theatres, and young Tommy was exposed to Shakespeare and other plays at an early
His first illustration for Harpers Weekly appeared in 1859 and his
last one in 1896. Most of his approximate 2200 cartoons for Harpers Weekly
were drawn between 1862 and 1886, an average of almost two per week.
Nast originated many symbols including the Republican elephant and the Tammany tiger.
He popularized the Democratic donkey and the current fat and jolly image of Santa Claus.
During the Civil War, Nasts depictions of Southern guerilla raids and atrocities
reportedly led Abraham Lincoln to call him the Unions best recruiter. Two of his
1864 cartoons were used as major election posters by the Lincoln-Johnson campaign. In
fact, Nasts cartoons played a key role in the re-election of Lincoln in 1864, the
election of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868 and his re-election in 1872, and the defeat of
Republican James G. Blaine by Grover Cleveland in 1884. However, Nast probably is best
known for his powerful series of cartoons that led to the defeat of Boss Tweed and his
"Ring" in 1871.
Nast was just coming into his own as a satirical cartoonist when Andrew Johnson became
President in April 1865. He disagreed with Johnson almost from the outset, and lampooned
him as "King Andy" and as a Roman emperor in work which retains visual impact
After Nast supported Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1884 - as a Mugwump or
renegade Republican - he lost his popularity among Republicans. He was only 44, but his
work was in decline. He stopped cartooning regularly for Harpers Weekly in
1886, and lost most of his savings in a Wall Street swindle the previous year. He died of
yellow fever in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where President Theodore Roosevelt had appointed him
consul in 1902.