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Thomas Nast

The Father of Modern Political Cartoons

By Fiona Deans Halloran

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 63 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4235-2
    Published: February 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-3735-1
    Published: January 2013

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Thomas Nast (1840-1902), the founding father of American political cartooning, is perhaps best known for his cartoons portraying political parties as the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant. Nast's legacy also includes a trove of other political cartoons, his successful attack on the machine politics of Tammany Hall in 1871, and his wildly popular illustrations of Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly magazine. Throughout his career, his drawings provided a pointed critique that forced readers to confront the contradictions around them.

In this thoroughgoing and lively biography, Fiona Deans Halloran focuses not just on Nast's political cartoons for Harper's but also on his place within the complexities of Gilded Age politics and highlights the many contradictions in his own life: he was an immigrant who attacked immigrant communities, a supporter of civil rights who portrayed black men as foolish children in need of guidance, and an enemy of corruption and hypocrisy who idolized Ulysses S. Grant. He was a man with powerful friends, including Mark Twain, and powerful enemies, including William M. "Boss" Tweed. Halloran interprets Nast's work, explores his motivations and ideals, and illuminates Nast's lasting legacy on American political culture.

About the Author

Fiona Deans Halloran teaches history at Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School in Salt Lake City, Utah.
For more information about Fiona Deans Halloran, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

"Thomas Nast may be known as 'The Father of Modern Political Cartoons,' but history teacher Halloran’s thorough biography of the 19th-century journalist is much more than mere caricature. . . . [A] rich portrait of the multifaceted artist, social crusader, political commentator, and devoted father and husband."--Publishers Weekly

"This detailed biography will appeal to historians of the Gilded Age and to scholars interested in the development of the political cartoon. . . . The book is beautifully illustrated with Nast’s work."--Library Journal

"One of the great pleasures of Halloran's biography is watching Nast go from being a mere artist to a political-cartooning superstar."--Bookforum

"[A] bright book."--Michael Kammen, Los Angeles Review of Books

"If you have any interest in Thomas Nast, or in late 19th century American politics or political cartoons, Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons is definitely an important purchase."--Fred Patten

“The most exhaustive and well-researched look at Nast to date.”--Salt Lake Tribune

Multimedia & Links

Watch: Halloran speaks to the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, March 12, 2013. Video by C-SPAN BookTV. (running time 10:05)

Read: In a guest blog post, Halloran explores some of the great sources for Thomas Nast’s pictorial imagination. Read "Thomas Nast, Horace Greeley, and the Gift of Gaffe."

Read: In another guest blog post, Halloran explores the different forms of literacy that shaped Nast’s life and career as a political cartoonist. Read "The Literacy of Thomas Nast."