Thomas Nast Biography: His life and achivements

Thomas Nast created satirical art criticizing slavery and crime during the nineteenth century. He is called the “Father of the American Cartoon”. Although Thomas Nast was a political cartoonist,

Thomas Nast

He wielded more influence as compared to other artists of the nineteenth century. His impact on American public life was formidable and this affected every presidential election held between 1864 and 1884.

Thomas Nast Biography

Nast was born in Landau, Germany and was the youngest of all children of his parents. In 1846, Joseph Nast, Thomas’s father, had to leave Landau and so he sent his wife and children to New York City.  At the end of enlistment in 1850, he joined them.

Thomas Nast

Nast attended National Academy of Design and studied art there up to the age of 14. In 1856, he started working for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper as a draftsman.

On March 19, 1859, his drawings appeared for the first time in Harper’s Weekly. He illustrated a report revealing police corruption.

Thomas Nast’s Career

After starting his career in 1856, Thomas Nast worked till the last day of his life. His life was full of struggle, adventure, success, and failures.

Starting with a report revealing police corruption, Nast entered into his career in 1856. In 1860, he traveled to England and started drawing sketches for New York Illustrated News.

Thomas Nast

It was to cover one of the most devastating sporting events of the era. He also went to Italy as an artist for The Illustrated London News.

Childhood and Education of Thomas Nast

The American citizens started admiring Nast’s drawings on the Garibaldi military campaign, which was to unify Italy. In 1861, Nast returned to New York. He joined Harper’s Weekly in 1862 as a staff illustrator.

Thomas Nast

His compositions appealed to the common people’s emotions and this made him popular. However, he gained immense popularity as a political cartoonist at the time of American Civil War.

Father of the American Cartoon

He also received appreciation from President Abraham Lincoln as his poignant images encouraged young men to join the army.

Through his cartoons, Nast opposed President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policy, supported the abolition of slavery, backed American Indians and Chinese Americans, opposed racial discrimination and criticized the violence of Ku Klux Klan.

Thomas Nast

American journalism saw Nast as a very popular figure as a political cartoonist. In the 1860s, when politics in New York City was dominated by William Tweed, Nast started drawing sketches depicting political corruption of Tweed along with his associates.

Thomas Nast Facts

In one hand their corruption intensified over the years and on the other, Nast’s determination intensified to expose wrongdoings.

Thomas Nast

One of the most significant cartoons of Nast in 1870 forced the lawmakers to take the corruption seriously.

Tweed’s downfall added to the fame of Nast and he toured the United States as a lecturer and sketch artist in 1873. This added to his fame and success.

Thomas Nast Achievements

He played a major role in the presidential elections and in securing Rutherford B in 1876. After the death of Weekly’s publisher Fetcher Harper, Nast started having disagreements with the editors of the publication.

Thomas Nast

In 1886, Nast left the publication. After this in 1892, he accepted President Theodore Roosevelt’s offer to join the government service as the Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America.

Personal Life

In September 1861, Thomas Nast married Sarah Edwards and had five children. In 1992 when Nast was posted in Ecuador, he contracted yellow fever and died on December 7, 1992.

Thomas Nast

His body was taken to the United States where he was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, in The Bronx, New York.


Thomas Nast Award, created by Overseas Press Club, is given to an editorial cartoonist since 1968 for “best cartoons on international affairs”. For the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus also, credit goes to Nast.

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