Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

Thomas Nast Collection

An inventory of the Collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MD
Date: 24 Feb 2009

Biographical History

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was an American cartoonist and illustrator. Nast is one the founding figures of American political cartooning. He published thousands of cartoons over the course of his prolific career and is credited with giving definitive form to many now commonplace icons like the Democratic donkey, the Republican elephant, Uncle Sam, and even the familiar version of the "American" Santa Claus.

Born in Landau, Germany, Nast was six years old when his family immigrated to America. Growing up in New York City, Nast studied art in his early teens with the painter Theodore Kaufmann and began his professional career at the age of 15 with Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (1855). In 1862, Nast became a staff artist for Harper's Weekly, and it was the work he did for this paper during the Civil War and after that most defined his reputation. In the 1870s, Nast carried on his famous campaign against William Marcy "Boss" Tweed and the corrupt group of New York City politicians associated with Tammany Hall. His Tammany tiger and Boss Tweed caricatures had a powerful resonance with the public and quickly became part of the vernacular of American political cartooning.

Nast's career with Harper's Weekly lasted for twenty-five years, ending in 1887. Subsequently, Nast continued to publish work on a freelance basis in publications like America and Once a Week (now Collier's Weekly), and for a short period was affiliated with the Illustrated American (1891). In 1892, Nast signed-on with the New York Gazette and soon took over the enterprise, changing the name of the paper to Nast's Weekly. The paper was short lived, however, and ceased publication the following year. The failure of Nast's Weekly and other troubled investments made Thomas Nast's last years financially very difficult. He lived in semi-retirement, taking painting commissions in Europe and sending occasional cartoons for publication. Very often during these years, friends and family would receive small cartoons from Nast, in lieu of written correspondence. In 1902, Nast received a diplomatic appointment from the Theodore Roosevelt administration to serve as Consul General in Guyaquil, Ecuador. Nast accepted the post and left for Ecuador in June of that year. Shortly after arriving in Ecuador, Nast contracted yellow fever and died after a protracted illness on December 7, 1902.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Thomas Nast Collection consists of 6 original cartoons (mostly from late in his career), 2 letters to Nast, tear sheets of Nast cartoons from Harper's Weekly (1884) and various magazine and newspaper clippings about Nast and his work (mid-twentieth century).

Arrangement of the Collection

Materials are arranged by type.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has collections of over one hundred cartoonists. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Arnold, Edwin, Sir, 1832-1904.
Brougham, John, 1810-1880.
Emery, John Russell.
Nast, Thomas, 1840-1902.
Tweed, William Marcy, 1823-1878.

Associated Titles

Harper's weekly.


American wit and humor, Pictorial.
Caricatures and cartoons -- United States.
Cartoonists -- United States.
Editorial cartoons -- United States.
Illustrators -- United States.
Uncle Sam (Symbolic character)


United States -- Politics and government -- 1865-1900 -- Caricatures and cartoons.

Genres and Forms

Cartoons (humorous images)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Editorial cartoons.
Tear sheets.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Thomas Nast Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchased, 1966-1967.

Table of Contents




Tear sheets