Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons

Fiona Deans Halloran, Author
Fiona Deans Halloran. Univ. of North Carolina, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-8078-3587-6
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 381 pages - 978-1-4696-0023-9
Hardcover - 381 pages - 978-0-8078-3735-1
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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. The author springboards from Albert Bigelow Paine’s 1904 biography of Nast to cover his early years before focusing on his illustrious career and complicated relationship with various political players. A pioneer of illustrated journalism, Nast produced cartoons as diverse in tone and subject matter as Santa Claus (for Harper’s Weekly) and the now ubiquitous metaphoric portrayals of the Democratic and Republican parties as donkey and elephant, respectively. Halloran describes Nast’s rise and fall at Harper’s, his relentless campaign against the corrupt New York politician Boss Tweed, his idolization of President Grant, as well as his role as dedicated family man. The narrative starts slowly and occasionally lapses into dry academese, but a healthy sampling of Nast’s cartoons—which showcase his meticulous attention to detail, keen eye for satire, and occasional tinge of whimsy—keep things lively in this rich portrait of the multifaceted artist, social crusader, political commentator, and devoted father and husband. Illus. (Jan.)
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