The Old Print Shop

Our Artist Trying to Think of Something "Funny."

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. July 19, 1879.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1879.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 10 7/8 x 9 1/8" (27.2 x 23.3 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: This cartoon shows the struggles of artist Thomas Nast. Known today as the "Father of the American Cartoon," Nast made a name for himself creating editorial cartoons in the second half of the 19th century. His cartoons ranged from lighthearted to extremely heavy, even gruesome, for the times. He is perhaps best remembered for creating the ageless images of Santa Claus - as a jolly old fat man with a big bushy beard - the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey. <br><br> Nast was a prolific artist and had a hankering for details. His work often overflowed with symbolism and this trait might have aided in making him so famous. Many Americans in the nineteenth century were illiterate, so imagery was the only way for newspapers to reach this part of their audience. People like Boss Tweed, of the corrupt Tammany Ring, despised his for this. <br><br> What makes this cartoon even more fun is that it was made by Nast himself. On the desk is a letter reading "Sir we wish you to draw something funny for the next 'weekly' : yours, many readers." His caricature sweats up a storm as he struggles to come up with something to please his readers. The thermometer behind him reads 90 degrees and flies swarm around his head and office. All around him are newspapers filled with bad news - a woman was butchered, a steamboat exploded, the silver debate (an issue that never seemed to end in the 1870s), state debt (the Long Depression had recently ended but the affects still lingered) and Indian Outbreak. Still, there are is a bit of humor amidst the chaos with titles like "A ghost in a dress coat." They can be hard to find, or impossible to enjoy, when so much darkness surrounds them however, and Nast seems to suggest this with the cartoon. Yet at first glance, one can laugh at his almost constipated expression.


  • CONDITION: Good condition.