The Old Print Shop

"Any Thing for a Change."

  • ARTIST: Thomas Nast

  • PUBLISHER: Published by Harper's Weekly. September 16, 1876.

  • MEDIUM: Wood engraving,

    DATE: 1876.

  • EDITION SIZE: Image size 10 3/4 x 9 1/8" (27.3 x 23.1 cm).

  • DESCRIPTION: Additional text reads, "Exile Tweed to Usufructuary Tilden. 'Let us usufruct or change. That's the best thing you can do about it." <br><br> William M. Tweed stands in a shipping box labeled "W.M. Tweed. New York (?)" He holds up a pair of prison clothes, the jacket is tagged "Prison or Exile Suit." Samuel Tilden, the New York Governor and presidential hopeful, glances back at him as he tries to clean "Tammany Mud" off his coat. The tag "White-House suit (?)" hangs off its coattails. <br><br> William Tweed, also known as Boss Tweed, had run the corrupt Democratic political machine known as Tammany Hall for over a decade before he was removed in 1871. His time in power had been marked with threats, murders, bribes and extensive embezzlement. Though placed in jail for his crimes, Tweed escaped in 1875 and fled to Cuba. From there he managed to avoid arrest through fake documents and eventually boarded a ship for Spain. He would never make it, however. Just off the coast of Vigo, Spain, on September 6, 1876, the Spanish authorities boarded the vessel, identified Tweed with the help of Thomas Nast's illustrations, and had him extradited back to America. <br><br> Samuel Tilden was running for president under the Democratic banner the same year. He held the popular vote and was expected to claim victory against the Republican candidate, Rutherford Hayes. Thomas Nast, the artist, obviously was not a fan of the New York Governor. Tilden was committed to uprooting corruption in the state and had certainly proven successful with victories over Tweed and the Canal Ring, but Nast wanted to remind the public that he was far from clean himself. By showing Tilden scrubbing "Tammany Mud" off his coat with a "Reform" brush, Nast is probably saying that Tilden was will never truly rid himself of the unethical ways of his party, or the questionable actions of his own past. He had accepted a donation of $5,000 from Tweed while serving as the chairman of the Democratic Party several years prior. He was also being accused of perjury, as stated on one of the signs in the background - "Is Gov. Tilden a perjurer? N.Y. Times Aug. 27. : What are you going to do about that income tax-return." The claim was that Tilden had accepted a large payment in 1862 and had neglected to pay the proper taxes on it. At the time this cartoon was published the incident was still under investigation. If it proven true, Nast seems to say, he was no better than Tweed (hence the "Prison or Exile" suit being offered to him by the infamous "Boss"). <br><br> Also in the background is the sign "Tweed-Le-Dee, Tilden-Dum & Co. A firm established for many years." This likely reference the donation and the possibility that Tilden had turned a blind eye to Tweed's illegal actions until he could no longer do so.


  • CONDITION: Generally good condition, some spotting in the margins and a stain in the upper part of the image.