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Guide to the Thomas Nast Scrapbooks
Wyles Mss 86  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Thomas Nast Scrapbooks,
    Date (inclusive): 1873-1881
    Collection Number: Wyles Mss 86
    Creator: Nast, Thomas, 1840-1902
    Extent: 1.2 linear feet (4 oversize boxes)
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Department of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, California 93106-9010
    Physical Location: Del Sur Oversize
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Thomas Nast Scrapbooks. Wyles Mss 86. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information



    Thomas Nast is considered to be the single most important political cartoonist in American history. He was born in Germany in 1840, but was raised in New York City after his father decided the conservative Bavarian government was too oppressive. Inspired in part by the famous cartoonist John Tenniel, the young Nast sought to have his drawings published in the national magazines. He made his first sale at the age of 15, and in 1862 he secured a full-time position at the recently-founded Harper's Weekly, where he would spend most of his career.
    Throughout the Civil War, Nast used his cartoons to build public support for both Abraham Lincoln and the anti-slavery movement. He continued to support African American civil rights after the war, even lampooning Andrew Johnson for undermining Lincoln's policies. In 1869, Nast turned his attentions to the corrupt political machine in New York led by William "Boss" Tweed. For years, Nast satirized Tweed and his Tammany Hall cronies, stirring up popular outrage. Eventually, Tweed's power base collapsed, and he was arrested and imprisoned for corruption. Nast's popularity was such that he was considered a key player in presidential elections from Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to Grover Cleveland in 1884.
    Thomas Nast also developed numerous American cultural icons, including the Democratic donkey, the Republican elephant, and the thin, goatee-sporting Uncle Sam. He was also the first to portray the familiar image of the fat red-suited Santa Claus. Nast exerted a tremendous influence on all American political cartoonists of the early 20 century, and has even been credited with influencing the work of European artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas.
    After leaving Harper's Weekly in 1886, Nast struggled financially until President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him U.S. consul in Ecuador in 1902. He died of yellow fever late in that year, at the age of 62.
    Further information about Thomas Nast may be found in works such as:
    • Keller, Morton. The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast (1968).
    • Khalsa, Puran Singh. Thomas Nast and Harper's Weekly, 1862-1886 (UCSB PhD Thesis, 1983).
    • Nast, Thomas. Thomas Nast: Drawings Published in Harper's Weekly, 1859-1886 (1931?).
    • Vinson, John Chalmers. Thomas Nast, Political Cartoonist (1967).

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains four scrapbooks with pasted-in cartoons of Thomas Nast, which appeared Harpers Weekly. The items in each scrapbook are arranged chronologically.
    UCSB Special Collections also has bound issues of Harper's Weekly for 1857-1915.