Thomas Nast Brings Down Boss Tweed
In the second floor Thomas Nast Gallery, this exhibit features more than twenty examples of the political cartoons Thomas Nast created attacking Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall.
Thomas Nast (1840-1902) is one of the most recognized names in the world of political cartoons. Often called the father of American political cartooning, Nast’s images remain popular today. His well-known depictions of the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant, conceived more than 100 years ago, continue to represent both parties today. Uncle Sam and Columbia, two of his favorite figures to draw, are still recognized as symbols for the United States of America. Nast’s powerfully drawn battlefront images brought the American Civil War into people’s homes. Nast’s spirit lives on through his iconic representations of Santa Claus, which appear every year during the holiday season.
The campaign that contributed most to Thomas Nast’s fame was the one he carried on so relentlessly against the Tammany Ring of New York in the 1870s. The target of Nast’s attack was “Boss” William M. Tweed (1823-1878), the political leader of New York City’s Tammany Hall. Tweed worked his way up from ward politician to become the most powerful political force in the city and state of New York. As head of the city’s Commission of Public Works, Tweed was in position to hand out lucrative contracts to his cronies who “kicked back” a major part of their receipts to the Ring. By appointing his Tammany Hall associates to key public offices, Tweed was able to prevent disclosure of his fraudulent activities.