When a knowledgeable
person thinks about Harper’s Weekly, one of the first
names that comes to mind is Thomas Nast. In a 26-year
Harper’s Weekly’s lead cartoonist, Nast drew over 2200
cartoons for the illustrated newspaper.
In 1871, Nast, in
conjunction with The New York Times, was largely
responsible for bringing down New York City political boss
William M. Tweed and his corrupt ring of city and state
officials. During that campaign, Nast honed the serial
slogans and literary devices that had a tremendous impact on
the regular readers of Harper’s Weekly, as well as on
a whole new universe of viewers. The paper’s
circulation jumped from 100,000 to 300,000. Tweed
reportedly exclaimed: “Stop them damn pictures!
I don’t care so much what the papers write about me.
My constituents can’t read; but, damn it, they can see
“Cartoonist Thomas Nast vs. Candidate Horace Greeley:
The Election of 1872 in Harper’s Weekly,” has been
created to demonstrate how Nast used images and slogans,
week after week, in a novel manner, but with enough
recognition for readers and viewers to become involved with
the current issue and anticipate the next one. Every
cartoon had to be drawn on a woodblock, so the high
quality and quantity of Nast’s output, with up to 40
recognizable characters in some cartoons, is hard to
believe, even today.
The details of the
Horace Greeley vs. Ulysses S. Grant campaign are covered in
depth on HarpWeek’s
Presidential Elections: 1860-1912 website.
While some of that information is repeated here, the focus
of this website, is on how Nast ran a spirited campaign in
which he took Greeley’s “Anything to Beat Grant” ideas and
pointedly reversed them by emphasizing Greeley’s pomposity
Much of the credit for
this website goes to Draper Hill, retired political
cartoonist for the Detroit News, whose knowledge of
Thomas Nast is unsurpassed. HarpWeek historian Robert
C. Kennedy adapted Draper’s commissioned essay to highlight
Nast’s ability to influence presidential elections.
(Nast and Harper’s Weekly also played important roles
in the elections of 1864, 1868, 1876, and 1884.)
Greg Weber and Richard
Roy provided their technical skills to make the website
function effectively on the Internet, and Caesar Chavez
contributed to its design.
John Adler, Publisher