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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 career as 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 viewersThe 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 pictures!” 

This website, “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 The 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 and flip-flopping. 

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

HarpWeek

 

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