Thomas Nast: The Lightning Bolt of Genius

November 9 – December 21, 2006

Gallery Talk, and Reception

Master caricaturist Thomas Nast was America’s leading political cartoonist in the 19th century. He began his career as an illustrator, and was hired by Harper’s Weekly in 1862 to cover the battlefield action of the Civil War. Nast used his drawings to crusade against the corruption of New York City’s powerful Boss Tweed and to cover presidential politics. He popularized the Democratic Donkey and Republican Elephant as party symbols, and the figure of Uncle Sam as a symbol of the United States government. Santa Claus as we know him today was also a Nast creation, inspired by Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

The exhibition features lithographs, watercolors, and oils from the Civil War period; engravings of significant political cartoons from Harper’s Weekly; a number of Christmas images, including Nast’s iconic depiction of Merry Old Santa Claus; and photographs and personal objects. The works on exhibition are on loan from the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum in Morristown, New Jersey.