Now Showing in Our Schoolroom Gallery
Bringing Down the Boss: Thomas Nast Takes on Tweed and Tammany Hall
July 15, 2018-January 2019
Includes children’s exhibition, To Catch a Thief.
Thomas Nast (1840-1902) carried out a relentless campaign against the corruption of the Tammany Ring of New York beginning in 1871. Nast focused on William Magear Tweed (1823-1878), boss of New York City’s Tammany Hall, who had worked his way up from ward politician to become the top power broker in the city and state of New York. As head of the city’s Commission of Public Works, Boss Tweed handed out lucrative contracts to his cronies who then “kicked back” money to the Ring. Tweed defrauded the City of New York of millions dollars from 1865-1871, emptied the treasury and added millions of dollars to the public debt. Appointing his Tammany Hall associates to key public offices, Tweed kept his fraudulent activities quiet… for a time.
Nast was barely 30 years old when he learned of the Tammany Ring’s activities. The young, idealistic cartoonist attacked the corruption through vivid caricatures of Boss Tweed and members of the Ring. Nast’s cartoons enraged Tweed. Most of his constituents could not read the damning published reports, but they could see “them damn pictures!”
In 1873, the New-York Times reported that Tweed’s cronies tried to bribe Nast to stop him from publishing, offering him money to “go to Europe for three years for his health”. Nast laughingly turned down the offer, but the very real threats resulted in Nast’s move to Macculloch Avenue in Morristown to insure his family’s safety. Ultimately all the members of the Ring were tried, but Tweed escaped to Cuba and Spain, where he was recognized because of a Nast cartoon. Tweed was extradited to the United States and imprisoned. He died in the Ludlow Street Jail in New York City in 1878.
Now Showing in Our Upstairs Gallery
Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus Through the Years
November 2018-January 24, 2018
Though famous for his political cartoons, Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was most proud of the popularized image of Santa Claus that he created. In 1863, Nast published his first image of Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly and he drew the jolly old elf for the publication almost every Christmas season for more than 20 years. Nast continued to create images of Santa for other publications and for his family throughout his lifetime. Some of his images of Santa were political cartoons while others were festive and celebratory seasonal images of the jolly old elf. Sometimes Nast drew Santa as small and elf-like, while at other times the artist drew the grand figure that we know and love today.
Nast was inspired by the famous poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas, more popularly known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. Elements from Moore’s poem are illustrated in many of Nast’s Christmas drawings. Nast’s image of Santa Claus as a jolly, round-bellied, white-bearded, gnome-like figure immediately captured the imagination of both children and adults throughout the United States and eventually the world and they continue to delight audiences to this day.