Thomas Nast Symbolism

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Thomas Nast, 1840-1902, was a political cartoonist who is known by some historians as “the father of modern political American political cartooning” (Simpson, ANBO). This is due in part because Nast was the person who created the donkey symbol to represent the Democratic Party and elephant symbol to represent the Republican Party. Moreover, Nast earned this title because he changed the way cartoonists delivered their context. Before the Civil War cartoonist relied on dialogue rather than images to get the message across, however; Nast used the image to convey the message of his cartoons (Simpson, ANBO). Subsequently, Nast reached the illiterate community more effectively than other cartoonists of his time. Individuals viewing his cartoons…show more content…
One of the ways this is known is through the emblem on the man’s hat that says “5 Points”. “5 Points” was a neighborhood in New York City which was populated mainly by poor working-class Irish-Americans commonly configured as the mob (Shelton, TWMG). Moreover, the depiction of the man as an ape is another giveaway to his identity as Irish-Americans. It was common for Irish-American to be portrayed as apes in nineteenth-century illustrations (Harp Week). Also, the man is presented wearing working-class clothes and has a bottle of alcohol in his pocket, which is a stereotypical characteristic of an Irish-American man. Nast included this gentleman was he represented a foreign element in the American electorate (Harp Week). The other man that is a reference to New York City is however markedly…show more content…
That man is in the center of the cartoon. He is Nathan Bedford Forrest. The NBF initials on his hat and the CSA belt reveal his identity. Forrest represents the influence of ex-Confederates on the Democratic Party in the South who were disloyal to the Union (Foner, RPPCW). Forrest is also depicted wearing a medal with the words “Fort Pillow” inscribed on it. “Fort Pillow” is a reference to the execution of black prisoners who surrendered to Forrest on April 12th, 1864 (Harp Week). Since the three men, the Irish-American, Belmont, and Forrest have their hands together Nast was commenting on the configuration of the Democratic Party. Nast believed the Democratic Party was built on an unjust triumvirate of the ignorant Northern Democrat most of whom detested the Civil War represented by the Irish-American men, Southern Democrats that disobeyed the Union represented by Forrest, and the Fifth Avenue type represented by Belmont who got rich of the Civil War and were willing to buy votes to foster their schemes. However, there is still more symbolism Nast included in this
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