Thomas Nast cartoons — some appetizers


Thomas Nast in the early 1870s, about the time of his
Tweed cartoons.


You can’t tell the story of New York’s Boss Tweed, who ruled the City with greed and grandeur in the years after the Civil War and was driven from power in a citizens’ uprising in 1872, without the fantastic drawings of Thomas Nast — the brilliant, young cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly.    

Here are a few appetizer samples.

Click here for more of the story — from our newly-reissued book Boss Tweed: the Corrupt Pol who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York.

“As long as I count the ballots, what are you going to do about it?”  This is the most famous quote attibuted to Tweed.  In truth, there is no evidence that he ever said it.  Most likely, Nast simply made it up to get people mad at the Boss.  


In 1871, Tweed chose these three leading New York businessmen — John Jacob Astor III, Moses Taylor, and Marshall O. Roberts — to examine the City’s financial books.  The three spent just six hours at it, looked only at the papers Tweed showed them, and didn’t ask any questions.  Based on this, they gave the City’s finances a clean bill of health — somehow missing over $100 million in frauds.  Nast dismissed them as “Three Blind Mice.”


This cartoon, from June 1871, is the first where Nast uses the famous quote “What are you going to do about it?”
Notice the big object on the front of Tweed’s shirt, looking big as a grapefruit.  It is a 10.5-carat diamond pin costing that some of Tweed’s friends game him that year as a Christmas present.  It cost $15,500 in 1871 dollars — about half a million in modern money.  Nast made it a regular feature.


Here is Tweed stealing from the Public Treasury to pay off his poor, immigrant supporters.  Tweed was no Robin Hood.  He stole from the rich, but kept most of it for himself and his friends.  Even so, the poor got a better deal from Tweed than from anyone else.