From Santa to the Civil War: Fiona Deans Halloran on the Political Cartoons of Thomas Nast

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Image courtesy of Rowland Hall—St. Mark’s School.

By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2017 CWI conference about their talks. Today we are speaking with Dr. Fiona Deans Halloran.  Dr. Halloran teaches U.S. history at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Prior to her arrival at Rowland Hall, she spent four years teaching 19th-century American history at Eastern Kentucky University, as well as several years in the history departments at Bates College and UCLA, where she earned her PhD in 2005.  Dr. Halloran is the author of Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons (UNC Press, 2013).  She is the recipient of fellowships from the Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, and has served as an Associate Fellow of the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford.

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1864 political cartoon by Thomas Nast, “Compromise With the South.” Image courtesy of the Huntington Library.

CWI:  Who was Thomas Nast?  What are some of his most famous illustrations and political cartoons?  How did Nast’s personal background, motivations, and ideals influence his work?

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Thomas Nast. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

HALLORAN:  Thomas Nast was America’s first famous political cartoonist. Famous for his cartoons in support of the Republican Party and for his attacks on William M. “Boss” Tweed, Nast was celebrated for the force and wicked wit of his artistic commentary on American politics. The son of a politically-active father and a man who hated hypocrisy in public life, Nast’s fun-loving, idealistic personality infused his cartoons with a sense of fun that appealed to a deeply politically active generation of Americans. Continue reading “From Santa to the Civil War: Fiona Deans Halloran on the Political Cartoons of Thomas Nast”