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NOV 25 - DEC 03, 2014

Serious Nature of Political Cartooning is a Laughing Matter

November 25, 2014

Thomas Nast depicted Boss Tweed as fat and greedy.

The art of political cartooning is indeed an art.

Political cartoons have toppled governments, taken down corrupt public officials and served to amuse and entertain the American reading public since the Colonial Era.

And they are covered broadly under the First Amendment that provides for the right of free speech.

Poking fun and skewering questionable elements of our government is an honored American tradition.

It veritably defines America and the concept of free speech.

Those who doubt the place such cartooning holds in American history need look no further than the infamous New York City political organizer, Boss Tweed, who ran the corrupt political machine in the Big Apple circa 1870.

After he had taken his record-breaking corruption one-step-too-far by building the vastly overpriced New York County Courthouse he found himself targeted by a young newspaper cartoonist named Thomas Nast.

Nast worked up excellent Tweed cartoons and the short version of the long story is that those easy to grasp visuals, appearing at a time of wide illiteracy, served to take Tweed down as public opinion turned overnight on the powerful political king maker.

In response to Nast’s devastating work Tweed said, “I don’t care a damn for your newspaper articles. My constituents can’t read. But they can’t help seeing those damn pictures.”

Tweed was tried, found guilty, escaped to England but was captured and died several years later in prison, a broken man.

Nast’s most famous Tweed cartoon was called the “Tweed Ring” and it featured Tweed and his henchmen in a circle each pointing a finger at one another with the heading, “Who stole the people’s money?”

Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the art of cartooning is what American politics is all about.

Thomas Nast depicts the Tweed Ring: "Who stole the people's money?" "'Twas him."






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