The Major Influence of Thomas Nast’s Political Cartoons on 19th Century American Politics

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Lívia Szélpál


The aims of this paper are first to present Thomas Nast’s oeuvre; second, to scrutinize the role of humor and the power of Nast’s cartoons in mid-19th century American politics and presidential elections; and finally, to illustrate his role as a proto-muckraker using the medium of cartoons to expose the corruption of the political machine. I would argue that his political cartoons fulfilled society’s essential criticizing and controlling function and encouraged opinion formation and decision-making as well by providing humorous and entertaining perspectives in the newspapers. As a part of my research, I have selected three of his political cartoons, representing the many-sided character of Nast’s oeuvre at the zenith of his carrier before the President Hayes Compromise of 1877, which are the following: (1) Nast as a proto-muckraker journalist, (2) Nast as a fallible human who attacked Victoria Woodhull by drawing a cartoon as a critical answer for her support of free love, and finally (3) the role of animal symbols in his political cartoons and his “invention” of the political party animals.


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Szélpál, Lívia. 2023. “The Major Influence of Thomas Nast’s Political Cartoons on 19th Century American Politics”. AMERICANA E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary 19 (1).
Author Biography

Lívia Szélpál, Department of English Studies, University of Szeged

Lívia Szélpál is a Senior Assistant Professor at the Department of English Studies, University of Szeged (SZTE), where she teaches American and British History, Literature, and Culture. She completed her M.A. in American Studies (2004) and History (2005) at the University of Szeged (SZTE) and earned a Ph.D. in Comparative History at the Central European University in 2013. Her research interests include American Studies, the history (including the unconventional histories) of the USA, Memory Studies, the issue of history on film, urban history, modern and contemporary American culture. She is an advisory board member of AMERICANA E-Journal of American Studies in Hungary. She is a member of the AHEA, HUSSE, HAAS, and Hajnal István Kör: Társadalomtörténeti Egyesület. Email: