Thomas Nast may not be well-known in textbooks today. However, the artist from the latter half of the 1800's helped define modern American culture, such as when popularizing the symbolic Republican elephant, Democratic donkey, Uncle Sam and dear old Santa Claus. In addition to establishing various iconic images, Nast's artwork strengthened Abraham Lincoln's abolitionist reforms, secured Republican Ulysses S. Grant's place in office, and jumpstarted the downfall of New York's corrupt politician Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall. Through editorial cartoons, he even influenced illiterate peoples' opinions on slavery and governmental corruption, while at the same time Nast defended the basic human rights of African Americans, Native Americans and Chinese immigrants.
Not to be forgotten in history, Thomas Nast is an individual whose drawings capture first-person views in the late 1800s. To this day, his works still resonate with us. From sketches of jolly old Santa Claus to serious criticism of race issues in the form of political cartoons, Nast should be known as an unforgettable artist and political commentator.