Nast’s Santa Claus
As the largest ethnic contingent to fight for the Union in the Civil War, German-Americans played a critical role in its outcome. Lesser known, but also important is the work of two German-American caricaturists who not only influenced public opinion, but also how the conflict has come to be viewed and mythologized.
This exhibit featured the work of Thomas Nast, illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, and Adalbert Volck, Southern sympathizer, caricaturist, and spy for the Confederacy. Nast’s drawings were so popular that he became known as the father of the American cartoon. While the exhibit focused on his and Volck’s roles during the Civil War, he was also responsible for the modern image of Santa Claus that permeates our idea of Christmas until today.
Comparing and contrasting the work of these two artists, both natives of Bavaria who stood on opposite sides, the exhibit explored the historical context of their work, and shed light on the issues and controversies that led to the deadliest conflict in our nation’s history. In addition, it focused on the act of putting President Abraham Lincoln in the crosshairs of political cartoons as well as view the caricatures in the context of the media during the Civil War.
Thomas Nast Political Cartoon Opposing a Compromise with the South
Adalbert Volck Politial Cartoon About Lincoln’s Address