Thomas Nast in his studio surrounded by some of his work, circa 1888
After 1890, the fortunes of Thomas Nast began to wane. He published some popular works, but his arthritic hands restricted his expected out-put. He tried his hand at an Illustrated Weekly but it failed after a half-year run. He produced a few oil paintings on commission and illustrated a few books, but his days as the master-political cartoonist were over. He applied for a job with the State Department and President Theodore Roosevelt, one of his biggest fans, appointed him consul general to Ecuador. He died there in 1902 shortly after arrival from a disease contracted in that country.
Nast in 1902, the year he died
The list of Thomas Nast-drawn symbols still evoke American history and politics, for example the Republican elephant, the Democratic donkey, the Tammany tiger, Uncle Sam, and the famous portrait of General Lee and general Grant at Appomattox. The Thomas Nast award has been given to a “Who’s Who” of the most distinguished cartoonists in American history, especially those of the 20th Century. His biting criticism or support made a huge impact on elections, when the only means of knowing much about the candidates came from the Newspapers, especially the illustrated ones.
A Nast cartoon from 1872 ridiculing Horace Greeley as traitor
So effective was Nast that a rumor still circulates that the word nasty stems from his name. It actually has centuries-old reference in the Dutch and English language. Someone please inform his woke detractors.