Morristown museum offers a Valentine from Thomas Nast

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By Aaron Karlsruher

Thomas Nast was one of America’s most influential political cartoonists. But he had a softer side, too, and it will be on display in Morristown just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Throughout February, the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum will be offering viewers a rare chance to see Nast’s original engraving entitled St. Valentine’s-Day.  First published on the cover of the weekly Hearth and Home: For the Farm, Garden, And Fireside in 1869, Nast’s engraving depicts a little girl, modeled after Nast’s own daughter Julia, reading her Valentine’s Day cards.

Self-portrait by famed illustrator Thomas Nast, via Wikimedia.org
Self-portrait by famed illustrator Thomas Nast, via Wikimedia.org

Best known for his political cartoons and contributions to Harper’s Weekly during the second half of the 19th century, Thomas Nast has been credited with creating the Republican and Democratic parties’ iconic mascots, the elephant and donkey, as well as Uncle Sam, and our modern day version of Santa Claus.

Featured in more than 65 periodicals, Nast’s drawings helped bring down Boss Tweed, the corrupt New York City commissioner of public works. They also contributed to the rise of our 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, whom Nast called a close friend.

More than a century after his death, Nast remains controversial: The Star-Ledger reports that the former Morristown resident failed to make the cut for the New Jersey Hall of Fame for the third straight year.

Some politicians and Irish groups have opposed inducting Nast because of cartoons that were anti-Irish and anti-Catholic, though Nast’s defenders say his beef was with Irish supporters of New York’s Tammany Hall political machine.

Nast moved to Morristown in 1872 Nast and toured the United States as a lecturer and sketch-artist until his death in 1902.

In addition to Nast’s St. Valentine’s-Day piece, the Macculloch Hall Historical Society will be displaying The Original Thomas Nast, an exhibit showcasing rarely seen oil paintings and copper engravings by Nast. They display a side of Nast that has largely gone unrecognized until now, according to the museum.

The Macculloch Hall Historical Museum is in Morristown’s National Historic District at 45 Macculloch Ave. and is open to the public on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.  Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for Seniors and Students, $4 for children 6-12, and free for Members and children under 5.  For more details call 973-538-2404 or visit maccullochhall.org.

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