The majority of images featured in this website were scanned by the author and her assistant from original Harper’s Weekly collections on file at the University of Delaware, or my personal collection. A small number of images were obtained online and are believed to be in the public domain, e.g., Library of Congress, Wikipedia Commons, etc., and their sources has been noted. It is my understanding that all images in Harper’s Weekly printed before 1923 are in the public domain. Some entities have copyrighted their scans and these copyrights are valid.
UDel-Walfred – Are images that I have personally scanned from the Harper’s Weekly collection on file at the University of Delaware. Some images are cropped for image improvement. Not copyrighted. Public Domain, please (request not required) attribute http://www.thomasnastcartoons.com
WPC. These images come from my private collection of Harper’s Weekly, which I have been collecting since 2012. These include cropped details. Not copyrighted. Public Domain, please (request not required) attribute http://www.thomasnastcartoons.com
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I am grateful to Sunyoung Park and Jason Valdez who kindly sent me images from 1886, the only year I could not resource from the University of Delaware, and other years where they had access to a better copy. Although the MFAH reminds me that they are in the public domain, being able to have scans sent to me electronically was a big help!
Thank you also to Richard Samuel West, John Kuo Wei Tchen and Tyler Anbinder for allowing images from their books to be reproduced here for academic purposes. Thank you to John Adler, publisher of HarpWeek.com for sharing his knowledge of Thomas Nast and providing me with a chronological list of Nast’s Chinese cartoons, thereby saving me hours, if not days of research.
A commercial version of HarpWeek is publicly available, which contain a selection of Nast cartoons. These images are accompanied by well-written historical overviews by Dr. Robert C. Kennedy. HarpWeek also provides to most academic libraries a complete database of Harper’s Weekly issues in high resolution. These scans are copyrighted.
This website, Illustrating Chinese Exclusion:Thomas Nast’s Cartoons of Chinese Americans, is I believe, the first complete registry that concentrates on Nast’s Chinese images, drawn while working for Harper’s Weekly.
Thomas Nast began his career with Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, and also illustrated many books, and drew for other publications and also exhibited privately. His largest and greatest body of work lies with Harper’s Weekly. Many of his images can be viewed at www.harpweek.com where historical context and commentary is also offered. This database however differs from the academic access obtained through my university.
I am indebted to Dr. Jean Pfaelzer, my graduate adviser and author of Driven Out, for all her encouragement, wisdom and talent for inspired teaching! For my project I will draw upon an extensive bibliography and synthesize Master of Arts in Liberal Studies courses I completed at the University of Delaware.
About the political incorrectness…
Many of the images and captions to these images are by today’s eyes and ears, politically incorrect. That may be too kind. As you move through these pages, you may be deeply offended to see the “N word” spelled out in all of its ugliness. While these offensive terms and depictions could be blurred or altered, it is important for students of history, of our nation’s birth and growth, of politics, or of social interactions which include hatred and bigotry, to see these documents as the original audience saw and read them. Sometimes the images are disturbing. The images appear here as they did in Harper’s Weekly. Examining these cartoons in their historical and editorial content is critical. There are many occasions where Nast threw the ugliness he witnessed right back in his audience so they could see themselves as others saw them.
Nast effectively used shock and sarcasm. That is the nature of caricature. It is important to draw the distinction between illustration and cartoon caricature. Nast drew both. Caricature by its very nature, distorts, exaggerates and often ridicules its subjects. Cartoonists will often resort to the economy of stereotype and symbols to quickly identify their subject for their readers/viewers. It is what cartoon historian Donald Dewey refers to as visual shorthand. Richard Nixon really didn’t have a ski jump nose. George W. Bush didn’t always wear a cowboy hat, but these physical characteristics or comic props became the staple of Oliphant’s Nixon or Trudeau’s Bush and employing this visual shorthand is common in editorial and political art.
Caricatures aren’t meant to be flattering or physiologically realistic. Nast understood the art form as a powerful device for criticism and expertly employed its techniques in his work. Many have mistaken this and cite it as evidence of a personal bigotry. I am not saying Nast was an angel. He wasn’t. But when you see someone in caricature, it is more often than not specific to a particular incident, political scandal or corrupt maneuver that Nast felt compelled to highlight and emphasize. His images included the people who were complicit in the incident or whose behavior he believed, played a role in the event.