Uncle Brian

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a famous caricaturist and editorial cartoonist in the 19th century and is considered to be the father of American political cartooning.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Youth and education

He was born in the barracks of Landau, Germany (in the Rhine Palatinate), the son of a musician in the 9th regiment Bavarian band. His mother took him to New York in 1846. He studied art there for about a year with Alfred Fredericks and Theodore Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of Design. After school (at the age of 15), he started working in 1855 as a draftsman for Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper; three years afterwards for Harper's Weekly.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Nast drew for Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886. In 1860 he went to England for the New York Illustrated News to depict the prize fight between Heenan and Sayers, and then joined Garibaldi in Italy as artist for The Illustrated London News. Nast's cartoons and articles about the Garibaldi military campaign to unify Italy captured the popular imagination in the U.S. In the early 1860s, he married Sarah Edwards.

His first serious work in caricature was the cartoon "Peace," (made in 1862) directed against those in the North who opposed the prosecution of the American Civil War. This and his other cartoons during the Civil War and Reconstruction days were published in Harper's Weekly. He was known for drawing battlefields in border and southern states. These attracted great attention, and Nast was called by President Abraham Lincoln "our best recruiting sergeant".[1]

Even more able were Nast's cartoons against the Tweed Ring conspiracy in New York City. His biting wit was generally focused on political corruption, and was instrumental in the downfall of Boss Tweed. It was said his caricature of Boss Tweed was used by the officials of Vigo, Spain when Tweed fled justice there. They were able to arrest Tweed using one of Nast's cartoons.[citation needed] In general he was well known in his time for his political cartoons supporting American Indians, Chinese Americans and advocating abolition of slavery.

He is also infamous for bigotry towards Irish Americans and his recurring illustrative motif of this ethnic group as likened to apes. This animosity was borne of his belief that that the well-organised Irish immigrant communities in New York had provided the basis of Tweed's popular support. This bigotry towards the Irish was inextricably linked with his Anti-Catholic and Nativist beliefs, which he expressed in several of his cartoons. In 1875, one of his works, titled "The American River Ganges", Nast famously portrayed Catholic Bishops as crocodiles waiting to attack American families.

His cartoons frequently had numerous sidebars and panels with intricate subplots to the main cartoon. A Sunday feature could provide hours of entertainment and highlight social causes. His signature "Tammany Tiger" has been emulated by numerous cartoonists over the years.

Nast became a close friend of President Grant and the two families shared regular dinners until Grant's death. Nast encouraged the former president's efforts in writing his autobiography while battling cancer.

He did some painting in oil and some book illustrations, but these were comparatively unimportant, and his fame rests on his caricatures and political cartoons, and introduced into American cartoons the practice of modernizing scenes from Shakespeare for a political purpose.

In 1873, 1885 and 1887 Nast toured the United States as lecturer and sketch-artist, but with the advent of new methods and younger blood his vogue decreased. After the death of Fletcher Harper, he focused on oil paintings and book illustrations. He shared political views with his friend Mark Twain and was for many years a staunch Republican; had strongly opposed President Andrew Johnson and his Reconstruction policy; had ridiculed Horace Greeley's candidacy, and had opposed inflation of the currency, notably with his famous rag-baby cartoons, but his advocacy of civil service reform and his distrust of James G. Blaine forced him to become a Mugwump and in 1884 an open supporter of the Democrats, from which in 1892 he returned to the Republicans and the support of Benjamin Harrison.

He moved to Morristown, New Jersey in 1872 and lived there for many years. In 1890, he published Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race.

He tried to start a magazine, which failed, and in 1902 Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as United States' Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America. During a deadly yellow fever outbreak, Nast heroically stayed to the end helping numerous diplomatic missions and businesses close to escape the contagion. At age 62, in 1902, he died of yellow fever contracted there. His body was returned to the United States where he was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam is a national personification of the United States, with the first usage of the term dating from the War of 1812 and the first illustration dating from 1852. He is often depicted as a serious elderly man with white hair and a goatee, dressed in clothing that recalls the design elements of the flag of the United States—for example, a top hat with red and white stripes and white stars on a blue band, and red and white striped trousers.

Origin of the Name

Common folklore holds origins trace back to soldiers stationed in upstate New York, who would receive barrels of meat stamped with the initials U.S. The soldiers jokingly referred to it as the initials of the troops' meat supplier, "Uncle" Samuel Wilson, of Troy, New York. The 87th United States Congress adopted the following resolution on September 15, 1961: "Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives that the Congress salutes Uncle Sam Wilson of Troy, New York, as the progenitor of America's National symbol of Uncle Sam." A monument marks his birthplace in Arlington, Massachusetts, and a monument marks his burial in Oakwood Cemetery, Troy, New York.

Another theory suggests that Uncle Sam was a creation by Irish immigrants to the US who used the Gaelic acronym, SAM, or Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá, which is the translation for United States of America, as a nickname for their new host country. Unfortunately, however, the precise origin of the term may never be proven.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Whooshka! Life of (Uncle) Brian

In a moment of spontaneity, we signed up for a guided tour of Queensland's Atherton Tableland region, solely on the recommendation of our hostel's travel agent. She said that we would like it so much that we would recommend the tour to an entire tour bus full of our friends. She also said that "Uncle Brian", the owner and guide of the tour, was a bit of a local legend. The next thing we knew, it was 7:30am and we were waiting outside our hostel for Uncle Brian to pick us up.


Uncle Brian was immediately quite impressive because as he picked up his 22 passengers at various hostels around town, he immediately memorized each person's name and repeated the names of everyone already on the bus to the newcomer. He also introduced everybody to "Gus", our bus for the day.

Uncle Brian's tour was advertised as "Fun, Falls, and Forests". It's pretty easy to explain what he meant by "falls and forests". Uncle Brian and Gus drove us around to five different beautiful spots. There were tropical rainforests, volcanic lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and a natural waterslide down some slippery rocks. At the first four sites we went swimming, and at the fifth site we spotted the elusive platypus swimming in a river.

Uncle Brian and Gus did an excellent job showing us around some beautiful natural spots. But what they really did spectacularly well was to show us a very very good time (that's the "fun" bit of the tour). It's not so easy to entertain a busload of 22 people of different ages from different countries for 13 hours, but Uncle Brian and Gus had it down pat.

Here are some examples of fun we had:

1. As we drove around Queensland, we waved to every single person that we passed on the streets. They all waved back. They'd seen Uncle Brian and friends before, five days a week for 12 years. As we passed through one town, an elderly woman ws waiting for us on her lawn. She pulled out 3 enormous stuffed caterpillars (bigger than her!) and a long ribbon on a stick to wave at us.

2. Uncle Brian had puzzles and chocolate for us to help pass the time on the longer stretches of driving. He also organized a few "get to know you" games.

3. At beautiful Milla Milla falls, Uncle Brian showed us how to re-enact the Timotei Shampoo commercial that was filmed there. Does this picture make you want to buy shampoo?

4. "Gus FM", our lovely bus's tunes, just made us want to dance. In unison. Like, to "YMCA", say.

By the end of our day, everyone was in an extremely good mood (or driving on the "bright side of the road", as Gus would say). We also felt like we had just made 22 new friends. Up at the front of Gus, Uncle Brian kept his doll Elmo (who he would wave out the window at other buses that passed by). Elmo was given to Uncle Brian by a six-year old girl who, at the end of the tour, told him that it was Elmo's best day of his life. She wanted Elmo to have that much fun every day, so she left him with Uncle Brian. After 13 hours with Uncle Brian and Gus, we could see why.

Thanks Uncle Brian and Gus for a fantastic day! Whooshka!