A New Book: Thomas Nast vs Boss Tweed

Morgan James Publishing has announced a new book on the Tammany Hall / Thomas Nast conflict titled Doomed by Cartoon: How Cartoonist Thomas Nast and the New York Times Brought Down Boss Tweed and His Ring of Thieves (by John Adler and Draper Hill). According to a recent press release:

In many respects, a nineteenth century story of David and Goliath. The legendary politician, Boss Tweed, effectively controlled New York City from after the Civil War until his downfall in November 1871. A huge man of almost 300 pounds, he and his Ring of Thieves appeared to be invincible as they stole an estimated $30 to $200 million—up to $2 billion in today’s dollars.

In addition to the city, county and state government, many judges and the police, the Tweed Ring effectively controlled the press except for Harper’s Weekly, American’s leading illustrated newspaper, and (after August 1870) The New-York Times.

Thomas Nast was the most dominant American political cartoonist of all time. Physically, he was a head shorter than Tweed and about half his weight. Using his pen as his sling, he attacked Tweed almost single-handedly before the Times joined the battle in September 1870. After the Ring was beaten, Nast caricatured what happened to Tweed and his cohorts as justice pursued each of them.

Where Doomed by Cartoon differs from previous books about Boss Tweed is its focus on look¬ing at circumstances and events as Thomas Nast visualized them in his 160-plus cartoons, almost like a serialized but intermittent comic book covering 1866 through 1878. It has been organized to tell the Nast vs. Tweed story so that ordinary readers with an interest in politics, history and/or cartoons—or just in a uniquely caricatured political adventure story—will enjoy it.

For those who don’t recall, Tweed was arrested in 1872 and convicted the following year. He was sentenced to 12 years prison sentence, but that was reduced on appeal and he ended-up serving only one year. After his re-arrest on civil charges he was held in debtors prison. On January 3, 1875 Tweed escaped, fled to Cuba, but was arrested there by Cuban authorities. He then bribed his way onto a ship bound for Spain but was again arrested as he entered the Spain and returned to New York where he was re-imprisoned. Tweed died in the Ludlow Street Jail on April 12, 1878 and was buried in Brooklyn.