Thomas Nast, “The American River Ganges,” Harper’s Weekly May 8, 1875
America’s leading caricaturist of the 19th century, Nast is best known for his onslaught on New York Democrat “Boss” Tweed and his supporters at Tammany Hall. This cartoon attacks Tweed indirectly in its depiction of Catholic attempts to benefit from recent education legislation to win state financial support for its parochial schools. For the Protestant, Republican leaning Harper’s, and for Nast himself, such moves – supported by Tweed and his Irish constituents – threatened to allow papist principles to undermine American democracy. The boy protecting his schoolmates from the encroaching bishops prominently displays a Bible in his jacket. In the background “The Political Roman Catholic Church” flourishes, while a ruined “U.S. Public School” flies the Stars and Stripes upside down as a distress signal.
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