December 19, 2011

"He portrayed the Irish as drunken apes, and the image still remains today."

The New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians opposes inclusion of Thomas Nast — the great 19th century political cartoonist — in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Nast—whose drawings gave rise to Uncle Sam, Santa Claus and the elephant and donkey that symbolize the American political parties—was critical of the Irish as supporters of Tammany Hall. He pilloried the Vatican for trying to recruit children from public schools into parochial institutions....

Nast was an abolitionist who supported equal treatment for blacks and Asians. The anti-Irish tenure of his cartoons was a product of the times...
Here's Nast's "Uncle Same's Thanksgiving Dinner" in which Uncle Sam and Columbia serve murdered bird to a bunch of racial and ethnic stereotypes:



(Enlarge to see the outrageous details.)

51 comments:

The Crack Emcee said...

Bullshit. Nast deserves the honor.

Jason said...

Tiochfaidh ar fa la la la la la la la la la!

Pastafarian said...

And drunken apes were offended?

Look, if we can't pick on the Irish, then who can we pick on?

David said...

It a hall of fame, not a hall of goodness.

William said...

Little known fact: The Marx brothers portrayed ehtnic stereotypes. Groucho was the German schoolmaster, Chico, the Italian street vendor, and Harpo, the Irish hobo. Part of the joke was that Harpo was an Irishman who did not talk.....In the illustration you have offered, Nast dresses up the stereotypes in their Sunday best, but I have seen other caricatures that were drawn with malice. Whatever. I'm of Irish descent. So far as I can tell, no one has ever discriminated against me because of anti-celticism. Many people have disliked me because of the envy thatf my extraordinary good looks and charm inspire. Good looks and charm are the distinguishing characteristics of the Irish so perhaps there's that, but by and large anti-celticism is a dormant strain in American life.

MadisonMan said...

He seems to have been very very successful as an artist in changing how people viewed things.

Can't reward that, now can we!?

David said...

We had no immigration laws when Nast drew that Thanksgiving scene.

Everyone could come (though some were rejected on grounds of bad health.)

Many states allowed all (male) residents to vote, regardless of citizenship.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"All right, we'll take the niggers and the Chinks, but we don't want any Irish!"

Geoff Matthews said...

Outrageous? Recognizable tropes to portray universal suffrage?
I'm hoping that I'm missing the sarcasm.

Christopher said...

Nast was an abolitionist who supported equal treatment for blacks and Asians. The anti-Irish tenure of his cartoons was a product of the times...

So, two out of three?

caseym54 said...

I doubt that a cartoonist from the time who was as influential, but who portrayed blacks or Jews unfavorably would even be considered for such an honor.

Not everyone who achieves greatness makes it into the Halls of Fame; just ask Pete Rose.

Fernandinande said...

see the outrageous details.

Those funny-looking Europeans in their clumsy suits, or what?

Fernandinande said...

Here's one with priests as crocodiles:

http://cartoons.osu.edu/nast/images/the_american_river_ganges100.jpg

Mary Beth said...

Was he anti-Irish or anti-Irish support of Tammany Hall? There's a difference between mocking someone for who they are and mocking them for what they do.

Jim Howard said...

I've been doing some research on the Civil War that consists mainly of going to the library and reading microfilms of Civil War era newspapers.

I can assure that this cartoon is WAY ahead of its time, compared to what was being printed in the 1860s anyway.

I guess Nast is guilty of not using a time machine to travel to 2011 and get a briefing on the politically correct way to depict the various victim groups.

Oh, and I just noticed. How come there are no gays in his cartoon? He must have been homophobic also!

edutcher said...

I've known many a Mick who took pride in the image of the Irish as hard drinkers.

Nast was a marketing genius who also portrayed the unappreciated, embattled frontier soldier as a skeleton with rifle and fixed bayonet ("Our Skeleton Army - For bone and grit, match it, if you can").

(I'm a little surprised he showed Indians at the table - he was definitely of the same views as Sherman and Sheridan)

Ann Althouse said...

The anti-Irish tenor of his cartoons was a product of the times...

The phrase was, "No Irish Need Apply". It didn't disappear from American life until after WWI.

Mary Beth said...

Was he anti-Irish or anti-Irish support of Tammany Hall? There's a difference between mocking someone for who they are and mocking them for what they do.

Excellent point. He was instrumental in fighting political corruption.

John said...

@Jim Howard

Couldn't you tell? They're ALL gay!

Michael said...

When did we Irish get thin skinned? What happened to the days when we simply beat up the guy who proposed the award and caused him to re-think the recipient?

Paul Zrimsek said...

The anti-Irish tenor

He liked to sing "Danny Boy" backwards after a few drinks.

John said...

In all seriousness, I think I must be missing something... I can't find anything outrageously outrageous about the picture. Is that the point? I must be truly dense... certainly not a good representative of my German heritage.

Anne B. said...

I don't see what's "outrageous" either, except for the fat guy who looks kind of like Boss Tweed. All the rest of 'em look pretty normal.

Dan in Philly said...

Who here would love to peek about 150 years into the future and find out what we see as common they find abhorrant?

Christopher in MA said...

I think Althouse is being facetious as to "outrageous," as in channeling the leftist "look at all those stereotypical foreigners! How dare Nast draw them that way!" shriek.

Mary Beth, Nast was a virulent anti-Catholic, and, as the Irish were the most obvious supporters of the Whore of Babylon, he considered them to be subhuman dupes of the Pope and bishops. It was much more religious prejudice than Tweedism which fueled his Irish animus.

Joe Schmoe said...

When did we Irish get thin skinned?

My first thought too, although I'm not Irish. The people of Irish heritage that I do know--to a person--all possess a wonderful ability to laugh at themselves. I also found that Irish 'brawling' is highly exaggerated although the trash talk leading up to it and the subsequent yarn-spinning after the fact has evolved into the highest of high art.

Maguro said...

I guess this means that Trooper York is not getting in the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Monkeyboy said...

There isn't much wrong with the Thanksgiving one, which is whay you may want to try the ignorant voter one.
Much more in the style of the time.

Chip Ahoy said...

That is a very nice picture that depicts warmth and comity among different peoples.

What they're actually saying is,

"You eat this stuff?", "Did you hold this at or above 145℉?", "Saw Zilla come out of the bog, dint wash 'is hands.", "I already said, no. thank. you.", "Is this free-range turkey?", "Because nobody likes cabbage, that's why.", "Will you keep your kid away from my sleeve please?", "Pie's burnt.", "No, I did not put sour cream on my pierogi because it has the word sour in it.", "I'm lactose intolerant.", "She's hypoglycemic, Ted's diabetic. Go figure." "Lips that touch wine shall never touch mine.", "Good! Ssslllllurp.", "Oh, woked the dog! Ha ha ha. You kill me."

My favorite part is all the babies at the table. That's really nice. Like they didn't bother with a kid's table for a big thing like that. Or maybe those are the littlest sprogs and the older kids do have their own table but that's a separate cartoon.

AJ Lynch said...

PJ O'Rourke once wrote that the Koreans were the Irish of Asia because they loved to drink, gamble and fight.

Mary Beth said...

No Irish need apply, the remembered signs that probably didn't exist.

Is it possible that the idea that the Irish were discriminated against in a way that others were not has more to do with the number and circulation of newspapers at the time of the largest wave of Irish immigrants compared to the number of papers when other groups first came in large numbers? Or that we are more likely to have copies of papers from the 1800s than we are from the 1700s?

It may have been worse or we may just think it was worse because it was better documented.

PatCA said...

I don't see insulting stereotypes...I see people in ethnic costume.

Am I racist or something?

traditionalguy said...

The Irish may have been potato fed mackeral snappers. But they are good for building Railroads.

Many tombstones in Atlanta's Old Oakland Cemetary start with "Born in County Cork, or Armaugh, etc., Ireland..." in the 1830s or 1840s.

Monkeyboy said...

The Irish may have been potato fed mackeral snappers. But they are good for building Railroads.



We've always been good shovelers...Not fancy shovelers mind, but good shovelers.

Craig said...

Nast was a '48er, a German immigrant whose family wore out its welcome in Europe due to a popular uprising with potential parallels to the OWS Movement. He departed Europe for New York City in 1846 at age six, meaning he left before the revolution failed and while not yet of an age to express or even hold political opinions.

Nast's opinion of the Irish may have been colored by some of the actual incidents depicted in The Gangs of New York. Pitched street battles between Irish Know Nothings and German Turners were not uncommon in the decade prior to the Civil War. Both groups joined the Republican party along with the Abolitionists in time for the 1860 election, united by the candidacy of Lincoln.

Hagar said...

Ah, Professor,
You say tenure, I say tenor.

The "Irish need not apply" sign and variations thereof cannot be documented to have been posted anywhere, not even in Boston.

Sherman and Sheridan are sort of similar names and are often confused, however the Civil War generals of those names did not have many characteristics or opinions in common beyond that the Confederacy should be defeated by any means necessary.

Fr Martin Fox said...

That cartoon isn't a good example of Nast's biases.

Nast was notoriously anti-Catholic and, perhaps derivatively or tangentially, anti-Irish.

He frequently depicted American civil society as vaguely Protestant, defending true Christian civilization against Catholic predations. Parochial schools--as opposed to good, Christian public schools--were hotbeds of "Romanism."

He was also a very partisan Republican, although--ironically--he finally had a bellyful of the GOP when James G. Blaine ("the continental liar from the state of Maine") was the standard-bearer. You may recall that one of the things supposedly hurtful to Blaine was a Protestant pastor's claim--just before the election--that Blaine would oppose "rum, Romanism and rebellion"!

Nast gave us a carefully denatured St. Nicholas, transformed from bishop into elf--connected, I believe, to his hostility to all things Catholic.

None of this is meant to obscure his admirable causes: against slavery and for social justice.

Not being from New Jersey, I offer no opinion on his inclusion in the hall of fame.

Hagar said...

and I would think Irish-American Know Nothings then would have been about as scarce as Irish-American Republicans today.

DADvocate said...

Give the guy a break. Most of the part of me that isn't German is Irish. My grandmother was born in Ireland. Nast was a great cartooist and fought corruption. You could say the same thing about Mario Puzo and Sicilians.

edutcher said...

Michael said...

When did we Irish get thin skinned?

When some of us became WASPirants, like the Kennedys.

Mary Beth said...

No Irish need apply, the remembered signs that probably didn't exist.

Read "Roughing It". They existed. The article reminds me of James Webb trying to rename the Scotch-Irish Scots-Irish.

Darrell said...

Imagine how Irish rights would have been violated if Nast had depicted the Irishman giving the Invocation at this dinner, having choosing a selection by Thoreau.

ricpic said...

Erin Go Fall Off The Porch

LarsPorsena said...

The Irish of Tamany Hall were a bunch of drunken corrupt apes.

Hagar said...

Mark Twain was a humorist, not a historian, and as he put it, "when he was younger, I could remember it, whether it happened or not."

cokaygne said...

Nast was a Republican. He made the Irish, my ancestors, look like apes. As far as I'm concerned the Republican base has not changed, although nowadays the objects of their bigotry are Gays and immigrants.

"None of this is meant to obscure his admirable causes: against slavery and for social justice. " Please!

Although raised as a Catholic, I am now as anti-Catholic as anyone. Whore of Babylon is too mild an epithet. Trouble is that Nast went over the line when he portrayed ordinary Irish people, Catholic or not, as apes.

Look, a lot of people out there, me included, have no love for the various Bible-belting, snake-handling, evangelist churches of the South that are spreading north. Many, maybe a majority, of their parishioners are African-American: Rev. Wright, Rev. Jackson, Rev. Sharpton, and Rev. Cain, to name a few. Would that justify portraying African-Americans as apes?

wv: garder, what they call police in Ireland

David said...

Nast, of course, was the source of the word "nasty."

For this alone he should be in the hall of fame.

Hagar said...

nasty
c.1400, "foul, filthy, dirty, unclean," perhaps from O.Fr. nastre "bad, strange," shortened form of villenastre "infamous, bad," from vilein "villain" + -astre, pejorative suffix, from L. -aster. Alternative etymology is from Du. nestig "dirty," lit. "like a bird's nest." Likely reinforced by a Scandinavian source (cf. Swed. dialectal naskug "dirty, nasty"). Of weather, from 1630s; of things generally, "unpleasant, offensive," from 1705. Of people, "ill-tempered," from 1825.

Online Etymolgy

Peter Hoh said...

I can't quite figure out which of the characters at the table is supposed to represent the drunken Irishman. Is it the guy on the right?

From Inwood said...

Two points:

(1) NINA signs did exist. GOOGLE, people.

(2) Nast was anti Catholic, especially anti Irish-Catholic.

If PC means no Black Sambo or Shylock, then why is it OK to honor Nast? Or putting it another way, why is it not OK to object to honoring Nast? And why should some be so quick to jump on this thread to condemn us'n Irish-Americans as thin-skinned?

And the Pete Rose analogy is a good one. Pete's records stand & are listed in every baseball reference work. Just no membership in the Hall of Fame.

Chip S. said...

The NJHoF is the only
drive-thru
HoF in the US, AFAIK. Pretty expensive, tho: about 14 bucks to drive through the whole thing.

Everybody agrees that Edison and Hamilton were first-ballot NJHoFers, but srsly--John Fenwick?

I've got fond memories of the Molly Pitcher rest stop, but I'd better withhold the details b/c they involve a feminist chick and a blowjob.

Chip S. said...

@Inwood--I googled "NINA," and discovered to my shock and horror that the NYT provided a platform for a raging anti-Hibernian for decades.

Ralph L said...

they involve a feminist chick and a blowjob.
If it was a stranger, you sure it wasn't a guy?

Nast will be a bust in the Hall of Fame.

bonvol said...

Since Nast was an abolitionist, the virulent racism promoted by the Irish workers - and their political organizing to institutionalize racism via the Democratic Party - would not have appealed to him. Another famous Nast cartoon, from September 5, 1868, depicts this explicitly, with the Irish Ape on the left, joining the C.S.A. and Big Money to keep their feet on the back of the black man.