Thomas Nast Portfolio


"The Off Year," Harper's Weekly, November17, 1877,
cover. Wood engraving

     The elephant has been a symbol of strength since Roman
times. Its first use by the Republican Party is believed to date
from a printer’s cut (pre-made pictures kept ready to use as
illustrations when needed) of an elephant used by an Illinois
newspaper during Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 presidential
campaign. Thomas Nast was a staunch Republican, and he
deliberately chose the elephant as a symbol for his own Party
because of the animal’s great size, intelligence, strength, and
dignity. It first appeared in his November 7, 1874 cartoon,
“The Third Term Panic,” which was a comment on fears that
Grant would run for a third term as President that led some
Republicans to vote with the Democrats. Nast continued
using the elephant thereafter, and gradually it became the
Republican icon as it was adopted by other cartoonists.


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