September 27


Born September 27th 1840, in Landau Germany - Thomas Nast, political cartoonist of late 1800s America. Click here for dozens of his best cartoons.

Very few of my favourite political cartoonists actually made a difference - Ze'ev, for example, only comments nostalgically after the events or personalities have gone; Steve Bell amuses, but his views are ideological, and the ideology he speaks for has long gone... 

And of the contemporary cartoonists, who can say; but let me put a word in anyway, for three of the exceptions: Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque) who must be doing something right, as he just been arrested again in Malaysia, for the forty-seventh time; and for Khalid Albaih, from Sudan originally, then Qatar, his last known whereabouts seeking political asylum in Copenhagen; and Eaten Fish, the Iranian cartoonist locked up by the Australians on Manus Island.

Nast was one of these exceptions to the rule. His campaign against Boss Tweed and his stooges in Tammany Hall led to his fleeing the country (he went to Spain, where the Spanish authorities recognised his style in a cartoon he published there; and arrested him). Tweed gave evidence of the power of the cartoon: "Stop them darned pictures," he apparently declared. "I don't care what the papers write about me. My constituents can't read. But damn it, they can see pictures." In the end (click here), it was Tweed who did the running - and Nast was right there to draw the cartoon of it.

Amber pages

The first passenger hauled in a locomotive, George Stephenson, in his own invention, today in 1825

Book matches patented, today in 1892. Now that the epoch of cigarette smoking has ended, and artificial-tobacco asthma-venters don't require matches, but also given that some of those little books were the cutest little art-works, has anyone thought of making money, I mean honouring and commemorating culture, by opening a "Book Matches Museum"?

And the first published Blues music, "Memphis Blues" by W.C. Handy, appeared on hootenanny stalls today in 1912.

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