Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist who is considered to be the "Father of the American Cartoon". Among his notable works were the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus as well as the political symbols of both major United States political parties: the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey and Uncle Sam.
He was born in the barracks of Landau, Germany (in the Rhine Palatinate), the son of a trombonist in the 9th regiment Bavarian band. The elder Nast's socialist political convictions put him at odds with the German government, and in 1846 he left Landau, enlisting first on a French man-of-war and subsequently on an American ship. He sent his wife and children to New York City, and at the end of his enlistment in 1849 he joined them there. Thomas Nast's passion for drawing was apparent from an early age, and he was enrolled for about a year of study with Alfred Fredericks and Theodore Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of Design. After school (at the age of 15), he started working in 1855 as a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper; three years afterward, for Harper's Weekly.
Nast drew for Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886. In February 1860, he went to England for the New York Illustrated News to depict one of the major sporting events of the era, the prize fight between the American John C. Heenan and the English Thomas Sayers sponsored by George Wilkes, publisher of Wilkes' Spirit of the Times. A few months later, as artist for The Illustrated London News, he joined Garibaldi in Italy. Nast's cartoons and articles about the Garibaldi military campaign to unify Italy captured the popular imagination in the U.S. In 1861, he married Sarah Edwards, whom he had met two years earlier.