Again: Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving”

November 1869, in the first year of the Grant administration — and Nast put aside his own prejudices enough to invite the Irish guy to dinner, along with many others.

(Click for a larger image — it’s well worth it.)

Thomas Nast's "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving," 1869 - Ohio State University's cartoon collection

Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving,” 1869 – Ohio State University’s cartoon collection, and HarpWeek

As described at the Ohio State site:

 “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner” marks the highpoint of Nast’s Reconstruction-era idealism. By November 1869 the Fourteenth Amendment, which secures equal rights and citizenship to all Americans, was ratified. Congress had sent the Fifteenth Amendment, which forbade racial discrimination in voting rights, to the states and its ratification appeared certain. Although the Republican Party had absorbed a strong nativist element in the 1850s, its commitment to equality seemed to overshadow lingering nativism, a policy of protecting the interests of indigenous residents against immigrants. Two national symbols, Uncle Sam and Columbia, host all the peoples of the world who have been attracted to the United States by its promise of self-government and democracy. Germans, African Americans, Chinese, Native Americans, Germans, French, Spaniards: “Come one, come all,” Nast cheers at the lower left corner.

One of my Chinese students identified the Oriental woman as Japanese, saying it was “obvious.”  The figure at the farthest right is a slightly cleaned-up version of the near-ape portrayal Nast typically gave Irishmen.

If Nast could put aside his biases to celebrate the potential of unbiased immigration to the U.S. and the society that emerges, maybe we can, too.

Hope your day is good; hope you have good company and good cheer, turkey or not.  Happy Thanksgiving.

More:  Earlier posts from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

6 Responses to Again: Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving”

  1. […] Again: Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” ( […]


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  4. […] Again: Thomas Nast’s “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving” ( […]


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Alas, she’s gone back to China, and I’ve changed schools. She said the hair style is Japanese, as is the kimono. No question, she said. Those are not styles Chinese women wear now, nor then, she said.

    But it’s a great question. I know some other recent immigrants from China. Perhaps you do, too — let’s ask.


  6. Jason says:

    As a graduate student, I’ve used this image often. I especially like pointing to the contrast between Nast’s Thanksgiving vision – as “Reconstruction-era idealism” – and The San Francisco WASP’s later cartoon with the same title that exploits all the stereotypes this work by Nast avoids. I do wonder how your Chinese student justifies his or her interpretation of the Asian woman as Japanese. It’s certainly not obvious to me and it hasn’t been obvious to other scholars either. I would really appreciate being enlightened.


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