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NAST, THOMAS - Original signed political cartoon about the capture of anarchist Johann Most, Emma Goldman's mentor
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NAST, THOMAS - Original signed political cartoon about the capture of anarchist Johann Most, Emma Goldman's mentor

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NAST, THOMAS. (1840-1902). German-born, American political cartoonist. Signed drawing. (“Th. Nast”). 1p. Oblong narrow 4to. N.p., (May 22, 1886). The original artwork for a cartoon published in the May 22, 1886 issue of Harper’s Weekly, the subject of which is the Austrian-American anarchist JOHANN MOST (1846-1906), radical mentor of Emma Goldman. Most is depicted hiding underneath his bed clutching a trumpet and manuscript (“‘I am not only there. But I am very much there!’ Herr Most.”) as a detective stands in a doorway and points accusingly at him.


Nast was a prolific and influential political cartoonist whose newspaper and magazine career began in the 1850s. Best known for lampooning New York’s Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed, he also created the Republican Party’s elephant symbol and popularized depictions of the Democratic donkey, Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, and Columbia, the female personification of America. In his later years he published the short-lived Republican journal, Nast’s Weekly.


Most endured a difficult childhood and oppressive apprenticeship with a bookbinder to become a zealous atheist and, after reading the works of Karl Marx and other socialists, an advocate of revolutionary socialism. After editing several socialist newspapers in Austria and serving jail time, he was expelled for speaking out against the Austrian government. Returning to his native Germany, he served two terms in the German Reichstag. However, after repeated arrests for advocating violence as a means of advancing revolution, he was exiled from Germany as well. Most began to drift away from socialism to fully embrace anarchism, founding the anarchist newspaper Freiheit (Freedom) in 1879. After his outspoken politics made him unwelcome in France and led to his imprisonment in England, he immigrated to the United States in 1882, where he was hailed as a hero by New York’s anarchist movement and where he embarked on a cross-country lecture tour, before returning to writing and publishing anarchist literature.


“In 1884, Most began working at a dynamite factory in New Jersey, and the next year published a pamphlet instructing anarchists on how to destroy the country’s infrastructure and exterminate its bourgeoisie.  It was appropriately titled Revolutionary War Science: A Little Handbook of Instruction in the Use and Preparation of Nitroglycerine, Dynamite, Gun-Cotton, Fulminating Mercury, Bombs, Fuses, Poisons, etc., etc. At 10¢ a copy, the terrorist manual sold quickly in New York, was republished throughout the country, and inspired Emma Goldman to move to New York City (in 1889) and become Most’s protégée.  The vast majority in the labor and socialist movements, however, rejected Most’s violent methods and distanced themselves from him. Yet in the press, including the cartoons of Thomas Nast… and Joseph Keppler of Puck, Most represented the typical radical,” (“When His Skin Is Not In Danger, and--When It Is,”, Kennedy).


Most delivered a speech “on April 22, 1886 at Germania Hall in New York City in which he endorsed arson and murder for political purposes,” and for which he was charged with incitement to riot, (ibid.). “On May 1 detectives broke into Most’s quarters and put him under arrest. The following day large newspaper headlines proclaimed that he had been ‘captured in a house of prostitution’ and that he ‘had taken refuge under a bed to escape arrest.’ He was sent to Blackwell’s Island for a year,” (Johann Most, Goldman). Our original Nast cartoon depicts this climactic event.


During 1885 and 1886, the United States saw an increase in labor strikes, which led to confrontations between laborers and the police culminating in Chicago’s Haymarket Riot, the May 4, 1886 bombing at a union rally just three days after Most’s arrest that killed seven policeman and four civilians. Although the bomber’s identity was never discovered, seven anarchists were tried for conspiracy including an associate of Most, August Spies, one of four executed for the bombing – an event widely considered a gross miscarriage of justice.


“On May 14, [Most] was released on bail, but was rearrested for a speech condemning the hanging of the Haymarket defendants and warning that the ‘day of revolution is not far off; and when it comes, see that you are ready to resist and kill those hirelings of capitalists.’ Most insisted that he was merely making a prediction, not encouraging violence. A jury, however, found him guilty and New York’s highest court eventually upheld the decision after its appeal.” (Kennedy op. cit.).


Our cartoon is the second of two panels in which Nast portrays Most as a coward “who trumpets his call for class warfare (top) when he is not personally in danger, but cravenly hides under his bed (bottom) when the police arrive to arrest him,” (ibid.). 


Drawn on thick paper stock with very minor discoloration along the left edge and in fine condition. Pencil notations and mounting traces on the verso.



Item #19847


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