Thomas Nast’s Illustrated Almanacs, 1871-1875

Green Bag Almanac and Reader, pp. 212-220, 2011

George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 11-04

10 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2011

See all articles by Ross E. Davies

Ross E. Davies

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School; The Green Bag

Date Written: January 20, 2011


More than 300 pages of this year’s Green Bag Almanac & Reader are devoted to reproducing in their entirety all five of Thomas Nast’s “Illustrated Almanacs.” From the beginning, Nast’s Almanac was well-received. Positive reviews of the first edition - the full title of which was “Nast’s Illustrated Almanac for 1871” quickly followed the October 1870 announcement in Harper’s Weekly of Nast’s new publishing venture. For example, Our American Doré, Mr. Thomas Nast, has made an illustrated almanac which takes the lead of any comic effort before attempted in this country. Those addicted to fits of melancholy should invest twenty-five cents in this laugh-provoking affair.

The contents of the 1871 almanac were indeed interesting and amusing, ranging from a rather violent version of the story of Mary and her lamb to silly historical and Shakespearean vignettes. And they were generously sprinkled with “105 illustrations by Nast” the famous editorial artist, including such gems as a sketch of Elizabeth I in which the Queen bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Punch (that is, the 19th-century English version of the classic, irreverent puppet and cartoon character) and a rendering of Sir Francis Drake as a mustachioed waterfowl. But it was with the second edition - “Nast’s Illustrated Almanac for 1872” - that Nast’s Almanac really hit its stride with respect to both content and marketing. Most importantly, Nast enlisted several famous friends to provide signed works for his almanac, including Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens), Charles Dickens, and Josh Billings (aka Henry Wheeler Shaw, in his time a literary celebrity nearly on a par with Clemens). And Nast drew original illustrations for all of them.

Keywords: Benjamin Franklin, Boss Tweed, Caricature, Cartoon, Charles Dickens, Editorial, Gilded Age, Harper and Brothers, Journalism, Mr. Punch, Queen Victoria of England, Sir Francis Drake

JEL Classification: D01, D03, D23, D80, D81, D83, D87

Suggested Citation

Davies, Ross E., Thomas Nast’s Illustrated Almanacs, 1871-1875 (January 20, 2011). Green Bag Almanac and Reader, pp. 212-220, 2011, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 11-04, Available at SSRN:

Ross E. Davies (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

The Green Bag ( email )

6600 Barnaby St., NW
Washington, DC 20015
United States


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