Guide to Harper's Weekly broadside featuring a double page illustration of the Grand Masquerade Ball at the New York City Academy of Music and caricatures by Thomas Nast, April 14, 1866
Harper's Weekly broadside featuring a double page illustration of the Grand Masquerade Ball at the New York City Academy of Music and caricatures by Thomas Nast C0461
Published by George Mason University Libraries
Thomas Nast was a German-born American cartoonist who lived from 1840 - 1902, and is known as the "Father of the American Cartoon." By his early twenties Nast was working for Harper's Weekly as a political cartoonist and quickly became known for his Civil War-era cartoons, particularly those depicting battle scenes. Nast eventually became so nationally influential that his cartoons directly impacted presidential politics. His cartoons also solidified the association of Republicans with elephants and Democrats with donkeys, which continues to this day.
The Academy of Music was one of the first opera houses established in New York City. Opening in 1854, it was the preferred opera house of New York's "old money" society, and was a key location for social events. The Academy of Music performed not only opera, but plays as well, and also hosted balls such as the Grand Masquerade Ball. The Academy was destroyed by a fire in 1866 just over a month after said ball, and was rebuilt, though it struggled to maintain its status as top opera house due to the rise of the Metropolitan Opera. Eventually the Academy became a location for vaudeville performances.
Content warning: Racist imagery.
Harper's Weekly broadside featuring a double page illustration by Thomas Nast of the Grand Masquerade Ball - also known as the Bal d'Opera - at the New York City Academy of Music, which was held on Thursday, April 5, 1866. The illustration features caricatures, drawn by Nast, of famous and important people of the 1860s surrounding a scene from the ball itself. The caricatures were shown at the ball, as described by a written passage from the broadside: "The picture is surrounded by representations of a few of the caricatures with which the ball-room was decorated...There were nearly a hundred paintings, all of them excellent caricatures...and they formed the principal topic of conversation." The individuals caricatured include Ulysses S. Grant, Max Maretzek, Stephen A. Douglas, and Thomas Nast himself. Included is a caricature of Wendell Phillips, a well-known abolitionist, holding a racist caricature of a Black child. The newspaper was published April 14, 1866.
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The Special Collections Research Center holds many other newspaper collections, including the 19th century newspaper illustrations collection and the Northern Virginia Civil War images collection which both include Harper's Weekly illustrations.
Harper's Weekly broadside featuring a double page illustration of the Grand Masquerade Ball at the New York City Academy of Music and caricatures by Thomas Nast, C0461, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Purchased by Steve Gerber from J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians in February 2017.
Processing completed by Amanda Brent in December 2020. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent in December 2020. This item was formerly part of the Performing Arts Manuscript Materials collection, C0215.
"Academy of Music (New York City)". Wikipedia. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_of_Music_(New_York_City)
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Thomas Nast." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Nast
"Opening of the Academy of Music." The New York Times. October 3, 1854. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1854/10/03/88141170.pdf
"Thomas Nast." Norman Rockwell Museum. Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/thomas-nast