NEWARK, NJ (PIX11)—He drew many of his popular cartoons in the mid- to late-1800s, but his drawings can be seen even today. Thomas Nast, a German immigrant who settled in New Jersey, is often times referred to as the "Father of the American Cartoon" and responsible for the modern depiction of Santa Claus and even the famous donkey and elephant, now used as political symbols for the Democrat and Republican parties. Now, Nast is one of 50 nominees being considered for the New Jersey Hall of Fame in June 2012.
His nomination, however, doesn't come without controversy and that is because several of his works are considered to be derogatory. In particular, The New Jersey board of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians is calling out two cartoons in particular and says it is offensive to Irish and Catholic Americans. One entitled, "The Usual Irish Way of Doing Things," portrays a drunken Irishman lighting a powder keg. The other, "The American River Ganges," depicts the Roman Catholic clergy as crocodiles going after small children.
"The facts are clear that he's a bigot and he shouldn't be in the New Jersey Hall of Fame," said Sean Hughes, Treasurer for New Jersey Board of Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Don Jay Smith, Executive Director of the New Jersey Hall of Fame, said his intention is not to offend anyone, but Nast has been a nominee twice in the past and there was never any criticism before. For now, board members for the New Jersey Hall of Fame have decided Nast will remain a nominee and the public can have their say by voting by January 1, 2012 at http://www.njhalloffame.org.