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April 29, 1865
Harper's Weekly. Vol. 9 No. 435
Chicago Public Library
Thomas Nast created a number of striking images capturing a nation mourning the loss of President Lincoln after his assassination in April 1865. Here, he depicts the figure of Columbia weeping at Lincoln’s coffin. Columbia was a female personification of America invented in the colonial era; her name is drawn from Columbus. Like Uncle Sam, she came to represent the United States in the nineteenth century. Columbia’s headdress is illuminated as is the president’s name. In the corners of the image, Nast portrayed a grieving soldier (on the left) and sailor (on the right). Classical columns and arches frame the coffin that sits atop a series of elevated steps. These signify the sacred resting place of a beloved, respected and tragic hero.
Thomas Nast was a German-born American artist who created cartoons for a number of American and European newspapers and magazines, most notably Harper’s Weekly. During the Civil War, his cartoons supported the Union and inspired others to do so. President Lincoln called Nast “our best recruiting sergeant.”