Massachusetts Historical Society

Online Exhibitions

Our Favorite Things: Objects that Fascinate, Interest & Inspire

View items chosen by MHS staff that speak to real people, real stories, and real history from the MHS collection.

With millions of letters, diaries, photographs, and objects in our holdings, the stories we can tell at the MHS are countless. Our Favorite Things connects a selection of compelling, captivating, and amusing items from our collection to the backgrounds, interests, and memories of the MHS staff. These stories are grouped into six categories that explore everything from human aspirations and joy to curiosity, and discovery. Along with a brief description, staff interpretations are presented through written comments and brief videos. Explore what items fascinate, interest, and inspire the MHS staff.

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Who Counts? A Look at Voter Rights through Political Cartoons

Political cartoons have long served to provoke public debate, illustrating opinions of the day for the masses. From early in the 19th century, arguments over voting rights—who votes and who counts the votes—have been depicted in cartoons, especially with the rise of illustrated newspapers and magazines with a national circulation before the Civil War.

Featuring examples of published cartoons from the MHS collections as well as other libraries and foundations, this exhibition illustrates how cartoonists helped to tell the story of voting rights in the United States. In addition to many drawings by Thomas Nast, an influential American political cartoonist in the decades following the Civil War, this exhibition features modern reinterpretations of these topics by editorial cartoonists, including Herblock (Herbert Block), Tom Toles, Bill Mauldin, and the work of current Boston-area artists.

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Thomas Nast: A Life in Cartoons

This exhibition highlights Thomas Nast’s remarkable impact through a cartoon biography created by local artists.

Thomas Nast defined American political cartoons in the decades following the Civil War. His illustrations popularized icons such as the Republican elephant, the Democratic donkey, and even the modern image of Santa Claus. A cartoon biography created by local artists highlights Nast's career. The Boston Comics Roundtable, a community of comics creators, has been meeting weekly since 2006. They collaborated on the following series of cartoons depicting important moments in Nast’s life and career.

Warning! The work of Thomas Nast was foundational to the creation of modern political cartoons and he used his public platform to advocate for Black voting rights and against corruption in politics. However, his progressive views on civil rights and good government were marred by an extraordinary hostility to Irish immigrants combined with an equal or greater anti-Catholic bias. We hope viewers will approach Thomas Nast’s work with a critical awareness of his legacy.

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