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This drawing, one of several in this website by Thomas Nast, expresses the antiunion sentiments of many middle-class Americans in the decades following the Civil War. A skilled workingman gives over a precious portion of his hard-earned wages (likely the "mite" indicated in the title) to the Workingmen's Association and its questionable agenda.
The worker's action, which goes against the best interests of his wife and children, contrasts with that of the more prosperous family in the background, who wisely invest their resources directly in their own future. The message is clear: if the worker trusted his employer instead of union leaders, he would do far better than if he joined a labor organization and engaged in strikes.
Nast (1840-1902), one of the most influential and talented political cartoonists in American history, came to the United States from Germany when he was six years old. He first made his reputation with his work on the Civil War and Reconstruction. "The Worker's Mite" appeared the same year as some of his memorable drawings attacking the corrupt machine politics of New York's Tammany Hall and its notorious "Boss," William Marcy Tweed. Nast's major outlet was Harper's Weekly, the country's leading popular illustrated magazine of news and cultural affairs.