It’s still weirdly startling to find a name I recognize contributing to the periodicals I study, whether it’s Winslow Homer illustrating for Our Young Folks or F. O. C. Darley illustrating for the Riverside Magazine for Young People.  So I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to find that Thomas Nast illustrated the entire first issue of The Little-Pig Monthly (1859).

Nast drew for Harper’s Weekly; he’s probably best known for his enduring images of “Boss” Tweed and his roly-poly Santa Claus.  But he drew for children, too, most notably a picture of the mascot of The Little Corporal rising from the ashes of the Chicago Fire, which had destroyed the Corporal‘s editorial offices:

A single illustration is one thing.  But Nast drew all the illustrations in the first issue of Little-Pig Monthly.  Don’t let anybody tell you mid-nineteenth-century periodicals for children had few illustrations:  they were a selling point.  The May issue of Little-Pig Monthly was 104 pages and had 45 illustrations of animals and people (and pig tails–two, at the “tail end” of two works apparently intended for young readers), every one of them drawn by Nast.  This is a good one:

an editorial pig

He also probably drew the original illustration for the cover, at the top of this piece.  The number of colors on the cover is unusual, given the expense of printing in color.

Unfortunately, the magazine failed pretty quickly–if it got off the ground at all.  Publishers often published sample issues, to gauge interest and to advertise the magazine (I have a unique issue of Youth’s Pictorial Magazine, which failed to launch in 1848; the editors are very clear that this is a sample issue and that the actual magazine will be much better printed).

Little-Pig Monthly did have a weird sense of its potential audience:  it wasn’t for adults or for children, but for both.  This meant that half the magazine might appeal to adults, and half the magazine might appeal to children.  Given that a subscription was $3 a year, when a subscription to another magazine might run you $1, it’s easy to guess why the magazine failed to thrive.

Not that the editors didn’t try.  The first issue is dated “May.”  It advertises the July issue.  The Library of Congress web site has a scanned advertisement describing what the advertisers say is the June issue; the description is of the May issue.  In September, a notice of the July issue appeared in Godey’s magazine.  Still no takers, apparently.

It was a tiny blip in the career of Thomas Nast.  But it’s the kind of thing that makes opening a magazine I’ve not seen before a lot more fun than most people expect.