Born in Bavaria in 1840, Nast emigrated to New York City with his mother and sister in 1846 and his father followed them in 1850. Nast’s early artistic influences were historical painter Theodore Kaufmann, with whom he began his first formal study; Alfred Fredericks, whose studio was nearby and who became a mentor to Nash and helped him gain entry to the Academy of Design, as well as Frank Leslie, the publisher of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper who hired the sixteen-year old Nast for five dollars a week.
Henry Wheeler Shaw was one of the "brightest and most popular humorous men of the day" (J. Derby 239). He was best known as a talented "humorist, a homespun philospher [sic], and a conscious literary artist. One of his chief strengths was originality; in such a graphic epigram as ’when a feller gits a goin down hil, it dus seem as tho evry thing had bin greased for the okashun,’ even the deliberate misspellings fade into the background behind the compelling image" (Kesterson). At age seventeen, Shaw began a ten year exploration of western portions of the United States.