|Thomas Nast, Harpers Weekly, 1881|
As I mentioned in that post, Nast certainly deserves credit for crystallizing the image of Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas--try saying that name very fast) set down in the famous poem of a few decades earlier by Clement Moore.
There are others who deserve credit for the Santa image we have today, probably most prominently Haddon Sundblom. Mr. Sundblom's illustrations of Santa graced Coca Cola ads for decades, and it's his obviously jolly, fat, and red-clad image that continues as one of the universal memes of the Christmas season. One interesting detail to notice is that none of the Coca Cola Santas seems to smoke a pipe.
|Haddon Sundblom, 1954 Coca Cola Santa|
But as I mentioned, it turns out that someone before Nast actually published an image rather like our own vision of St. Nick. The periodical was Dollar Magazine, a new publication in 1841 that cost exactly one dollar for a year's subscription, which published an image of Santa Claus in its very first edition in January 1841. The image is an engraving, signed "R. Roberts," and features much of what we see in Nast's picture forty years later, and more. A younger-looking Santa is going down the chimney, bearing gifts for the good little girls and boys, his sleigh and reindeer on the rooftop.
Regardless of all that, my wish for everyone in these times of trial and conflict and division in the world is a happy Christmas holiday (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or perhaps Las Posadas in Mexico) and a prosperous and peaceful new year. Lets all try to love one another, just a little, at least for now.