Friday, December 25, 2015

Ho Ho Ho

And Merry Christmas to us, each and every one! In this era of conflict, let us all remember our shared humanity and our common goodness.

This is Thomas Nast's 1881 Santa Claus, published in Harpers Weekly. Nast, a political cartoonist and satirist, is considered the inventor of our contemporary old St. Nick, although credit goes to several others as well (Clement Moore wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" in the 1820s). Nast was born in Germany in 1840 but came to the United States as a child. He was reportedly an indifferent student though his artistic talent was evident early in life. He was taught by individual artists and at the National Academy of Design (founded by Samuel F.B. Morse and Thomas Cole, among others).
Merry Old Santa Claus, Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881

During his career, Nast was mostly a political commentator whose cartoons were featured prominently in Harpers Weekly and other periodicals of the day. He became famous during the Civil War but is still best remembered for his campaigns against Tammany Hall, Boss Tweed and the Democratic machine of the day. Nast not only invented much of our image of Santa, he also invented or expanded on some of our well-known political cartoon symbols--notably the Republican elephant.

Nast produced numerous woodcuts and drawings of Santa Claus, and it is his renderings of the jolly old elf that produced our modern images of Santa. Clement Moore's poem "A Night Before Christmas," was obviously known to Nast and probably assisted in his imagings of St. Nick as well.

There are numerous other Nast images of Santa Claus that you can easily find on the Internet.

So Merry Christmas to all and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Wikipedia entry for Thomas Nast
Brief Bio of Thomas Nast

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