Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus
German-born illustrator Thomas Nast, widely recognized as the father of political cartooning, is also responsible for our modern-day concept of Santa Claus. Nast, who came to the United States from Germany at age 6, received his art education at New York’s National Academy of Design. At 15, he began working for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper for $4 a week. During his long career, Nast illustrated major news stories for many periodicals, but he is perhaps best remembered for his imaginative Christmas drawings that first appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1862 and continued for 30 years. Inspired by Clement Moore’s poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ Nast pictured Santa Claus as a jolly, white-bearded elf who lived at the North Pole and brought gifts only to good children. His drawings also portrayed many modern symbols we associate with Christmas–holly, toys under the Christmas tree and the reindeer-drawn sleigh on a snowy roof. This familiar illustration of ‘Merry Old Santa Claus’ appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1881.
Image: Harper’s Weekly