Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | December 13, 2010

Thomas Nast’s 1866 Santa Claus

Santa Claus and His Works appeared in the December 1866 issue of Harper’s Weekly — this is one of thirty-three Christmas drawings contributed by Nast from 1863 through 1866. Many of the images in the above drawing may ring familiar to those who know Clement Moore’s famous 1822 poem, “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (Now more often known as “The Night Before Christmas”).  However, this illustration also includes wonderful examples of Nast’s own creativity and memories of his childhood Christmas’ in Germany. With this drawing, Nast lifted the veil of mystery that had accompanied Santa since Moore’s 1822 poem — for the first time a more complete account of Santa’s life, home and mission was revealed.

In the centerpiece, toys lie about on the floor and Santa, as described by Moore, is busy filling the stockings hung at the fireplace.  Along the sides panels, Santa is seen at various activities: At the upper left, Santa is locating good children by using a telescope; in the upper right, he records the behavior of the children he is spying on.  To the center left, he is carefully crafting toys, and on the center right he is sitting in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace, taking a post-Christmas rest. In the other panels, Santa hand-sews doll clothes and decorates a Christmas tree.  Additionally, by 1866, Nast implies that Santa Claus resides at the North Pole (NP) — notice the curving border in the upper right that reads “Santa Claussville, N.P.”


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