When Clement Clarke Moore wrote his immortal
poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” which described Santa Claus in such
a vivid way and gave lively names to his reindeer, he inspired the famous
Harper’s Weekly cartoonist, Thomas Nast.
Until Nast picked up his pen, America’s
images of Santa Claus were many. No one characterization really stuck to
him. Some thought of him as a man in buckskin, a throwback to the pioneer
days. Others saw him as the mitred bishop from the Old World. Still others
saw him as a sprightly gent in Dutch garments, chewing on a long pipe.
Nast’s pen-and-ink drawings gave Santa
the universal image he enjoys today. . the plump. comfortable, loveable
gent with the bag of toys on his back. He was still a bit of an elf, as
the poem might suggest, but he soon would grow in size with the help from
The Harper’s Weekly drawings featured
in the 1860s included a cover picture of Santa dressed in Stars and
Stripes, presenting gifts to the Union soldiers at camp. Another had him
jumping from sleigh to chimney with a pipe clenched in his teeth. Often,
his drawings included children nestled snugly in their beds as Santa made
Abraham Lincoln was president at the time
and asked Nast to create a Santa image for America.
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