efforts in writing his autobiography while battling cancer.
He moved to Morristown, New Jersey in 1872 and lived there for many years. In 1873,
Nast toured the United States as lecturer and sketch-artist, as he would do again in
1885 and 1887.
He shared political views with his friend Mark Twain and was for many years a
staunch Republican. Nast opposed inflation of the currency, notably with his famous
rag-baby cartoons, and he played an important part in securing Rutherford B. Hayes’
1876 presidential election. Hayes later remarked that Nast was "the most powerful,
single-handed aid [he] had", but Nast quickly became disillusioned with President
Hayes, whose policy of Southern pacification he opposed. He was not given free rein to
attack Hayes in Harper's, however; with the death of Fletcher Harper in 1877, Nast lost
an important champion at the journal, and his contributions became less frequent. He
focused on oil paintings and book illustrations, but these are comparatively unimportant.
In 1884, his advocacy of civil service reform and his distrust of James G. Blaine, the
Republican presidential candidate, forced him to become a Mugwump, whose support
Nast drew for Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886. In 1860
he went to England for the New York Illustrated News to depict the prize fight between
Heenan and Sayers, and then joined Garibaldi in Italy as artist for The Illustrated
London News. Nast's cartoons and articles about the Garibaldi military campaign to
unify Italy captured the popular imagination in the U.S. In 1861, he married Sarah
His first serious works in caricature was the cartoon "Peace," (made in 1862) directed
against those in the North who opposed the prosecution of the American Civil War.
This and his other cartoons during the Civil War and Reconstruction days were
published in Harper's Weekly. He was known for drawing battlefields in border and
southern states. These attracted great attention, and Nast was called by President
Santa is pictured sitting on his sleigh, which is being pulled by reindeer. Santa is
pictured with a long white beard, a furry hat, collar and belt. We can see that many of
our modern perceptions of Santa Claus are demonstrated in the 140 year old print.
Perhaps most interesting about this print is the special gift in Santa's hand. Santa is
holding a dancing puppet of none-other-than Jefferson Davis, President of the
Confederate States of America. The likeness to Jefferson Davis is unmistakable. Even
more interesting, Davis appears to have the string tied around his neck, so Santa
appears to by Lynching Jefferson Davis! This is a classic Thomas Nast illustration.
This is Nast's first published picture of Santa Claus, and we can see many of our
present images of Santa demonstrated in this Civil War illustration.
There was no doubt in Nast’s illustration whose side Santa favors in the war. Besides
the military context, the cartoon is set off from later ones in that the gift giving is for
adults, not children (except for the drummer boys). The other two Christmas
illustrations of Nast’s published during the Civil War emphasize family scenes, with
Santa relegated to the background.
Nast's 1863 Santa-as-Uncle Sam identifies Santa Claus overtly with the national interest.
But it also makes a strong connection between Santa, as a delivery man, and home,
from which the soldier's gifts have come. What is most remarkable about this, the first
of decades' worth of Nast Santas for Harper's, is the thoroughgoing domesticity of
what is, after all, a kind of battle scene. The Christmas decorations around the edges
of the picture, for example, are of the sort typical in the Victorian household, in which
framed images were embellished for the season with garlands and greens. The kinds of
toys in Santa' pack -- the drum, the jumping-jack-- are just what youngsters in New
York and Philadelphia and Boston would be getting on December 25th, 1862.
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1. Thomas Nast
2. The cover of Harper's Weekly, January 3, 1863
Bonus: Jefferson Dais, President of the Confederate States of America
|Answers to Quiz #141 - December 30, 2007
|Special Note: Make sure you scroll down and read the comments we have posted from
Fred Stuart and Carrie Thomas. Fred and Cari shared interesting family stories with us
pertaining to the quiz. Their comments also appear on our blog. Click here.
|Personal Comments on Their Family Histories
From Fred Stuart and Cari Thomas
This is Thomas Nast's earliest published picture of Santa
Claus. Nast is generally credited with creating our popular
image of Santa. This illustration appeared in the January 3,
1863 edition of Harper's Weekly, and shows Santa Claus
visiting a Civil War Camp. In the background, a sign can be
seen that reads "Welcome Santa Claus." The illustration shows
Santa handing out gifts to children and Soldiers. One soldier
receives a new pair of socks, which would no doubt be one of
the most wonderful things a soldier of the time could receive.
As a side note:
Jefferson Davis had an eye illness that threatened him with the loss of his left eye.
Davis spent the summer (July-October) of 1858 in Portland, Maine. While in Portland,
Davis and his family visited many of the islands of Casco Bay. He saw Fort Gorges,
which lies in the center of Casco Bay in Portland Maine. This historic fort was
commissioned by Davis, when he was Secretary of War 1853-1857.
While in the Portland area, Davis got his hair cut and visited the shop three times at
John M. Todd's barbershop, on the corner of Exchange and Middle Street, in the Boyd
Block which was leveled by the great fire of 1866 and rebuilt. My great-grandfather
John H.B. Morrill, a barber worked at that barbershop for years before and after the
fire. He got to meet Jefferson Davis during those visits.
My great-grandfather and John Todd were very vocal political activists. I'm sure that
there were some pretty lively discussions in the barbershop!
John M. Todd wrote a column for the Portland Press in those times and also published
a book A Sketch of the Life of John M. Todd: (Sixty-Two Years in a Barber Shop)
which is here on Google Books at http://tinyurl.com/2yeexu you'll find the account of
the first visit to the shop.
The book is an interesting read as John Todd believes in ghosts and mediums that could
talk to the dead. Both my great grandfather and grandfather were barbers in
Portland. John Todd mentions my grandfather, Fred Morrill, as one of the fastest
barbers in Portland:
“But here's one all hot, grab it before it cools, Fred Morrill, in his palmy clays was one
of the quickest barbers the sun ever shown on, once shaved a man at four hundred and
ten Congress street in time to catch a street car that was at the head of Pearl street
when the man entered, the shop and the man he shaved was Billy Moxie of the mailing
department of Union Station, who vouches for the fact”
That trolley was two blocks away when he started the shave. My grandfather, a
Spanish American War veteran, died in 1936 when my mother, his daughter, was 3. It
was his third marriage with 8 children total and he was 70 when he passed.
Marjorie Wilser agreed re: Jefferson Davis, but when she asked me who I thought the
soldiers would like to have hanged, my comment was: "Depends on the soldier. If
asked, I think my g-g-grandfather, in Co F of the PA 119th would have said "Col. Peter
C. Ellmaker", his commanding officer. On 13 Oct 1862 Cornelius T. Richmond wrote
to his wife: "The fault is not with Capt Wagner, or Either of the Lieutenants of Co. F
for We respect them, but we blame Col Ellmaker, or Some One higher than he." (and of
course he wouldn't have been able to hang the "higher" one!) On 25 Oct 1862 CTR
wrote, "Our living is miserable and the Rules very hard. We have no liberty at all. I
would rather be in Moyamensig Prison than under Col Ellmaker." !!! Yes, I think that's
whom CTR would have liked "stringing up!" G-g-grandfather Richmond was MIA at
Salem Church on 3 May ‘63 in the battle of Chancellorsville.
I enjoyed [this quiz], and thought the cartoon was a great one to add to my family’s
Civil War history. I probably should have included in that last email a snippet from CTR’
s only Christmas letter:
Headed: “Camp Near White Oak Schurch Dec 25th/62” White Oak Church is across
the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg after the Battle of Fredericksburg was fought
in mid-Dec with a Southern victory. He starts out: “My dear Wife I have Just Rec
your Kind Letter of the 21 and was happy to hear from you, and find that you Was all
Well and I hope May Spent a hopper [happier?] day and I am doing We had Coffey
and hard Bread for Breakfast and Will have Pork and hard bread for Supper as We hear
that We are only to have 2 meals a day ... [and at the end:] Spend a happy Christmass
(sic) as for My Lself (sic) I have not bee Well for a Long time and you Can See how
We are treated as my feet have been on the ground for this Last 3 Weeks give my
Love to Aunt Mary and James and Mary & Billy and all my friends I will Write as
often as I can and if We get Ware I Can Rec a box I will take my Christmass Some
other time. No more from your affct Husband Cornelius Richmond”
That rather makes Thomas Nast’s cartoon hit close to “my” family home! By the way,
I knew of Thomas Nast primarily because of his “Santa Claus” and knew very little
other than that and his being a political cartoonist. I don’t think I had ever seen a Civil
War period cartoon of his before. So, again thanks for enlarging my horizons and
|Thomas Nast's Influence on
|1. Who is the artist who drew this cartoon?
2. Where and when was it first published?
Bonus: Who is represented by the doll Santa Claus is holding in his hand?
|Thanks to Stan Read for suggesting this quiz.
Sep 27, 1840 - Dec 7, 1902
Interesting – I assumed that Coca Cola was responsible for the modern depiction of
Santa Claus, had no idea of Nast’s influence. Another Sunday morning educational
experience! Thanks! Richard Murray
Thomas Nast [was] the man for whom the word 'nasty' was coined (I believe).
Whoops, I was wrong. The word Nasty has nothing to do with Thomas Nast. It
predates him by a few centuries. It is a well-distributed myth that the word was coined
after him. Dennis Brann (Again)
Fascinating that Nast created the popular image that we now associate with Santa
Claus. I did not know that. Just think, a whole gazillion Walmarts and shopping malls
can thank Nast for the "Santa" they use to jump-start the holiday season to about
September! Pamela Hoffman
When researching this the most interesting part was that Nast along with Clement
Moore are the ones credited with creating our version of Santa Claus. This is said to be
the first picture of Santa Claus as we know him today http://www.picturehistory.
com/product/id/9963. It appeared in Harper's Weekly January 1, 1881.
Another easy one. I immediately thought of Thomas Nast since I knew he is the one
who drew the first rendition of Santa Claus as we know him. I found confirmation of
that when I saw his name in the bottom left corner. After googling his name I found a
site that showed his Christmas cartoons. And there was the Jan.3,1863 issue of
Harper'sWeekly with this same picture and the explanation of the dancing puppet being
Jefferson Davis with a string around his neck. Venita Wilson
I teach in a Jr. High and one of our teachers has done a Thomas Nast unit for many
years. I knew immediately that this was one of Nast's works, but it took a little longer
to find which work and who the figures depicted. It is amazing how many figures we
take for granted today, Santa Claus, democratic donkey, etc. came from Thomas Nast.
Good puzzle. Mary Osmar
I googled civil=war santa=claus cartoon; I then went to sons of the south website for
the answer. Mike Dalton
When I first saw the cartoon the name Thomas Nast came to mind. I need to listen to
those first impressions! Googling "Thomas Nast Christmas" proved to be the most
direct way to find the cartoon. The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. offers some pricey
copies of Harper's prints, but none as early as 1863. See http://www.philaprintshop.
com/nastxmas.html. Suzan Farris
forget to look at your quiz often. I am glad I remembered last night. My husband is
the one who is good at history so I elicited his help and he came through like a champ.
At least he gave me thoughts of where to search. Milene Rawlinson
The doll is meant to be Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of
America. I love these dolls because my Grandfather gave me one as a little girl. Thanks
for the history leason and the trip down memory lane. Dawn Colket
Thomas Nast rendered this drawing which appeared in Harper's Weekly on January 3,
1863. Here is old Santa Claus during the Civil War in a Union camp of all things. And
would you believe that he is holding THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONFEDERATE
STATES - THE ONLY PRESIDENT OF THE C.S.A - none other than Jefferson
Davis. Is he really trying to lynch ole Jeff. My image of Santa is certainly tainted by
this drawing. Whew, I cannot believe it. :) A Southerner Santa is not. Surely, he
must hail from the Nawth (oh, yes, the Nawth Pole). Marty
I was quite impressed by the amount of detail in this and other of Nast's cartoons.
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What do Republican elephants, Democratic donkeys,
and jolly old St. Nick all have in common? Their
creator. Thomas Nast, the first great American political
cartoonist, also invented the image of Santa Claus that
is so famous today.
Thomas Nast is considered to be the father of American
political cartooning. He was born in the barracks of
Landau, Germany (in the Rhine Palatinate), the son of a
musician in the 9th regiment Bavarian band. His mother
took him to New York in 1846. He studied art there for
about a year with Alfred Fredericks and Theodore
Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of
Design. After school (at the age of 15), he started
working in 1855 as a draftsman for Frank Leslie's
Illustrated Newspaper; three years afterwards for
Sep 27, 1840 - Dec 7, 1902
Edouard Degas, the well known French
painter of the late 19th century, was
evidently influenced by the drawings of
Thomas Nast. His painting A Cotton
Office in New Orleans (left) shows
stylistic similarities to several of Nast's
drawings, in particular Nast's cartoon
"Going through the Form of Universal
Suffrage", published in Harper's Weekly,
November 11, 1871. There is no
evidence that Degas and Nast ever met,
but it is known that they had common
acquaintances and that Degas was aware
of the innovations of the art community.
Excerpts of Degas' painting and Nast's
cartoon are shown to the right. For the
sake of comparison, the excerpt from
Degas work has been flipped horizontally.
There are many similarities in the postures
and the positions of the five men. The
two most prominent figures speak across
a table full of paper or cloth, the man on
the left gesturing while the man on the
right leans forward on his arms. Two
men are in the background. One appears
between the speakers, facing the man who is gesturing. The other can be seen to the
group's right through a window to an adjoining room, facing away from them. A fifth
man leans casually against the wall to the far right. Other similarities between the two
pictures include style of dress and the perspective of the room.
For more details on Nast's influence on Degas, see the excellent article The Interactivity
among Thomas Nast, New Orleans, and Edgar Degas by Albert I. Boime
Professor of Art History at UCLA at http://www.thomasnast.com/.
Abraham Lincoln "our best recruiting
sergeant". Later, Nast strongly opposed
President Andrew Johnson and his
Harper's Weekly, and Nast, played an
important role in the election of Ulysses
Grant in 1868 and 1872; in the latter
campaign, Nast's ridicule of Horace
Greeley's candidacy was especially
merciless. Nast became a close friend of
President Grant and the two families
shared regular dinners until Grant's death.
Nast encourage the former president's
|Santa Claus and His Works,
December 25, 1866
of Grover Cleveland helped him to win election as the
first Democratic president since 1856. In the words of
the artist's grandson, Thomas Nast St Hill, "it was
generally conceded that Nast's support won Cleveland
the small margin by which he was elected. In this his
last national political campaign, Nast had, in fact, 'made
a president.'" Nevertheless, Nast's tenure at Harper's
Weekly ended with his Christmas illustration of
December 1886. In the words of journalist Henry
Watterson, "in quitting Harper's Weekly, Nast lost his
forum: in losing him, Harper's Weekly lost its political
Self-portrait of American political cartoonist Thomas
Nast.In 1890, he published Thomas Nast's Christmas
Drawings for the Human Race. He contributed
cartoons in various publications, notably the Illustrated
American, but with the advent of new methods and
younger blood his vogue was passed. In 1892, he took
control of a failing magazine, the New York Gazette,
and renamed it Nast's Weekly. Now returned to the
Republican fold, Nast used the Weekly as a vehicle for his cartoons supporting
Benjamin Harrison for president, but the magazine had little impact and ceased
publication shortly after Harrison's defeat.
In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as United
States' Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador in South
America. During a deadly yellow fever outbreak, Nast
heroically stayed to the end helping numerous diplomatic
missions and businesses escape the contagion. At age 62,
in 1902, he died of yellow fever contracted there. His body
was returned to the United States where he was interred in
the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.