Monday, December 24, 2012

The Man Who Created Santa

It's nice to know that Santa was an abolitionist.

A fascinating story from The Dalton Daily Citizen...
The image of Santa Claus was the creation of a young artist named Thomas Nast. The kindly old gentleman debuted in two of Nast’s drawings published in the popular New York-based news magazine Harper’s Weekly on Jan. 3, 1863. Both drawings were created to give expression to the heartfelt emotions of the war-time Christmas season. But they both also carried a strong political message.

Nast vehemently opposed slavery and was a fierce supporter of the Union cause. His position at Harper’s Weekly offered him a weekly platform with national circulation. He frequently and dramatically used his artistic talents as a caricaturist, illustrator and political cartoonist to advance his views. Even his two drawings for Christmas of 1862 that included Santa conveyed strong Union messages.

“Santa Claus in Camp” appeared on the cover of the same Jan. 3 Harper’s Weekly issue. It was intended to give families and children in the war-weary country a brief respite from the horrors of the battlefields and offer them a message of hope, that good and peace would eventually triumph. 
In this drawing Santa appears as a benevolent figure with a long white beard visiting a Union camp. He is dressed in a fur-trimmed suit of stars and stripes. A sign in the background, beside the Union flag and near the soldiers’ tents, reads “Welcome Santa Claus.” He is sitting on his sleigh pulled by reindeer, handing out gifts to children and soldiers. One lucky soldier has received warm socks, one of the most prized gifts for fighting men during the war. Above and outside the picture the letters “U” and “S” prominently appear, stressing loyalty to the Union cause. 
Because of these early drawings that included Santa Claus, Nast is sometimes credited with “inventing” the popular image of Santa Claus. But they were not entirely his own creation. He drew heavily on his native German tradition of St. Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop known for his kindness and generosity, on the Dutch time-honored character Sinterklaas, who brought children gifts at Christmas, on the British Father Christmas, who typified the spirit of good cheer, and other centuries-old traditions, folklore and stories from other lands.

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