Thomas Nast (American (born Germany), Landau 1840–1902 Guayaquil)
Harper's Weekly (American, 1857–1916)
January 3, 1863
Sheet: 14 3/4 × 10 9/16 in. (37.4 × 26.8 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1929
Not on view
Nast's image was published in the 1862 Christmas issue of Harper’s Weekly, during days filled with both trials for the Union and rising hope. Santa Claus has arrived by sleigh in a Union army camp to distribute gifts. This was the moment that Nast conceived and introduced our modern image of Santa Claus. Combining European traditions of St. Nicholas with folk images of elves from his native Germany, he created the jolly gift-giver now associated with Christmas that here offers cheer to soldiers far from home. He distributes boxes of necessities such as warm socks, copies of Harper's Weekly, and entertains the crowd with a jumping jack dangling from a noose, its chest lettered "Jeff" in reference to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In the background, soldiers chase an escaped hog, roast meat on a spit and play fairground games such as climbing a greased pole. This image on the title page of the journal was supported by a two-page spread within the journal that shows Santa visiting sleeping children in New York (see 33.35.26 and 29.88.4(8)).