Prominent Political Cartoonist
Thomas Nast came from German to New York City, with his family, when he was still a child. He has some basic art training and soon went to work, at the age of 15, for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, in 1855.
The newspaper did not use photographs, they used highly detailed illustrations that were converted into woodcuts then printed. At the time there was really no technology to convert photographs into something that could be used in a newspaper.
Nast worked for Leslie's for many years and he also did some work for the Harper's Weekly in the 1860s.
Nast's most important subjects were political. Nast was actually the person who invented the political symbols of the elephant and the donkey for the Republican and Democratic parties.
Nast's most famous illustrations were of Boss Tweed and other corrupt New York politician. His compelling illustrations clearly explained the misdeeds of Tweed and others and helped bring down a corrupt city administration.
Nast is less well known for his Christmas illustrations, which were very popular at the time. He did yearly drawings for both publications.
Civil War Christmas Eve Illustration
Harper's Santa Cover
1865 Christmas Illustration
Santa Visiting Civil War Troops
Civil War Illustration
Thomas Nast Santa
Nast and Santa
Nast was doing Christmas illustrations from early on in his career and many of the images were on Santa Claus. The illustrator based his version of Santa Claus on his early memories from Germany of Pelze Nichol.
His version of Santa varied from year to year but this changed after 1863. In that year Nast illustrated Clement C. Moore's poem The Night Before Christmas, which was already extremely popular. The poem was very influential in creating the Santa Claus we know today and Nast's illustrations helped the process.
Today we think of Santa as chubby, with flowing white hair and a fur cap. He has 8 reindeer and delivers toys only on Christmas Eve. All of that came out of Moore's poem and Nast's illustrations.
Most Famous Nast Santa
Santa on Rooftop
Santa Checking His List
- Coca Cola and Santa Claus
Coca Cola has a long relationship with Santa Claus, dating back to the 1930's. Their print ads popularized the look of Santa Claus.
- Clement Moore The Night Before Christmas
Dr. Clement C. Moore a language professor wrote a special Christmas poem for his family.
- Vintage Christmas Advertising Trade Cards
19th century advertising was done on trade cards that were given out by stores or manufacturers and special ones were made at Christmastime.