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Stories, Poems and Humor
Left Book The Man Who Gave Us Santa Claus
by Unknown
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Thomas Nast is the man who designed Santa Claus as he has descended to us today around 1881. Saint Nicholas had arrived in America with the Dutch colonists of New Amsterdam. But their Saint "Nick" was seen as a bishop, proud and tall, dressed in clerical robes and carrying a birch staff. Thomas Nast, in contrast, depicted Santa Claus as the rotund, rosy cheeked character who had been described in his own Bavarian boyhood. He also imaginatively supplied such details as Santa's workshop at the North Pole and Santa's list of the good and bad children of the world.

Depicting the chubby elf of his imagination came easily to Thomas Nast. Having emigrated to New York at the age of 6 in 1846, he was enrolled in art school by the time he was 13, and just two years later had already begun his career as a newspaper illustrator. Thomas Nast's assignments included many major stories of the day, and by December of 1863 he need a break. Designing the cover for the New Year's edition of Harper's Weekly, he drew a scene of a Union Army camp, but it focused on a fanciful Santa Claus, clad in stars and stripes, handing out toys to bemused soldiers.

Every Christmas for the next 23 years, Mr. Nast took a similar holiday from more serious subjects. In the process he not only gave form to the figure known as Santa Claus, but also fixed Santa's activities in the minds of future generations.

Toy-making in the North Pole workshop, the book in which Santa records children as naughty or nice, and the reindeer-drawn sleigh filled with toys were all memorably depicted by Mr. Nast. Even Santa's red suit is a Nast legacy. He decided that red would be more memorable than any other hue when he illustrated one for the first colored children's books in 1866.



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