Published on December 31, 1864, and drawn by Thomas Nast, the above picture has Lincoln inviting the starving Confederate states to join the Christmas dinner of the Union States. The print brings to mind the phrase that Lincoln would make immortal in his Second Inaugural in a few short months: “With malice towards none, with charity for all”. Not a bad sentiment to recall at Christmas time, or any time.
At this time of the year it is appropriate to recall that the modern image of Santa Claus was largely created by a German immigrant to these shores, Thomas Nast, an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly. The above is the first of his many Santa Claus drawings. It appeared on January 3, 1863 and showed a Red, White and Blue clad Santa visiting Union troops. Nast would draw Santa Claus many times throughout his career and the Santa we see today is largely Santa as imagined by Nast.
Born in 1840 in Landau in Germany, then a geographical term rather than a nation, Nast came to America as a child, along with his family. His passion for drawing was notable even as a child. In 1862 he became illustrator for Harper’ Weekly, a post he would hold until 1886.
Nast was a cartoonist with strong convictions. He loved the Union, racial equality, at least for Negroes and the Chinese immigrants in the West, the Republican party, until he supported Grover Cleveland in 1884, political reform, and any number of other reform causes. He was also clear as to what he hated: the Confederacy, political corruption, especially the Tammany Hall organization in New York and the Democrat party, until he supported Cleveland in 1884. Among his hates were Irish immigrants, largely supporters of the Democrat party, and the Catholic Church.
Like many a bitter anti-Catholic bigot, Nast was a born and baptized Catholic. He had left the Faith by his marriage in 1861 to an Episcopalian. Nast’s anti-Catholicism was savage. Typical is an 1870 cartoon where the Pope is depicted as lusting to conquer America:
Nast also hated Mormons, as depicted in the cartoon below where Nast symbolizes Catholicism and Mormons as foreign reptiles, demonstrating that Nast knew little about Mormonism, an entirely American creation, or of the history of Catholicism in what is now the United States, which stretches back to the earliest explorations: Continue Reading