The Christmas perks of a newspaper subscription

For Valentine’s Day, the love of my life gave me a daily subscription to The Washington Post.  This was in light of two obvious reasons NOT to give the paper to me–I don’t even have time to read my mail at night and the waste of whole “trees” in the production of a newspaper is completely against Roger’s “small footprint” philosophy.

Yet, here it is.  Every day.  Early–before 6:00 a.m.  It’s like getting a Christmas present because I’ve found some tidbit or other, in just about every issue, to fuel the Yule Log (love that pun).

halloran_thomas_9780807835876Sunday’s Washington Post had an excellent review of the new Thomas Nast biography by Fiona Deans Halloran, Thomas Nast:  The Father of Modern Political Cartoons.  I first wrote about Nast’s 1870’s drawings of Santa Claus as the origins of our modern-day depiction. (See post – February 16, 2012)

This biography examines three of Nast’s major contributions:  the elephant as mascot of the Republican Party, bringing down Tammany Hall and “Boss” William M. Tweed through his political cartoons, and the jolly old St. Nick drawings.  Jonathan Yardley’s review of the book is really interesting and reveals that the Santa drawings are more than just the “man.”  They also depicted children, sugarplums, and the sentimental trappings that get all of us excited about the holiday.  Since my American history knowledge is limited to the bare outlines, I think this book is just my style.12-thomas-nast-santa-claus-granger

I don’t know when I would get a chance to read it, though.  I have to get through a newspaper every day!

Lincoln and Santa Claus

Thomas Nast's 1861 drawing of Santa

Since this is President’s Day weekend, I was curious to know what Abraham Lincoln’s Christmas was like in the 1860’s.  According to the White House Christmas Card website, Lincoln worked on Christmas morning.  Earlier in his political career, when he was an Illinois legislator, he had voted not to establish Christmas Day as a holiday because he didn’t want to waste the taxpayers’ money.

I wonder what he would think of the lengthy recesses today?

It wasn’t until the next president, Ulysses S. Grant, that Christmas became a national holiday in 1870.  We can thank Lincoln, however, for establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.  I don’t think that Lincoln and his wife did any Black Friday shopping, though.

Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly illustrator/cartoonist during Lincoln’s time, is credited with drawing the first images of Santa Claus as we imagine him today.  During the Civil War, Nast drew illustrations of Christmas and soldiers.  Strangely, it was after Lincoln’s death that Nast created several best-selling drawings of the Lincoln family celebrating Christmas.