HistoryBuff.com December 2011 Newsletter
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The Man Who Created Santa As We Know Him Today

Although he could not read or write, Thomas Nast is a perfect example of the importance of knowing our heritage and just how many legacies one person can leave behind. Thomas Nast, through his wood engravings, helped to shape customs not only in America but also throughout the world.

Thomas Nast is best known for his Christmas drawings. His first drawing appeared in Harper's Weekly for Christmas of 1862, marking the first appearance of Santa Claus as we know him today. Prior to this, Santa had passed through a series of stages beginning with a more religious-type figure.

The inspiration for how Nast's Santa should look came from Clement Moore's poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Since Nast could not read, he had his wife read to him while he prepared his drawings and engravings. On one occasion, Mrs. Nast read Clement Moore's poem to Thomas. That was all it took for inspiration.

The next 24 years saw Nast produce 76 Christmas engravings that were signed and published. Nast used Moore's poem to put it all together in visual form - a sleigh, reindeer, jolly old elf, filling the stockings hung by the chimney, and so forth.

In addition, Nast used his own imagination to expand upon the theme. He was the first to establish that Santa's home was in the North Pole. In this way, Santa didn't belong to any one country - he became a citizen of the world. The concept of Santa having a workshop and elves to help him was also Nast's idea. Prior to his engravings, all children received gifts from Santa. Nast conceived the idea that bad children didn't get gifts from Santa. The custom of sending Santa a letter is also due to Thomas Nast. Although the custom of kissing under mistletoe was known in Europe prior to Nast's engravings, it was through his engravings in America that the custom caught on there.

Thomas Nast brought Christmas to a large audience through his engravings. The result of the impact that these drawings had on Americans is astronomical. In Europe, Christmas was observed for centuries on December 6. By the late 1800's when Nast's Santa Claus gained popularity, Christmas Day was legally established as December 25 in all states and territories in the United States. In addition, an extended school vacation during this period became a custom. (A brief pause while all students write a thank you note to the Nast estate.)

From this seed, Christmas began the move to commercial and economic interests. Stores began including drawings of Santa (though not necessarily done by Nast) in their ads and tying it in with Christmas sales and promotions. Soon to follow was the custom of sending Christmas cards. Without Nast and the Christmas drawings that he brought to the masses, it is hard to tell what Christmas and the customs that go with it would be like today.

Religious symbolism of The Twelve Days of Christmas
    1 True Love refers to God

    2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments

    3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues

    4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists

    5 Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

    6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

    7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments

    8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

    9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

    10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

    11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

    12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed


HistoryBuff.com Update

I have created a Windows wallpaper for the Lincoln assassination. Download your FREE copy at: http://www.historyreference.org/game/lincoln-wall.jpg

I have loaded two virtual tours of the Abraham Lincoln home and neighborhood in Springfield, Illinois. It includes audio commentary just like the tour guide would be telling you if you were taking the tour in person. The direct URL for the exterior of the home is:


The direct URL to the virtual tour of the interior of the Lincoln home is:



As a result of my appeal for donations in the previous issue, Kenneth Bannell, Constance Paulson, Sandra Goodwin, and Sha Zameen Razeek made one-time donations. Thank you.

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November Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Of all the signers of the Declaration of Indenpendence, which one died last?

ANSWER: Charles Carroll.

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Two United States Presidents died on the same day and year. Which ones?

ANSWER: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826.

Fifty-nine people entered the contests. Fourteen entries were disqualified due to an incorrect subject heading, incorrect answer or failed to select the prize they wanted if they won. Most did not indicate which prize they wanted if they won. One prize was not claimed. (Please, if entering the contests, be sure to respond to my notification that you won with the information I request.)

The November Contest Winners Were:
  • Regina Pulliam - Oklahoma
  • Keith G. Cromer - Georgia
  • John Wipff - Texas

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: One of the original 13 colonies was named after a King of England. Which colony and king?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Five United States Presidents were married twice. Name two of them.

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Saturday, December 17, 2011. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One, Contest Two, or the Grand Prize email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter the Grand Prize contest, use "Grand Prize Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading. In the body of the email, please enter your name and full address as well as your desired customized message on the lithograph. (The artist will sign it and add a message you desire to it in the margin.) There is no question to answer for the Grand Prize contest.

  • Subscribers may enter all three contests, but can only win one prize.

  • If entering more than one contest, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest One question, there is no need to specify the prize you want if you win.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select one specific prize you want if you win from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contests, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, FIVE will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
December Grand Prize

Limited Edition Lithograph
By Michael Hunt

Rarely do the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces get the credit they deserve. They fought to keep our country safe and free with some paying the ultimate price. Artist Michael Hunt created a series of lithographs to honor generations of military service.

In an effort to make these special lithographs available and affordable to all, this Christmas Nola Fine Art is offering the veteran's lithograph shown here at less than half than their retail value. It is hoped that owners will hang it proudly in the homes of our military and loved ones a much-loved tribute.

Nola Fine Art is the exclusive distributor of the artist Michael Hunt and offers several different military-related lithographs, as well as LSU coins. Check them out.

December Contest One Prize

25 WWII Classic Movies

December Contest Two Prize List

(Select ONE of the prizes below if entering Contest Two)

New-York Advertiser historic newspaper from 1822

Boston Daily Advertiser historic newspaper from 1861

Springfield Republican (Massachusets) historic newspaper from 1876

That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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