Yes, Santa Claus — the modern, most popular version as we know him, fat and jolly — was created by artist Thomas Nast, a German born American lived in Morristown, New Jersey, moving there with his family in 1870. (Which is across the street from the Macculloch Hall Museum. I went there yesterday for the second time and it’s just amazing!)
In addition to drawing Santa Claus, Thomas Nast was also famous for his political cartoons which were featured in Harper’s Weekly.
One cartoon that I’m especially intrigued with is his portrayal of Victoria Woodhull, an American leader of the woman’s suffrage movement.
Woodhull was an advocate of “free love” (freedom to marry, divorce and bear children without interference from the government). She was also into spiritualism and vegetarianism.
She was the first woman to start a weekly newspaper; an activist for women’s rights and labor reforms. In 1872, she was the first female candidate for President of the United States.
Pretty mind-blowing for the 1800s, right? This woman is one of my heroes!
But all these great ideas were considered controversial for the time, therefore some considered her satanic, as depicted in the above drawing by Thomas Nast.
Here is more information on the Macculloch Hall Historic Museum in Morristown, New Jersey (and if you visit, you’ll see the home Thomas Nast lived in, right across the street, but it’s private property for a resident, not open to the public): http://www.maccullochhall.org/