New-York Historical Society

Merry Christmas!

Most people do not associate Santa Claus with war, but in fact the connection goes back to Santa’s very beginnings. Our popular image of Santa was created by cartoonist Thomas Nast during the Civil War. Nast’s first Santa illustrations, published in the January 3, 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly, featured Santa visiting dejected Union soldiers.

Although Santa’s image became ever more jolly after the end of the Civil War, his association with soldiers has proven to be as persistent as war itself, as is illustrated by these Christmas cards from our archives.

World War I

World War II

World War II

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