Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus

Thomas Nast’s rendition of Santa Claus, published in Harper’s Weekly, January 3, 1863.  Quiz #141, December 30, 2007

Fred Stuart and Cari Thomas shared family stories with us related to this quiz:

Jefferson Davis had an eye illness that threatened him with the loss of his left eye.  Davis spent the summer (July-October) of 1858 in Portland, Maine.

While in Portland, Davis and his family visited many of the islands of Casco Bay. He saw Fort Gorges, which lies in the center of Casco Bay in Portland Maine. This historic fort was commissioned by Davis, when he was Secretary of War 1853-1857.

While in the Portland area, Davis got his hair cut and visited the shop three times at John M. Todd’s barbershop, on the corner of Exchange and Middle Street, in the Boyd Block which was leveled by the great fire of 1866 and rebuilt. My great-grandfather John H.B. Morrill, a barber worked at that barbershop for years before and after the fire. He got to meet Jefferson Davis during those visits.

My great-grandfather and John Todd were very vocal political activists. I’m sure that there were some pretty lively discussions in the barbershop! 

John M. Todd wrote a column for the Portland Press in those times and also published a book A Sketch of the Life of John M. Todd: (Sixty-Two Years in a Barber Shop) which is here on Google Books at  you’ll find the account of the first visit to the shop.

The book is an interesting read as John Todd believes in ghosts and mediums that could talk to the dead.  Both my great grandfather and grandfather were barbers in Portland.   John Todd mentions my grandfather, Fred Morrill, as one of the fastest barbers in Portland:

“But here’s one all hot, grab it before it cools, Fred Morrill, in his palmy clays was one of the quickest barbers the sun ever shown on, once shaved a man at four hundred and ten Congress street in time to catch a street car that was at the head of Pearl street when the man entered, the shop and the man he shaved was Billy Moxie of the mailing department of Union Station, who vouches for the fact”

That trolley was two blocks away when he started the shave. My grandfather, a Spanish American War veteran, died in 1936 when my mother, his daughter, was 3. It was his third marriage with 8 children total and he was 70 when he passed. 

Fred Stuart 


Marjorie Wilser agreed re: Jefferson Davis, but when she asked me who I thought the soldiers would like to have hanged, my comment was: “Depends on the soldier. If asked, I think my g-g-grandfather, in Co F of the PA 119th would have said “Col. Peter C. Ellmaker”, his commanding officer.

On 13 Oct 1862 Cornelius T. Richmond wrote to his wife: “The fault is not with Capt Wagner, or Either of the Lieutenants of Co. F for We respect them, but we blame Col Ellmaker, or Some One higher than he.” (and of course he wouldn’t have been able to hang the “higher” one!)

On 25 Oct 1862 CTR wrote, “Our living is miserable and the Rules very hard. We have no liberty at all. I would rather be in Moyamensig Prison than under Col Ellmaker.” !!! Yes, I think that’s whom CTR would have liked “stringing up!” G-g-grandfather Richmond was MIA at Salem Church on 3 May ‘63 in the battle of Chancellorsville.

I enjoyed [this quiz], and thought the cartoon was a great one to add to my family’s Civil War history. I probably should have included in that last email a snippet from CTR’s only Christmas letter:Headed: “Camp Near White Oak Schurch Dec 25th/62” White Oak Church is across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg after the Battle of Fredericksburg was fought in mid-Dec with a Southern victory. He starts out: “My dear Wife I have Just Rec your Kind Letter of the 21 and was happy to hear from you, and find that you Was all Well and I hope May Spent a hopper [happier?] day and I am doing   We had Coffey and hard Bread for Breakfast and Will have Pork and hard bread for Supper as We hear that We are only to have 2 meals a day … [and at the end:] Spend a happy Christmass (sic)  as for My Lself (sic) I have not bee Well for a Long time and you Can See how We are treated as my feet have been on the ground for this Last 3 Weeks  give my Love to Aunt Mary and James and Mary & Billy and all my friends   I will Write as often as I can and if We get Ware I Can Rec a box I will take my Christmass Some other time.  No more from your affct Husband Cornelius Richmond”

That rather makes Thomas Nast’s cartoon hit close to “my” family home! By the way, I knew of Thomas Nast primarily because of his “Santa Claus” and knew very little other than that and his being a political cartoonist. I don’t think I had ever seen a Civil War period cartoon of his before. So, again thanks for enlarging my horizons and knowledge.

Cari Thomas 

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