When we think of Santa Claus today, it is Thomas Nast's vision of him that we see. The jolly, round-bellied man with a red nose and a pipe in his hand was first drawn for the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly. This Santa was a man dressed up handing out gifts to soldiers. Just before Christmas that same year, the magazine printed his first drawing of Santa as a personality. These pictures were mostly based on the description of Santa Claus in Clement Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nick".
Thomas Nast was born in Landau, Germany, on September 26, 1840. In 1846 he and his mother, Appolinia Abriss, and his sister moved to New York City. His father, Thomas, joined them in 1849 when his enlistment in The Regimental Band was completed. The younger Nast studied art with Theodore Kaufmann in 1854.
By the summer of 1862 Nast's freelance work had evolved into a position with Harper's Weekly. Thomas Nast left that magazine in 1886. He freelanced for a variety of publications and in 1892 he established Nast's Weekly, which lasted less than six months. In 1902 he accepted President Theodore Roosevelt's appointment to serve as consul general to Ecuador. After only six months abroad he died of yellow fever on December 7, 1902.