Most of us are familiar with the iconic Thomas Nast (1840-1902) illustration of Santa Claus featured in Harper’s Weekly, 1881. Nast was inspired by Clement Moore’s classic yuletide poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, and is attributed with influencing our modern day concept of Santa Claus. Between 1863 to 1886, he submitted thirty-three Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly.
Published by Harper’s on December 31, 1864, Nast’s very poignant holiday picture, The Union Christmas Dinner appeared; it did not include his customary Santa. This depiction shows a weary, divided Nation hoping for reconciliation. In his rendering, Abraham Lincoln invites starving Confederate soldiers to the large Union banquet table. On the garland banner below the title, the traditional Christmas phrase Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men can be found. The focal illustration and surrounding insets are steeped with symbolism. For example, the empty chairs are marked with initials of the Confederate states.
View the powerful details that are throughout this image following The Union Christmas Dinner link.