Harper’s Weekly – January 3, 1880

Thomas and Sallie Nast’s youngest child, Cyril, was born on August 28, 1879 — an unexpected “accident,” probably conceived the previous Thanksgiving. Nast celebrated with Another Stocking to Fill, perhaps the tenderest illustration he ever drew. A ten-stanza poem began with “What Mama Thinks” and closed with “Santa Claus’s View of It,” including these foreboding lines:

“Sleep away my little man, trouble comes with years; you are bound to get your share in this vale of tears.”

Nast was depressed for two reasons when he drew this post-dated cartoon as 1880 dawned. 1880 would be the last year of Rutherford Hayes’s single-term Presidency, which Nast had suffered through while clashing with his editor, George William Curtis. Once again, it looked as if his political enemy James Blaine would be the probable Republican nominee. That, combined with Curtis’s censorship, comprised his current “vale of tears.”

When Cyril was 10 in 1889, Nast finally published Christmas Drawings for The Human Race, his compilation of 54 cartoons from Harper’s Weekly and Bazar. They were scattered randomly through the pages, and Santa wasn’t seen or mentioned in a dozen of them. However, his tender picture of Cyril as a baby was the first illustration in his book — opposite the title page — and, in retrospect, perhaps the best outward demonstration of how important his family always was to him.