Harper’s Weekly – January 3, 1874
As his children grew older, Nast struggled to keep the mystery of Santa alive for them. Technological improvements like gas lighting enabled middle-class families to stay awake well past sunset. His post-dated 1873 Christmas cover illustration showed a still-smiling Santa waiting on the roof for the children to get to sleep, but an accompanying poem encapsulated his problem.
What! not yet asleep?—No, their voices I hear:
How little they guess their old friend is so near!
I hope they won’t keep me cooped here half the night,
For I’ve a long journey to make before light.
I never had to wait in the old-fashioned days,
Before people put on these new-fangled ways,
When the children were pillowed by daylight’s decline,
And the household was wrapped in sound slumber by nine.
Less seriously, Nast referred to how the introduction of coal heating affected Santa Claus.
And, then, down the wide-throated chimney I’d slip,
With my knapsack in hand, never fearing a trip,
Now dreading to stick in some narrow-mouthed flue,
And break half my presents before I got through;
Two years later, he followed up with:
The sprite that you love is all blackened with soot
Poor Santa Claus’ coat is as black as your boot.