The Father of Santa Claus, Thomas Nast

This post was authored by Rachel Nelson, SCUA Social Media Assistant for Fall 2021.

The rosy-cheeked, cigar smoking, round and jolly rendition of Santa Claus we are all familiar with today can be credited to none other than Thomas Nast. Nast is best known for his political cartoons from the late 1800s, and is also accredited to popularizing the donkey and elephant symbols to represent the Democrat and Republican parties. Nast’s political influence was vast in the United States, with our records showing that President Abraham Lincoln called the artist “our best recruiting sergeant” and Ulysses Grant stated “he did as much as any man to preserve the Union and bring the war to an end.” While writing political cartoons for Harper’s Weekly in the 1860s, Nast began a yearly tradition of including Santa Claus and Christmas related art that caught on just as rapidly as his political cartoons.

Colorized sketch of Santa Claus by Thomas Nast, can be found here

SCUA houses the volume The Christmas drawings of Thomas Nast, a compilation of nearly all Nast’s Santa Claus and Christmas illustrations from Harper’s Weekly available for viewing. Throughout Nast’s illustrations are small allusions to the Civil War, politics, and political figures. Below are some highlights from the collection, but stop by SCUA to view Nast’s art in its entirety and to spot all the hidden references!

Iowa and Japan as Partners in Agriculture

Beginning this March, a series of events will mark the 50th anniversary of agricultural cooperation between Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan and Iowa (for some of these, see the Partners in Agriculture website).  2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the Iowa hog lift (see below for more), the establishment of the Iowa-Yamanashi sister state relationship and the founding of the U.S. Grains Council.

The pigs arrive at Tokyo International Airport.

In 1959 Yamanashi prefecture had experienced two typhoons in less than a month, devastating agricultural production in the region.  An Iowan working in public relations for the U.S. Air Force in Tokyo, Master Sergeant Richard Thomas, thought that sending pigs from Iowa to the prefecture might help the agricultural industry in the area.  Sergeant Thomas’ idea came to fruition in January 1960 when 36 meat breeding hogs (one died along the way), donated by Iowa farmers, were flown to Japan on a plane provided by the U.S. Air Force.

Sergeant Thomas viewing the pigs he helped bring to Japan.

The Special Collections Department is lucky to hold the papers of one of the participants in the hog lift event, Walter Goeppinger, then president of the newly created National Corn Growers Association.  Goeppinger was an important supporter and chairman of the project.  His collection (RS 21/7/34) contains a scrapbook given to him by the Yamanashi Governor, Hisashi Amano.  The scrapbook includes photographs of the prefecture before the typhoons, damages from the flooding, celebrations of the hog lift, and images of the pigs in Yamanashi.  The collection also contains materials from Walter Goeppinger’s time as president of the National Corn Growers Association.  Included is the Association’s newsletter, National Corn Letter.  When paging through these newsletters, one can find brief articles which document the relationship between the Association and Japan, brought about in large part as a result of the hog lift.

First page of scrapbook.

To the left is the first page of the scrapbook given to Walter Goeppinger by Yamanashi’s Governor Amano.   At the top left is a copy of the letter written to Iowa’s Governor Loveless from Governor Amano.  In it, Governor Amano thanks Governor Loveless and the people of Iowa for their generosity after Yamanashi’s typhoons and the devastating floods which followed.  The photograph is of the Prefecture Building and the gathering of Yamanashi representatives to greet Iowa’s Goodwill Ambassador.

For a more complete description of Walter W. Goeppinger’s Papers, please visit the online finding aid, RS 21/7/34.

Images from the Burchett Papers

Below are a few images from the Burchett Papers (MS-355) described in the previous post.  Hopefully it will be remembered next time to include images with the original text!

Wayne Burchett, 10 years old, in the spring of 1930 with his first 4-H Hereford calf which was shown at the Iowa State Fair. Records related to the cattle on the farm can be found in the cattle and farm operations folders.

This is the original Orval and Alice Burchett homestead where Wayne grew up.

Showing the compassion and helpfulness which continues to this day among Iowa farmers, this image shows a group of neighbors and friends (the Burchetts included) coming to together to help their neighbor Mary Palmer harvest her family’s corn crop soon after her husband had died.

It is always fun to find images of Iowa State in the manuscript collections outside of the University Archives records.  Here is a group of 4Hers at a state convention, standing outside of Friley Residence Hall.  At least one of Wayne and Gayle’s daughters are probably in the photograph, since both were members and Gayle was a 4H leader for the Richland Ridge Runners.  A folder related to the family’s 4H activities and Cathy Burchett’s record books are included in the collection.

This is an interesting little cookbook that was given out to brides by the Merchants of Bakersfield (based in California). It’s unclear who this originally belonged to, but the book was published around the end of World War I. Inside is a copy of a 1918 endorsement written by the Home Economics Department of the United States Food Administration for California certifying that the recipes follow food conservation principles, allowing the housewife to perform her patriotic duty.

The poem on the cover reads:
We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without consciences and live without hearts.
We may live without friends, we may life without books;
But civilized men cannot live without cooks.
-Owen Meredith

For more information on the Wayne O. and Gayle Carns Burchett Papers, please see the finding aid on the Special Collections webpage.

Wayne O. and Gayle Carns Burchett Papers

For my first post, I would like to describe a new collection I was recently able to process.  One of the main collecting areas of our department are collections related to agriculture and rural life, and this collection is related to both.  The Wayne O. and Gayle Carns Burchett Papers contain records related to the Burchett and Carns families going back to the middle of the 19th century.  Wayne Burchett’s grandparents purchased land outside of Grand River, Iowa in 1890.  The ranch was designated as a century farm in 1990.

Although it is a relatively small collection (1.93 linear feet), it is amazing how so many details of a family’s history can be told within those several dozen folders.  The collection includes diaries of various family members, documents of the farm’s cattle and general operations, account books, clippings describing the electrification of the rural area, genealogical and marriage records, and the 4H record books of one of Wayne and Gayle’s daughters.  A unique document in the collection, although the most recently created (by one of Wayne and Gayle’s daughters), is a description of the item’s contents which contains the author’s memories related to those documents.  This item, at least for me, brings the collection and the family’s history even more alive.

For more information on this collection, please take a look at the collection’s finding aid/description of the collection.  If you are interested in finding out what other agriculture and rural life related collections are held in the department, please check out our subject guides and manuscript collections subject listings.

Welcome to the Special Collection’s blog!

Welcome to the blog of Iowa State University’s Special Collections Department!  The blog will share relevant updates and news on the department, information on new collections and finding aids, highlights from our collections and items such as artifacts and rare books, reports on current and ongoing projects, and other items of potential interest.

%d bloggers like this: