Friday, December 16, 2005

The Politically Incorrent Santa #2

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was a famous political cartoonist who invented such immediately recognizeable images as the Democrat Donkey, the Republican Elephant, and the lean, goateed Uncle Sam. When he died, Harper's Weekly called him the "Father of American Caricature." He was also largely responsible for the American concept of Santa's appearance as rotund and pipe-smoking.

In this image created in 1881, Santa is enjoying a long-stemmed clay in the fashion of the Dutch tavern pipe. The tavern pipe, like all clays, originated in the truly olden days of pipe smoking, before briar was discovered to be a wood apparently created by God just for smoking pipes. This pipe was called the tavern pipe because each table in a tavern would have a few of these pipes lying on it. When a patron wished to smoke, he would simply break off the last inch or so of stem, so that he would be putting a clean stem-end in his mouth. When the stem became too short, the pipe was discarded and replaced. Of course, if you own your own tavern pipe, or any other clay for that matter, such precautions are unnecessary and one may enjoy his or her pipe indefinitely.

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