Published by William B. Gilley in 1821, “The Children’s Friend. Number III. A New-Year’s Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve”, is believed to be the first book published in America to include lithographic illustrations. This book includes a poem about “Santeclaus” along with eight colored illustrations.
However, what makes this book significant is the poem and illustrations are thought to be the earliest known visual representation of Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. The poem also marks Santa’s first appearance on Christmas Day rather than December 6, the feast day of St. Nicholas.
The Children’s Friend. Number III.
A New-Year’s Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve
by William B. Gilley, 1821
Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimney tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.
The steady friend of virtuous youth,
The friend of duty, and of truth,
Each Christmas eve he joys to come
Where love and peace have made their home”
Through many houses he has been,
And various beds and stockings seen,
Some, white as snow, and neatly mended,
Others, that seem’d for pigs intended.
Where e’er I found good girls or boys,
That hated quarrels, strife and noise,
Left an apple, or a tart,
Or wooden gun, or painted cart;
To some I gave a pretty doll,
To some a peg-top, or a ball;
No crackers, cannons, squibs, or rockets,
To blow their eyes up, or their pockets.
No drums to stun their Mother’s ear,
Nor swords to make their sisters fear;
But pretty books to store their mind
With knowledge of each various kind.
But where I found the children naughty,
In manners rude, in temper haughty,
Thankless to parents, liars, swearers,
Boxers, or cheats, or base tale-bearers,
I left a long, black, birchen rod,
Such as the dread command of God
Directs a Parent’s hand to use
When virtue’s path his sons refuse