What better way to celebrate Christmas, than with one of the Nineteenth Century’s real Scrooges — monopolist & stock market manipulator William H. Vanderbilt — performing a hostile corporate takeover of the North Pole, and displacing that red-suited socialist Santa Claus with a Kringle who understands how the “free”-market is better when controlled, manipulated, and best of all — not given away for “Free!”
And so, as our Christmas gift to you, we resume our presentation of artist Charles Jay Taylor‘s 1881-82 series of sequential comic strip adventures starring William Vanderbilt (for previous episodes, click here). Today’s installment — the eleventh strip in the series — is William H. as Santa Claus, published on the front page of the December 15th, 1882 issue of the (New York) Daily Graphic. The subject matter being poked at here, is that Vanderbilt, who controlled the train & subway systems of New York City, temporarily reduced the cost of a train fare to five cents for the holidays, and so was being parodied as a miser-Santa Claus (at this point, I guess, he’d already done so much bad, that he just couldn’t win with cartoonists or the public).
Click on the below pictures, to open versions large enough to read.
In the First Panel above, we see W.H. dressed as Santa Claus, entering a bedroom via the chimney, awakening/frightening fellow stock market manipulator Russell Sage. Sage exclaims, “Look here now, Bill, you can’t Nickel Plate me. Git!” Vanderbilt responds, “Well, if I don’t, Russell, Old Nick’ll plate you.”
In Panel Two, Vanderbilt points to a Christmas stocking, into which he’s stuffed “XMas: The Public B–” (in reference to his infamous “The Public Be Damned!” comment of two months earlier), adding, “I think the public got all they want this Xmas.”
Panel Three — referencing Vanderbilt’s famous Sept 1882 NYC horse race, we see Vanderbilt/Santa Claus attempting to gift his horse with “Condition Powder for Fast Time”, to which his (talking) horse tells him, “That won’t do me any good, Bill. If you want fast time don’t send me on the circuit — give me a private trial and let Eastman time me.”
Panel Four, in a double-reference to the horse race against rival Frank Work, and Vanderbilt’s train fare change, W.H.V. Claus is shown attempting to get his two race horses up to speed — “Get Up! You darling little reindeers — Santa Claus has got to get around among the boys this Xmas if it takes all Summer. Maybe my team don’t get along as quick in the same time as Work’s, but mine cost more.”
In Panel Five, Vanderbilt Claus, with his sack and brandishing shears, peeks over a wall labeled “Wall Street”, speaking to a group of lambs (Wall Street lingo for naive investors/suckers, to be sheared/swindled — click here for reference), saying to them, “Boys what you want this beautiful Holiday are overcoats. Might I suggest a Nickel Plater.” One lamb replies, “Lake Shore preferred, Bill.” (Lake Shore was one of Vanderbilt’s rail lines.) Another lamb, in reference to the practice of “watering stock” by falsely inflating its value with junk when selling it, says, “No more water in mine, William.”
Panel Six again refers to Vanderbilt’s “The Public Be Damned!” comment (made on a Chicago-bound train), while Panel Seven depicts W.H. as Capitalist Claus, stating “Talk about the Old Santa Claus making dolls, why I made 20,000,000 dolls” (meaning dollars) “myself this year. I always bring back my bag full while the other Claus empties his. Ta, ta!”
The large central panel depicts W.H. carrying a sack of “nickel plates” (his five cent train fares), a topic C.J. Taylor would take aim at again three days later, in the below December 18th, 1882 Daily Graphic cartoon.
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