The legend of Santa Claus dates back to the 4th century, but it was 19th century New Yorkers, including John Pintard, Washington Irving, Clement Clark Moore, and Thomas Nast, who are most responsible for the images of Santa as he's known today. In fact, it was Pintard who first proposed Saint Nicholas as the city's patron saint. Washington Irving followed, popularizing the character in his 1809 Knickerbocker's History of New York. Finally, it was the work of Clement Clark Moore with his 1822 An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and Thomas Nast's illustrations of a red-suited elderly man from the North Pole who came to life in Harper's Weekly.
"Times Square" (1960), by Frank Paulin. © Frank Paulin Archive, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY; Museum of the City of New York