Friday, December 12, 2014

Another Santa assortment from the late 19th century

So, Coca-Cola came up with the fat, jolly, human-looking Santa in 1931, eh?  Riiiight.  In fact, here's our man in a Dec. 11, 1884 Youth's Companion ad, dropping Waterbury pocket watches onto the Earth from a considerable height.  (Imagine the size of the impact craters when those things hit!) Is it just me, or does Santa look like he's about to be gored by one of the rear reindeer?

Next, a more Father Christmas-looking Santa ("tall and wrinkled and gray"), from the children's book, Evening Entertainments (W.B. Conkey, 1899).  Very interesting text, no?  "Your mammas have told you, I have no doubt, Of what the Christmas is all about."  The Christmas??  Anyway, this poem, which connects the Nativity with Saint Nick, sounds like it was written for Cab Calloway:

Regarding Santa and the Nativity, please note that folklorist Jack Santino--a former editor of the Journal of American Folklore, former president of the American Folklore Society, and famed holiday expert--regards Santa Claus as "primarily a Christian tradition" (New Old Fashioned Ways: Holidays and Popular Culture, 1996).  In distinct contrast, I might add, to stand-up comic Tina Dupuy's assertion that Santa is secular as can be.  Now, that's a toughie.  Who do we believe?  The stand-up comic or the scholar?  Hmm.

While we're pondering that, here's a rendering of Santa, sleigh, and reindeer from the same collection.  To my eyes, this could easily pass for a Mike Peters cartoon:

No date on this next kiddie publication (below), but I'm guessing late 1800s/early 1900s,  As you can see, my copy's had a rough existence (not at my hands!), but anything this cheaply made and this old has beaten the odds by having survived at all, though collectors fussier than me may debate the "having survived" part.  Still, way too cool to consider tossing out:

We see, as ever, a 19th century Santa Claus instantly recognizable as same by modern eyes, but the really interesting thing is the amazing structure below the clouds, labeled "Santa Claus' Home."  Notice the Turkish look of the architecture?  Given St. Nicholas' place of origin, that makes perfect sense.  Here's a lovingly restored (with Paint) close-up:

Also interesting is the possessive apostrophe after "Santa Claus."  By modern standards, this is amazing on two counts: 1) it was used at all, and 2) it was used correctly--i.e. after, not before, the s.  You know we're looking at another era's work.  Today, this structure would be labeled "Santa Claus Home."   

Just inside the cover (after a filler page) is this cheaply printed but quite cool color illustration of our gift-bearing fireplace visitor, as fat and human-looking as he gets.  If he's not looking too jolly in this shot, maybe it's because he's deep in thought, wondering, at he looks at the slender chimney shaft, why he didn't bring Plastic Man along for back-up.

Same book--an illustration for the short narrative poem, "Santa Claus," which includes this gem:
Now, of toys he had no lack: 
They were carried on his back 
In a sack."

Santa leaves presents for everyone but Lazy Joe, whose stocking has a hole in it.  The hole being a violation of Santa/client policy, I guess.

And here's Kris--er, Kriss--Kringle, looking nothing like the Austrian and German Christkind, a.k.a. Christ Child, the gift-bearer often portrayed as a blonde female angel in get-up similar to that of the Good Witch in the 1939 Wizard of Oz.  (Follow that?  Me, neither.)  Anyway, this is a new depiction on me.  Google Images is no help--for "Kriss Kringle," it just gives me images from Miracle on 34th Street.  Why Kriss looks like a hobo here, I have no idea.  But he's certainly fat and jolly, and that's one big white beard:

With the exception of Kriss, every one of this post's Santas passes the Coca-Cola test.  (No, I'm not referring to the nail-left-in-the-glass-of-Coke experiment.)


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