Saturday, December 06, 2014

No, our modern image of Santa Claus did not originate with Coca-Cola in 1931

Snopes has an excellent piece debunking the ridiculous myth that Coca-Cola invented our modern image of Santa Claus, but I thought I'd add to it with an assortment of pre-Coca-Cola images that show a fat, jolly guy in a red suit long before Coke "invented" the tradition in its ads.  Not that mere facts have the power to put so much as a dent in the the hull of received horse hockey, but it's the principle of the thing.

Coca-Cola itself claims to have come up with the "image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa."  Gee, too bad Little Corporal cartoonist "W.O.C." didn't think of that way back in 1869:


Or Julius Bien & Co., when they made this postcard way back in 1908:


And what, pray tell, is warm, friendly, or 4XL about this circa-1909 image?


Circa 1909

Or this one, from the same period (postmarked 1908)?

Circa 1908

Here's another one, also postmarked 1908, which loudly and clearly makes the case that a fat, friendly, and human-looking Santa originated with Coca-Cola in 1931,  Why, this skinny, clean-shaven lout looks like someone who would drop stink bombs down the chimney and film the resulting panic with his Smartphone, laughing all the while:

Circa 1908

Thanks goodness Coca-Cola came through with a plumper, kinder Santa in 1931.  The world was waiting for one.  Oh, by the way, and to its limited credit, Coke doesn't claim to have come up with the red suit, though I don't see why not.  If they're going to take credit for the fat, jolly, and human-looking aspects, why not toss in the suit color?

While we're on the subject of Santa postcards, here's a circa-1910s card which appears to combine Santa with the Norse god Thor (and vice versa).  Actually, as you may already know, Thor is regarded as one of the many Santa sources.  Red suit, white beard, chimney, etc.  The guy we know as Santa is actually any number of mythical figures.  All of them invented by Coke.


Santa Thor


1 comment:

Aging Child said...

Thank you for the seasonal education, Lee - it's amazing what you pull out of your vaults! Didn't the German-American cartoonist Tomas Nast also influence some of the later nineteenth-century illustrations of Santa Claus? (I'm going by memory; will have to research it further myself.)

Also: a few years back, you gave us your own recording of the very-different, 1872 setting of "One-Horse Open Sleigh". Are there other carols in your sheet-music vault that were played/sung differently by the Victorians and Edwardians? If so, would you maybe be able to give us an earful?

Thank you as always, good sir; best wishes to you and Bev and your lovely catherd!

Merry Christmas Season!
A. Gene Childe