What’s the History of Santa Clause?

Santa Clause appears in a red suit with his easily recognizable long white beard every Christmas thanks to the creativity of illustrator Haddon Sundblom.

Greetings and Happy Holidays to you! Did you know that Santa Claus – jolly old Saint Nick, didn’t always wear his bright red suit prior to 1931? History shows during the Civil War, cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly, which showed “a small elflike figure who supported the Union.” And this elf was all in brown! In fact, Nast continued drawing Santa for some 30 years and he continually changed the color of his coat from brown to red, which he wears today.

However, the Santa Claus known today as jolly and wholesome sporting a giant white beard was actually born in 1931 from a Coca-Cola ad campaign! That’s right – Santa morphed into that very recognizable character appearing every Christmas from Coca-Cola ads! In 1931, “the company began placing Coca-Cola ads in popular magazines. Archie Lee, the D’Arcy Advertising Agency executive working with The Coca-Cola Company, wanted the campaign to show a wholesome Santa who was both realistic and symbolic. So, Coca-Cola commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising illustrated images using Santa Claus — showing Santa himself, not a man dressed as Santa.”

And for his inspiration, “Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas, (commonly called (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of a warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human Santa. And even though it’s often said that Santa wears a red coat because red is the color of Coca-Cola, Santa appeared in a red coat before Sundblom painted him. Sundblom’s Santa debuted in 1931 in Coke ads in The Saturday Evening Post and appeared regularly in that magazine, as well as in Ladies Home JournalNational GeographicThe New Yorker and others.”

And history documents “from 1931 to 1964, Coca-Cola advertising showed Santa delivering toys and playing with them! Pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, visiting with the children who stayed up to greet him, and raiding the refrigerators at a number of homes. The original oil paintings Sundblom created were adapted for Coca-Cola advertising in magazines and on store displays, billboards, posters, calendars and plush dolls. Many of those items today are popular collectibles.”

It was in 1964 when Haddon Sundblom created his final painting of Santa Claus. However, Coca-Cola continued featuring Sundblom’s original works in their advertising. These historic paintings are “some of the most prized pieces in the art collection in the company’s archives department and have been on exhibit around the world, in famous locales including the Louvre in Paris, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Isetan Department Store in Tokyo, and the NK Department Storein Stockholm. Many of the original paintings can be seen on display at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.”


If you see any sick or injured manatees, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.

Here’s the Save the Manatee Club link to learn more about us manatees …


Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …


~ Robert Scott Thayer

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