The 3 Men Who Shaped Santa Claus

Posted on November 08, 2016

Santa Claus… Big jolly guy, red coat, white beard… you know the one – but do you know who, what, when, and why we have this image of Santa Claus…?

The origins of Saint Nick date way back to the 4th Century AD, but that’s another story (read story about History of Saint Nicholas HERE)… this article is concerned with 3 men in particular, who played a massive role in creating the image for the Santa we know and love today.

  1. Clement Clarke Moore

 moore

On December 23rd, 1823, the Troy (NY) Sentinel first published a remarkable 56-line poem titled “A Visit From Saint Nicholas”… more commonly referred to know-days as, The Night Before Christmas, and arguably one of the most well-known verses of American literature ever written.

Though there is some debate over the origins of the poem, it is most commonly accredited to Moore, an esteemed professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, and is considered the first reference to the modern-day Santa Claus. As discussed in our previous blog, Santa’s origins go back centuries to the real-life Saint Nicholas, and have been adapted over the years… but this is the first reference of Santa as a magical, sleigh riding, 8 individually named flying reindeer steering, chimney descending, fur coat wearing, gift sack carrying, non-Priestly, chubby deliverer of joy.

Moore took inspiration from Saint Nicholas and the Dutch Sinterklaas to describe this new-version of Saint Nick, and almost single handily shaped the image of Santa as we know him today.

  1. Thomas Nast

As iconic as Moore’s Santa was, it took another talented New Yorker to fully develop the modern image of Santa. Thomas Nast was a German-born American illustrator, considered to be the “Father of the American Cartoon” – and commissioned in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly to draw Santa Claus.

by Thomas Nast

Nast’s Santa immortalized the character, adding the famous red coat, and depicted Santa for the first time as a North Pole resident, with a naughty and nice list, who received letters from children around the world.

 

  1. Haddon Sundblom 

 Whilst the Moore/Nast’s adaptation of Saint Nick set the standard for Santa as we know him… it was Haddon Sundblom, and Coca-Cola that gave us the most refined depiction of the character.

coca-cola-art_christmas_santa12

Coca-Cola had been drawing images of Santa since the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until Michigan-born Sundblom was commissioned in 1931 to draw Santa for their “thirst knows no-season” campaign that they found the perfect image of Santa. This struck a cord with the public, and Sundblom continued to draw a consistent Santa for over 30 years. In fact, most people today wouldn’t know any other Santa than Sundblom’s.

So there you have it! 3 men you have probably never heard of played an incredibly influential role in shaping an image of a man we all know… Santa Claus.

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