Country Living (USA)

How Santa Found His Jolly

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Santa didn’t al­ways look so plump and rosy-cheeked. In early de­pic­tions, he ranged from a mis­chievous elf to a gaunt bishop. Here’s how the big guy you know and love came to be.

We Can Thank Coca-Cola

Santa Claus has been a sta­ple of Coca-Cola’s hol­i­day ad­ver­tis­ing since the 1920s, but it was in 1931 that an ad exec’s de­sire for a friend­lier ver­sion of Santa would lead to chang­ing the way the world would for­ever vi­su­al­ize every­one’s fa­vorite gift-bear­ing man. Com­mis­sioned with the task, il­lus­tra­tor Haddon Sund­blom looked to Cle­ment Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from St. Ni­cholas” and his de­pic­tion of a warm, jolly, and de­light­fully plump St. Nick for in­spi­ra­tion. Us­ing his friend as the model, he then cre­ated the cheery man that is now syn­ony­mous with the name Santa.

Nor­man Rock­well’s Art Was Re­jected

In 1935, one of the best known il­lus­tra­tors of Amer­i­can life, Nor­man Rock­well, pitched his own ver­sion of the new, jolly Santa, but Coke de­cided to stick with Sund­blom.

An Orig­i­nal Coca-Cola Santa Can Bag Up to $50,000!

Vin­tage Coca-Cola Santa items of all types con­tinue to be pop­u­lar col­lectibles, but it’s the orig­i­nal art­works that Sund­blom cre­ated from 1931–1964 that bring top dol­lar. Dur­ing a 2014 episode of An­tiques Road­show, David Weiss ap­praised this orig­i­nal 1965 Sund­blom il­lus­tra­tion (above) at $30,150–$50,200!

See more of the evo­lu­tion of the Coca-Cola Santa at coca-co­la­com­pany.com.

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