Monday, December 20, 2021

Must be Santa

Santa and Coke: inseparable for over 90 years!
This 1950 Coke ad is one of many iconic images of the man in the red suit with his Coke.

Illustrator Haddon Sundblom created the most famous Coke-Santa ads, beginning around 1930. Before these ads, there were many different popular images of Santa -- including the chubby man in a red suit, but also skinny Santas with other types of clothing. Most of the description of Santa, his beard, his sleigh, and his reindeer, had in fact appeared in the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” published in 1823. The Coke ads reinforced this Santa image, which has lasted ever since. However, despite frequent claims — Coke didn't invent our Santa.

In 1930, Santa drank a coke at the soda fountain in the Famous-Barr department store in St.Louis.
As I grew up in St.Louis I remember the store (but not the soda fountain). The illustrator here: Fred Mizen.

But wait... Was Coke always Santa's favorite beverage?

In 1915, Santa had a different favorite: White Rock Sparkling Water.
Here he is in an ad from the San Francisco Examiner.

By 1916, Santa was flying a biplane -- with more White Rock!

In the 1920s, Santa liked whiskey with his White Rock Ginger Ale!
This ad appeared in a comic magazine called "Life" -- a predecessor of the better known Life.
Did it occur to you that Prohibition started in 1920? Santa's booze must have been bootleg.

Another White Rock Santa ad from the 1920s. Before Coke!

Ho, ho, ho, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that's red
Special night, beard that's white
Must be Santa, must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

-- Song by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks. 

For more Santa history see "Was Coca-Cola the first..." and "Meet Haddon Sundblom..." I'm sharing these vintage ads with the weekly blog event hosted by Elizabeth.


Divers and Sundry said...

The history of our current Santa figure is interesting, isn't it! I didn't know about the Santa ads for beverages other than coke. Fun!

Happy T Day!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

How fun! I was definitely one who was in error thinking Coca Cola "invented" the image we know today. Most interesting. Have to laugh at the bootleg-swilling Santa! I wonder what happened to White Rock? I've never heard of it.

Jenn Jilks said...

Poor Santa. Exploited for years!

Carola Bartz said...

I really had to laugh about the bootleg Santa! Naughty or nice...

kathyinozarks said...

Hi Mae, I really loved this post-and I remember many of these Santa ads-I did not know about the sparkling water and whiskey ads though-great post Happy T Kathy

Linda Kunsman said...

Love it Mae! And I have printed copies of these Santa and Coca Cola ads by Haddon Sundblom on 2 sets of coasters I use over the holidays;)
Happy T day, and holiday wishes too!

Sharon Madson said...

HO, Ho, Ho! Love this! Merry Christmas!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I was amazed at the history of Santa before Coke. He sure looks like the one in my Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore. This is a great way to show Santa and his favorite drink over the years, Mae. Thanks for sharing this with us for T this almost Tuesday. Happy holidays, too.

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

Maybe we need to leave a wee dram out for Santa in future? Lovely collection in your blog post.

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, what happened to milk and cookies?
It was...1998 or such, I was studying in Hildesheim - we all went into the heart of the city and there they came - loud music, lights, so many lights, four Coca Cola trucks slowly passing through - it was.... WOW. A little bit of magic indeed.

Valerie-Jael said...

Fun post! Happy Holidays, Valerie

nwilliams6 said...

Mae, some fab old ads - such great Santa pictures too. Wonderful post to share for the holidays. Your takes on T-day are always a delight - thanks for them. Happy holidays and hugz.

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

Brings back memories- I do remember the Haddon Sundblom look of Santa in the Advertising. I'm thinking billboards maybe?

My name is Erika. said...

It's fascinating that our modern Santa did ads before Coke. I think we have just been overwhelmed with Santa and Coke ads for so many decades that it's easy to think Coke invented Santa. Thanks for sharing these Mae. Have a wonderful T day and week ahead. I don't know if you also celebrate Christmas, but if you do, hope it is Merry. hugs-Erika

CJ Kennedy said...

Such a fun post! Happy T Day!

Lisca said...

A fun and very Christmassy blog post.
I knew Santa's image came from the poem and as that poem is American, that image of Santa is typical American. In Europe of course we are copying this image, but historically there were other Santa images.
Interesting about the 'bootleg' Santa. And a bi-plane in 1916! What a thoroughly modern Santa!
Greetings from sunny Spain,
Merry Christmas and a very happy and healthy 2022.

Jackie McGuinness said...

The soda fountain Santa is gorgeous!

Darla said...

Thanks for the bit of history and the great Santa graphics. I suppose I must have seen Santa/Coke ads but I've never mentally associated him with such.

DVArtist said...

Wonder post. Where on earth did you find these? I didn't know Santa was a whisky drinker. LOL Have a great evening.

Empire of the Cat said...

How interesting, I've never seen any of these before, thanks for sharing them. I would guess that Santa would be a whiskey drinker - people in cold climates need warm spirits lol. Festive Wishes and Happy T Day Elle/EOTC xx

Soma @ said...

A wonderful post. Great seeing the vintage adverts. I wonder what Santa's real choice of beverage is :D

Happy Holidays,

Anne (cornucopia) said...

Great Santas. Happy Holidays!