This year is the 80th anniversary of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus. Starting in 1931, magazine ads for Coca-Cola by artist Haddon Sundblom featured St. Nick as a kind, jolly man in a red suit. For inspiration, Sundblom turned to Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Moore’s description of St. Nick led to an image of Santa that was warm, friendly, pleasantly plump and human. For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create his modern image.
The Coca-Cola Santa made its debut in 1931 in The Saturday Evening Post and appeared regularly in that magazine, as well as Ladies Home Journal, National Geographic, The New Yorker and others. The instantly popular ad campaign appeared each season, reflecting the times. From 1931 to 1964, Coca-Cola advertising showed Santa with toys, pausing to read a letter and enjoy a Coke, playing with 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, store displays, billboards, posters, calendars and even plush dolls.
Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman and friend of Sundblom, was the model for Santa using a live model. After Prentiss’ death Sundlblom used himself People loved the Coca-Cola Santa images and paid such close attention to them, that when anything changed, they sent letters to The Coca-Cola Company. One year, Santa’s large belt was backwards. Another year, Santa Claus appeared without a wedding ring, causing fans to write asking what happened to Mrs. Claus. The children who appear with Santa Claus in Haddon Sundlbom’s paintings were based on Sundblom’s neighbors. However, the neighbors were both girls, and Sundblom simply changed one to a boy in his paintings!
To read the whole story of the Coca-Cola Santa from which these excerpts were taken check out: http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/cokelore_santa.html
Tomorrow, Another Coca-Cola Santa Rita Bay