For many, when we think of Santa Claus we see a certain picture. That picture has for many years been attributed to the advertisements used by Coca Cola. Created by Haddon Sundblom from the 1930s into the 1950s, these classic illustrations have taken on immortal status and are loved the world over. They are given credit as being what truly standardized the image of Santa Claus forever, giving him the red suit and white trim in reflection to the trademark colors of the company.
In fact, that is just not the case. The real modernization of Santa Claus goes back a few years before Coca Cola. In fact, as early as the 1860s illustrator Thomas Nast was honing the image of Santa Claus. He placed him in a red fur suit with fur trim based on the images conveyed by Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas.” The red color by the time the famous Sundblom pictures appeared was established. As was the white trim as evidenced in both early cinema and art.
So, claims regarding Coca Cola as being the first to create this image of Santa are false. In fact, Coca Cola was not even the first soft drink to use the famous image of Santa Claus. That distinction goes to White Rock Beverages, which was founded in 1871 by H.M Colver in Waukesha, Wisconsin. White Rock first used the image of Santa Claus created by an unknown artist to advertise mineral water was published in 1915 showing Santa in a truck filled with cases of White Rock, followed in 1923 by advertisements for the company’s popular ginger ale. It is apparent that White Rock Beverages used the commercial appeal of Santa Claus with gusto. It would take another 16 years for Coca Cola to find the same appeal.
Though the myth of Coca Cola being the first to use Santa Claus is debunked we all can agree that the images created by Sundblom are incredible. These images have been shown all over the world and to this day are beloved by generations. In the end it matters little who truly was the first to commercialize Santa for the sake of soda pop. We can all be grateful that Santa was willing to model for both White Rock and Coca Cola.