Of all the Santas of all time here are my top three, and the guys who drew them.
My all time fave is Haddon “Sunny” Sundblom’s Coca-Cola Santa. He would be in print ads in all major mags all through my childhood, and, I discovered, way before that. This Santa wasn’t just jolly, but in charge. Like a CEO. The very image of Big Cola-cum-America. Rich, smart, benevolent. Oiy. Anyway. You felt if you asked for trains, you damn well would get trains. And they would arrive on time. BTW: The Quaker Oats man is Sunny’s too.
Next is Norman Rockwell. Santa to him was yet another American myth he would put his stamp on. This one is sweeter, more elfin, like the rest of his world. Benign, warm, nurturing. That’s the America he wanted. Wars were good wars. People essentially strove for a Jeffersonian civil society, sublimating personal animus for greater communitarian and spiritual ends. His Santa is another piece of that Frank Capra, Aaron Copeland world. Never saw a lump of coal in his life.
Tommy Nast is our Pop. Our bloodiest and most successful caricaturist, he developed Santa Claus into the character we know. First used in large emblematic cartoons in wartime (the Civil War) to entertain the troops in the pages of his Harper’s Weekly, his Santa survived into the more sedate and mercantile ‘80’s. It didn’t take long for Santa to move out of the battlefield and into the boardrooms.
From me and all my toons to you and yours, a great holiday and new year. And Peace.