In the Christian faith, the Christmas Holiday commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. In the secular world, Christmas is celebrated with a degree of commercialism with traditions that originated in the celebrations of the Roman and pre-christian eras. These winter solstice celebrations were often characterized by the use of candles and evergreen trees, much like we are familiar with today.
An 19th Century St. Nick.
Enter Mr. Sundblom.
In 1931,Michigan born artist Haddon Sundblom Americanized the thinner, gaunt and more pious view of Saint Nicholas from previous centuries in Europe and early America. Through his wonderful painting style, Sundblom turned him into a child friendly, plump and jolly, Coca-Coca marketing Santa Claus. These iconic Santa illustrations from 1931 to 1964 for Coca-Cola are still in use today, very popular with collectors, and have influenced today's popular view of the Holiday arguably more than any other single source.
1941 Window Display
Haddon "Sunny" Sundblom, one of the most prominent American illustrators of the early 20th century, was born in Muskegon, Michigan in 1899. He left school when he was thirteen to help out the family after his mother passed away. Later he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art, opening his own illustration studio under the name of Sundblom and Anderson on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Mr. Sundblom sees Santa in the mirror.
In addition to his fame as the originator of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, he is also responsible for painting the popular Sprite Boy Coca-Cola mascot in 1945 for Archie Lee, an executive at D’Arcy Advertising Agency, and creating the artwork for the Quaker Oats man. Other clients included Nabisco, Maxwell House, Palmolive, and Colgate. He also illustrated numerous popular magazines of the day. In 1987 Haddon Sundblom was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, eleven years after his death in 1976.
Below are a few of the many Santa illustrations he created for Coca-Cola.
May everyone stay safe this Christmas Holiday, and may you all get a special Coke item from Santa!