Santa’s dashing appearance in an 1868 candy ad

He looks a lot like the modern-day Santa Claus: red coat, whiskers, a sled pulled by reindeer. (That pipe, of course, has been erased.)

This 1868 sugar plum advertisement featuring Santa appeared five years after Harper’s illustrator Thomas Nast famously reinvented the image of St. Nicholas from the “jolly old elf” in Clement Clark Moore’s poem to a grandfather-like guy in a red suit.

The US Confection Company, headquartered on West Broadway, wisely chose Santa to help shill their sugar plums—and Santa’s image has been used to sell products to children and adults ever since.

The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910 has lots more about how New Yorkers invented the contemporary Christmas: the first public park tree lighting happened in Madison Square Park, electric lights were invented by a New Yorker, and the department stores of Ladies Mile claim the first holiday window displays.


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9 Responses to “Santa’s dashing appearance in an 1868 candy ad”

  1. Zoé Says:

    I forgot He had a pipe! Thanks for reminding us Ephemeral. I think it was even in my older brother’s Golden Book (publisher) of The Night Before Christmas – which was probably from the 50s.

    He really should have the scent of the pipe to accompany Him.

    Your book is on my list for Santa this year. We shall see if He brings it ❤

  2. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    My friend Robert ‘Bob’ Palmer was the 40yr long, award-winning cartoonist for ‘The Springfield News & Leader ‘ newspaper (Spfd, Mo.). As a child, Palmer had gone to church camp and made friends with one of the much older lads. (I do not know the time nor location.) He was invited home with the youth. Upon entering the family dwelling, the young Bob Palmer took note of the vast amount of fascinating artwork adorning the house. The older lad explained his Grandfather had been an artist. As their friendship grew, the Grandfather’s name was finally mentioned: THOMAS NAST!

    Nast ‘Americanized’ Father Christmas, oft shown wearing a long coat with a hood and a thin body in European illustrations. Then came the big difference! He transformed tdrawings if he character into a plump, happy version we in the U.S. know as Santa Claus,

    Nast also was prolific in doing political cartooning. He drew a TIGER to represent Tammany Hall, where there was much smoke ‘n turmoil; He also created the emblems (still in use today) of the ELEPHANT for the G.O.P. (Grand Old Party) Republicans and a DONKEY for the Democrats.

    Amongst his many Christmas themed images is one of the head of a young girl with an arc of holly decoratively frame’n one side her. It is often incorrectly described as: ‘The Christ Child’. It is, however, actually a commissioned portrait of the young daughter of the remarkable Colorado personality, Horace Tabor and his wife, the famous beauty, ‘Baby Doe.’ Tabor was the owner of the ‘Matchless Mine’. The child’s name was an interesting choice: ‘Silver Dollar Tabor.’

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Nast created so many of the images still used today, but his name isn’t as widely known as it should be. Thanks to Nast’s famous cartoons of Boss Tweed, he was recognized in Spain and returned to the US after fleeing the country to escape corruption charges!

  3. Ricky Says:

    What, exactly, is a sugar plum confection?

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    “A sugar plum is a piece of dragée or hard candy made of hardened sugar in a small round or oval shape,” per Wikipedia.

    “‘Plum’ in the name of this confection does not mean plum in the sense of the fruit of the same name, but referred to small size and spherical or oval shape.”

    So basically a hard ball of sugar.

  5. William Kraose Says:

    Your reports on olden days Santa Claus figures impress me. They also remind me of a go-cart I was once given, a beloved hand-me-down toy I knew as an “Irish Mail.” It had 4 wheels & was steered by pushing on the front axle—left or right side—with one’s feet.
    Its outstanding feature: one propelled it by rowing on a strap that went around the front axle—and its speed was cumulative—the more one rowed, the faster it could go. ( I don’t remember any brakes, but surely. . ..) A ground-propelled missile.
    Q: Does it sound familiar & do I have its correct name?

  6. Ricky Says:

    Thanks Ephemeral! You’re the best.

  7. Zoé Says:

    Have a lovely holiday everyone! xxx

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