Santa Claus Over Time

Updated on Dec 23, 2019.   Originally added on Dec 22, 2017 by Daniel Pinna
In 1823, the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" - commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" - popularized our current vision of Santa Claus. Based on the life of St. Nicholas (a 4th century Greek saint who was known for his secret gift giving), the "jolly old elf" has in many ways become the very image of Christmas in the West. He's known by many names - Father Christmas, Sinterklaas, Christkind, Kris Kringle, to name a few - but he's always a figure of largesse and the magic of the season.

But we don't have to tell you about Santa - he's been a part of everyone's lives for centuries. How we envision him has changed: he's become rounder and more jolly - but then, haven't we all with time(?!) - yet his spirit endures. Following are some photos/drawings of Santa in the 19th and 20th centuries. Do they portray Santa as you know him?


392 photos

Santa Claus Over Time

Little Mary asked “Are you the real Santa?” in 1949

One of our favorites of Santa

This classic photo was taken around 1895.

A serious conversation


Santa sometimes travels by ship

Hard at work building toys in 1907

1919 - he's left his gifts

In the 20's, Santa used the post office

Using that new fangled invention the telephone . . .

. . . to call Santa - 1890

Who needs reindeer when you’ve got a donkey?

1876 drawing of children getting ready for Santa

1910 - dreaming of Santa, not sugarplums

The cannon is almost hiding Santa!


And in 1897, Santa used the phone

To call for supplies!

Lining up to send their letters to Santa

Santa helps the Salvation Army


Santa was commercialized even as early as 1868

Surrounded by children

Poor Santa - the children mobbed him in 1897

Santa was popular with the ladies in 1902

Moments in Time

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