TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Okay, so we have a question for you; when you picture Santa what do you see? Obviously the red coat, the hat and the big beard.
But, what about Coco-Cola and Santa?
“You know when we think of Santa we don’t necessarily think of Coca-Cola,” explained Marylee Hagan, executive director at the Vigo County Historical Society. “However, in the 1930’s the Coco-Cola Company wanted an image of a Santa Clause to use in their advertisements.”
The company used several artists to try and capture the perfect image of their new salesman. But it wasn’t until one American illustrator put his brush to canvas that they found their new image of Santa.
“So, they hired a gentleman, a Mr. Haddon Sandblom. And he for years did the Coco-Cola ads the ones that everyone is always so excited to see every year,” Hagan continued. And until the 1960’s he was still producing images of Santa Clause for Coco-Cola Company.”
Now, there are hundreds of illustrations and versions of Old Saint Nick. So, what makes this version so special?
“There are many versions of Santa Clause dating back to the 17th and 18th century. But, this Santa Clause seems to have been the one that grabbed the hearts of the people in his jolly appearance – the Jolly old elf he was called. And that is the image people have when they think of Santa.”
And when we say this image of Santa Clause was used extensively over the years, we mean it.
“Calendars. The Coke bottles, these famous ones that look like ornaments. Christmas ornaments for their tree…” Hagan showed us.
This version of Santa Clause was so popular you could even find it on the back of National Geographic and you could get an entire set of glasses at McDonald’s.
“So, he is just about everywhere during the holiday season that ‘Jolly Old Elf’ – Mr. Santa Clause.”
Now, some may be wondering how this ties in to our Vigo County history? Well, they don’t have an entire room at the Vigo County Historical Museum for just any reason.
“The reason is that the Coke bottle itself was born in Terre Haute and we want the world to know that this is the birth place of that iconic bottle,” Hagan said. “So we of course feature the bottle in all of our displays at the museum.”
If you haven’t been to the historical museum located at 1411 South 6th Street here in Terre Haute – make sure you go check it out. As you can imagine, you will find plenty of Coke products to look at – especially some featuring a familiar Santa this time of year.
You can find more information on the Vigo County Historical Society Museum by visiting their Facebook page or their website! Remember, they are still working hard to make it to their funding goal for the new History Center. So if you are interested in donating, check out that link.