What Santa Looked Like 100 Years Ago (10 Photos)

Did you ever wonder about what Santa looked like 100 years ago?  We've put together some of our favorite photos of Mr. Claus himself from 1880-1928, right before the Great Depression hit.  We hope you enjoy these vintage Santa photos as much as we enjoyed finding them!

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This is one of the first-known Santa photos from 1880.  As you can see, he was a bit more disorganized than you'd imagine him to be today.  Let's move on to some more photos...

Here is an 1897 stereograph image of Mr. Claus who finds himself in an emergency situation:  he doesn't have the right toys!  So what does he do?  He rings up the North Pole, right away!

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This is taken from a Stereograph photo of Santa in his workshop in 1906.  He's still a bit messy, but it was around this time that the image began to inspire kids to wish big wishes for Christmas!

 

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As much as our research could provide, this image appears to be the first "Sit on Santa's Lap" photo, taken in 1909.  

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The image of Mr. Claus changed dramatically over the years, and some photographers aimed to make him more human-like and less of a fairy tale, as seen in this photo from around 1910.

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Not surprisingly, many companies grasped on to the idea of Santa as a means of helping sell their products.  Here is a view of Santa in 1913 in a small parade that was followed by an early version of the Stanley Steamer!

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On the other end of the spectrum, charities started to embrace Santa as a way of increasing donations.  This 1902 photo shows Santa with his chimney asking for donations for the poor. 

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This 1910 photo shows a somewhat hastily-put-together Santa helping raise money for dinners for the poor in New York City. 

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As photography became more mainstream, the image of Santa caught on and kids began to flock to see him in department stores.  Here he is in 1915 with a crowd of onlookers. 

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This idea of Santa being a kind, charitable person extended in to the 1920s as he delivered gifts and good tidings to those who either felt excluded or were downtrodden.  

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Santa became much more commercialized and popular in the late 1920's at the height of the flapper era.  Santa was the prime feature in all parades, and the reindeer became part of the storyline.  This photo depicts Santa with a popular silent film actress in 1928 as they prepare for a parade.