Changing style of Santa Claus depicted in stamps, postcards

December 22nd, 2010

Just as the history and concept of Santa Claus has evolved throughout the years, so has the idea of what he looks like and his style of dress.

John Wright of Ocean Springs, a longtime collector of gems and postage stamps, has developed a collection of antique postcards that were created and distributed in the United States since the late 1800s.

They are on display at St. Martin Public Library now until after Christmas for those who would like to get an up-close and personal look at all 23 cards.

As he acquired Christmas stamps, Wright began to take notice of the early Christmas penny postcards and how Santa's clothes were of different designs and colors. The evolution fascinated him and he limits his collection to those cards showing Santa in costume.

"Santa did not always wear the red costume with white trim that is popular today," Wright said. "Earlier costumes included purple and white, and red and black. Knickerbockers on Santa were popular in the 1920s and the red and white outfit caught on in the late 1930s and 1940s."

His research found the first Christmas card originated in England more than 150 years ago. Holiday cards designed by Kate Greenaway, the Victorian children's writer and illustrator, and Frances Brundage and Ellen H. Clapsaddle, were favorites in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"America imported its greeting cards from England until 1875, when Louis Prang, a German immigrant to the U.S., opened a lithographic shop and published the first line of U.S. Christmas cards," Wright said.