Coke didn't invent Santa Claus

So, in 1931, they commissioned artist Haddon Sundblom to create a painting of Santa Claus enjoying an ice cold Coca-Cola for that year's holiday season. The company paid $1000 for the painting, which was a ridiculous amount of money at the time, given that a car cost just $700. Basing his design on the descriptions of the jolly old elf in Clement Clark Moore's famous poem, "A Visit From Saint Nick," Sundblom delivered an near instantaneous cultural icon with his first Santa Claus painting, "My hat's off to the pause that refreshes." The slogan, "the pause that refreshes," was Coca-Cola's longest continuously run slogan, running from 1929 to the late 1950's.

While Coca-Cola's global reach helped solidify Santa as a jolly, rotund, red-cheeked man, this version of Santa was already starting to jell as the most popular version, in large part to the immense popularity of Moore's poem (almost 100 years old at the time of Sundblom'scommission), and mid-19th century depictions of Father Christmas by Thomas Nast. By the time Coke launched their campaign, Americans were already starting to favor the no standard version of the Santa.

Over the next 3 decades, Sundblom created nearly annual variations of Santa for the Coca-Cola Company, depicting Santa in whatever way suited the public need. In 1936, in the throes of the Great Depression, Santa was shown with his sleeves rolled up like the hordes of out of work Americans struggling to make ends meet. In 1961, Santa was shown hushing a tidy little dog, a reflectionof the post-war comfort and domesticity. 

The last Santa painted by Sundblom debuted in 1964, ending one of the most successful and culturally important advertising campaigns in history. Sales of Coke during the winter months soared, and by the mid-1930's families were leaving bottles of Coke out for Santa in place of milk and cookies. Today, Sundblom's Santa is one of the most recognizable holiday characters around the globe, despite nearly 60 years passing since the last original painting. 

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