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Haddon Sundblom Biography

You know that jolly, pleasantly plump man in the red suit who only shows his face around Christmas? Santa Claus wasn't always that grandfatherly looking guy with the hairy face and red cheeks. So how did he come to be? Somebody had to put this legendary personality down on paper. That someone was Haddon Sundblom.

The Story of Haddon Sundblom, Coca-Cola and Santa Claus

Haddon Sundblom was born in 1899. Before he drew Santa Claus in 1931, people thought Santa looked like some kind of leprechaun or a cross between a gnome and a bishop. That doesn't paint a pretty picture. Coca-Cola wanted someone friendlier drinking their product so they hired Haddon Sundblom to come up with a new image. He did a good job too. Haddon Sundblom's Santa is still a well-known figure today.

Haddon Sundblom's Christmas Inspiration

Clement Moore's poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (written in 1822) described the toy maker as "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf." Haddon Sundblom changed that elf into a friendly and jolly human. Most artists use props for their pictures and Haddon Sundblom was no exception. He usually used the neighbors, their kids and their dogs as models. For Santa Claus he used his friend, Lou Prentice, a retired salesman. After Lou died, Haddon Sundblom looked in the mirror and decided to use himself instead of another model. He didn't have a beard so he just painted one on.

Haddon Sundblom's Santa Goes Global

For 35 years, Haddon Sundblom painted pictures of Santa. They were used in magazine ads and posters. They now appear in special exhibits around the world. Haddon Sundblom painted his last portrait in 1976. He died in 1976 but he left behind a well-known, mischievous Santa who raids the fridge, eats cookies and enjoys a Coke once in a while.

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