Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Santa's New Speed: Changing Ads in 1919

Santa at the steering wheel, detail - December 12th, 1919
The iconography and advertising for Christmas shifted dramatically between 1918 and 1919.

The biggest difference was the war, of course. In 1918 World War I had just ended. War-related tropes were common, often substituting for explicit appeals to Christmas.

Victory Sale, no Santa - December 20th, 1918
There was also a sobriety, and there were very few appearances of Santa in print advertising. As an icon, Santa notably rare, often absent.

"The War is over" but Santa is still "going over the top."
Also "give till it hurts"???
December 17th, 1918
This combination of war and Santa is a remarkable exception - and, really, rather tasteless today. It would be interesting to know if people were critical of it then.

By contrast Santa appears frequently in the advertising for 1919. But in addition to the usual jumble of zero-century "Bethlehem manger," medieval "boar's head," 18th century "silent night," and 19th "Night before Christmas" themes and nostalgia,  there is a new element.

December 18th, 1919
Ads for at least two stores shifted Santa from a sleigh to a truck or automobile. This is clearly clip art from a national source that the local papers were using.

December 12th, 1919
The speed was a thing. Even more striking were the arrows and blowing wind. Santa was really zooming. It's almost the drift from a popularized futurism. In this imagery Santa could operate with a sled or without.

December 7th, 1919
December 7th, 1919
December 24th, 1919
It is interesting to see old-timey nostalgic themes intermingled with modernity and the future. Santa has entered the 20th century.

(If you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas to you.)

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