The Bicentennial of Santa Claus in America


Tom A. Jerman (Retired)

Santa Claus is unquestionably the best-known figure in American folklore but there is remarkably little scholarship on how this midwinter gift-giver came to America. The thesis of this paper is that he was created by New York printer William B. Gilley in an 1821 booklet, The Children’s Friend. That story would have disappeared from history entirely except that a customer, Clement C. Moore, appears to have purchased the book in 1821 and used it to write the poem that became famous as “The Night Before Christmas.” Thus, this year—2021—is the bicentennial of Santa Claus in America.

Part of 21-04 Intersections of Knowledge and Belief, Speaking and Writing, Tuesday, October 19, 9:30 am–11:00 am