This one was tough to find. Searching for "department store" and
"santa claus" gives lots of results about Macy's. Miracle on 34th
Street, and Coca Cola!
In any case, I have found a number of references which explain that in
1841, "J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress
up in a "Criscringle" outfit and climb the chimney of his store." This
quote is from ReligiousTolerance's "Origin and history of Santa / St.
Nicholas" at [ http://www.religioustolerance.org/santa1.htm ].
Christmas.com gives a more thorough description of the history of the
department store Santa at [ http://www.christmas.com/pe/1380 ]. This
history confirms the story about Parkinson's store and goes on to say
that "It took forty years for another store to catch on and expand the
idea. The Boston Store in Brockton, Massachusetts, became the father
of department Santas when it hired Edgar, a Scottish immigrant, who
tall, roly-poly, with a white beard, a warm voice and a hearty laugh,
to be Santa Claus."
Christmas.com also provides some worldwide Santa information. At [
http://www.christmas.com/pe/1378 ] you can read about how Santa exists
in many countries, including "To Christians in the African Republic of
Ghana, Father Christmas comes from the jungle. In Hawaii he comes by
boat. On the Nerang River in Australia he rides water skis, wears a
white beard and red bathing trunks. In Brazil Grandpapa Indian, Vovo
Indo, brings gifts. In China, Santa Claus is called Dun Che Lao Ren,
which means Christmas Old Man. He brings presents to good children.
Being a culturally diverse and worldly fellow, Santa has many
The department store Santa tradition appears to have spread from the
USA to other countries. [
http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/12/22/lapland.santa/ ] discusses
a Santa in Finland, and makes mention of department store Santas
Another page at Snopes [ http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/santa.asp ]
dispells the myth that Coca Cola invented the modern Santa Claus. It
also explains that Parkinson's Santa came before Thomas Nast drew his
famous roly-poly Santa Claus which eventually evolved into the
character we know today:
"The Louis Prang 1886 Christmas card modern Santa Claus derived from
these two images: St. Nicholas the elf-like gift bringer described by
Moore, and a friendlier "Kriss Kringle" amalgam of the Christkindlein
and Pelznickel figures. The man-sized version of Santa became the
dominant image around 1841, when a Philadelphia merchant named J.W.
Parkinson hired a man to dress in "Criscringle" clothing and climb the
chimney outside his shop.
In 1863, a caricaturist for Harper's Weekly named Thomas Nast began
developing his own image of Santa. Nast gave his figure a "flowing set
of whiskers" and dressed him "all in fur, from his head to his foot."
Nast's 1866 montage entitled "Santa Claus and His Works" established
Santa as a maker of toys; an 1869 book of the same name collected new
Nast drawings with a poem by George P. Haddon Sundblom illustration
Webster that identified the North Pole as Santa's home. Although Nast
never settled on one size for his Santa figures (they ranged from
elf-like to man-sized), his 1881 "Merry Old Santa Claus" drawing is
quite close to the modern-day image."
Don't even bother searching for "department store" + "santa claus" as
this will just give you hundreds of pages with very few references to
the original Parkinson Santa. I eventually found the answer by reading
through enough Santa histories that I came across the name Parkinson
and ran a search with it:
"santa claus" + Parkinson
I hope this helps you! Ask for clarification if needed.