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Classic Covers: Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

Published: December 19, 2009

“Alas! How dreary would the world be if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.” In the famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa” letter of 1897 from Francis P. Church, a little girl gets her answer from the New York Sun newspaper itself. There, in black and white, is most certainly a Santa! And our most renowned Post cover artists, J.C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell, agreed.

This beautiful Santa cover by J.C. Leyendecker is from December 1919, with the jolly ol’ elf looking in through the window to be sure all the good little boys and girls are asleep. But the curly-haired tot on the 1925 cover by the same artist was not fast asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in his little head. Even burdened as he was with a bag bursting with toys, the jolly ol’ elf couldn’t resist giving the little tyke a big hug.

Also showing where Santa’s heart is, and learning well from his mentor Leyendecker, was Norman Rockwell. Here is a handsome Santa going over his books, from 1920. Ever on his mind are the delightful faces of children in the background.

<em>Santa at the Map</em><br />Norman Rockwell<br />December 16, 1939

Santa at the Map, Norman Rockwell, December 16, 1939

Gracious! Santa has made his way across the Pacific Ocean, through South America, North America, and is heading up to Alaska and Canada. It’s quite the itinerary he has mapped out in Norman Rockwell’s 1939 cover. And we haven’t seen the other hemisphere yet. His little white book of “Extra Good Boys & Girls” is assurance he won’t miss a one.

Rockwell’s 1924 Santa is also busy with the books. His “Good Boys” book needs to be filled. Ever vigilant, St. Nick makes sure little Billy’s chopping and carrying firewood is duly noted. St. Nick keeps track of these things.

Having a hard time is the Santa of 1930. Goodness, Rover, that’s not an intruder you’ve torn into, that’s St. Nick! We have to wonder how the old guy got out of that one. Little ones leave out milk and cookies, so, conversely, does Santa carry doggie treats? We bet he has remembered since that year.

A perplexed boy on a train sees a sort-of Santa on Norman Rockwell’s December 1940 cover. The man has Santa clothes on, but the red cap is now replaced by a fedora and is stuffed into his coat pocket along with the white beard. Hmmm. No wonder little Johnny is confused! While we sympathize with the mystified child, all we can say is, to paraphrase a Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Weary Santas!”

The Saturday Evening Post has had many beautiful Santa covers over the years. Which is your favorite? To purchase a classic holiday cover or to browse the collection, visit Art.com.

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  • Janet Garritano

    What a heart-warming article!!! It is so fun to see the many faces of Santa! I love them all!

  • Judie

    I like Norman Rockwell’s “Good Deeds”. Not just because it shows his beautiful work and style but because it is showing Santa differently than any other depiction.