7. The Historical Society’s Founder And Santa Claus
Alexander Anderson’s commissioned drawing of the American image of Santa Claus. Image via Wikipedia
John Pintard, the founder of the New-York Historical Society was a busy man who established lasting institutions and customs in New York and in the country. Besides serving on the executive board of many organizations like the New York Chamber of Commerce, Pintard was instrumental in advocating for the free public school system in New York today. He was also heavily involved in the plans for completing the Erie Canal, stayed in New York during the second cholera pandemic, and a deeply religious man.
That last part may not sound like a great accomplishment next to all the other things he’s done, but his religious involvement gave our country one of its most famous people: Santa Claus. St. Nicholas, the saint Santa is modeled after, has long been celebrated in Europe (and by the Dutch in New Amsterdam) around Christmas on a holiday called St. Nicholas Day. Pintard promoted St. Nicholas as the patron saint of both the Historical Society and New York. In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the Society and wrote a satirical fiction story called Knickerbocker’s History of New York where our American image of jolly, old Saint Nick the gift giving, chimney climber was created.
Starting on December 6, 1810, the Historical Society began celebrated St. Nicholas Day ever year. The same year, Pintard commissioned artists Alexander Anderson to create the American image of St. Nick helping to popularize Santa Claus. So, ladies and gentlemen, the American Santa Claus had its roots in New York.