From Smithsonian Magazine's Paleofuture blog:
Some people are up in arms over a recent update to Santa Claus that excised his smoking habit. However you feel about Santa losing his pipe, let me assure you that this won’t be the last time that Santa gets a makeover. It’s easy for some people to forget that every generation has “updated” Santa to fit with the times — or in some cases to fit with the future.
As the 1800s gave way to the 1900s, many Americans felt like perhaps Santa Claus needed a new way of getting from house to house. Since the early 19th century, old Saint Nick had been using a sleigh and reindeer to deliver his presents. But by the 1890s some Americans thought an automobile would be a more modern form of transportation for the jolly old man. However, some illustrators didn’t think that the automobile was quite modern enough and wanted to blast Santa into the future with his very own flying machine.
The postcard above (sent in 1908) shows Santa smoking his pipe in his flying machine and dropping a doll down some lucky kid’s chimney.
The December 1922 issue of Science and Invention magazine included a list of the best radio parts to buy your little “radio bug.” The list included an illustration of a young boy dreaming about Santa Claus soaring through the sky in his flying machine. That large aerial sitting behind Santa lets us know that he’s definitely hip to the latest technology of the Roaring Twenties.
The December 22, 1900 issue of the Duluth Evening Herald in Duluth, Minnesota ran a page claiming that Santa’s reindeer would be put out of work soon as he skims over the tops of houses in his flying machine....MORE