Each and every year a large number of children write santa letter packages to request the presents they need to receive from the fabled North Pole resident, and in america those letters are usually dropped within a real mailbox. But just how did that tradition start?
A number of the earliest Christmas correspondence wasn’t actually written to Santa, but from him. From the first one half of the nineteenth century, Santa Claus was more of a disciplinary figure in comparison to the jolly old fellow who sorts “naughty” from “nice” these days. Stories of Saint Nicholas were intended to encourage children to behave, and some parents even wrote letters “from” Santa Claus on their children discussing their conduct across the previous year, mischievous or obedient, per Smithsonian.
The American picture of Santa Claus developed through the entire 1800s, from your 1823 publication from the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas”-now known by its first line, “’Twas the night before Christmas”-to cartoonist Thomas Nast’s Christmas illustrations within the widely read Harper’s Weekly. Nast’s drawings of Santa, which first appeared in Harper’s through the Civil War, helped produce the visual references for Santa Claus which are still familiar today, including a red suit and white beard. Nast’s drawings also captured the earliest days of the postal service’s involvement from the Christmas workflow.
In 1871 Nast drew Santa Claus at his desk reading his mail and sorting it into two piles. Usually the one labeled “letters from naughty children’s parents” reaches well above his head, whereas “letters from good children’s parents” can be a far smaller stack. Quite a while later, in 1879, Nast created the first known picture of someone making use of the Usa mail system to create to Santa Claus. In this particular Harper’s illustration, a youthful figure puts a letter addressed to “St. Claus North Pole” within a mailbox with a snowy evening.
By that point, however, the mail system was already being utilized for letters to Santa. On Boxing Day 1874, by way of example, the New York Times included a product about letters “deposited from the Richmond Post Office, evidently written by children, plainly indicated that they, anticipating the annual visit of Santa Claus, wished to remind him of the items they most desired.” The Times quoted a number of letters: one requested “a big wagon-less than big-four wheels, two packs pop-crackers, a Mother Hubbard book.”
In the beginning, the U.S. Postal Service would consider letters addressed to Santa Claus undeliverable, either returning these to their senders or sending these to the Dead Letter Office. Around the turn from the 20th century, however, philanthropists and charities expressed interest in fulfilling Santa’s role for poor children who sent him letters. “The Post Office Department does not have confidence in Santa Claus. Officially the dispenser of Christmas cheer for little folks can be a myth,” the days wrote in 1906. “The Christmas season has no charm for your prosaic employees of the Dead Letter Office. This means only a great deal of extra work and bother on their behalf.” This article proceeded to deplore the unsympathetic post office and “red-tape-bound officialdom” for deficiency of imagination to try to honor the children’s requests.
The subsequent year, the Postmaster General allowed his employees to distribute the letters, but the charitable people and organizations to whom they were given found themselves faced with 98dexnpky task of deciding regardless of if the children were really requiring their assistance. The resulting complaints meant the Postmaster General did not renew the allowance the following year.
His successor wrote a purchase in 1911 that most letters “addressed plainly and unmistakably to ‘Santa Claus’” may be transported to “responsible institutions or individuals” to use for “philanthropic purposes.” This time permission was renewed and also in 1913 made permanent. Tonight Show host Johnny Carson read out letters from needy children during December shows inside the 1960s, assisting to popularize this program. In 1989, Santa got their own ZIP Code.