We’ve been mining the collections at DigitalNC for references to and images of Santa Claus in the Tar Heel state. We put together a Flickr set with some of our finds, which include some terrific images of Santa in Rocky Mount, Pinehurst, Burgaw, and Ashe County, lots of ads, and my favorite, a photo of Santa on mop duty at the Overseas Relocation Depot in Greensboro in 1944.
I was particularly interested in looking through the old newspapers we’ve digitized to see how early I could find a reference to Santa Claus in North Carolina papers. The oldest I could find was from 1848, a quarter-century after Clement Clarke Moore first published “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
The Lincoln Courier from January 20, 1848 ran a piece by a “Major Jones” about hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve. It was written in dialect, and did not have any clear local connections, so I’m assuming this was reprinted from another publication. Major Jones writes,
When I was a boy I never used to miss hanging up my stockins, and I’ll have to be a good deal older than I am before I forget with what hopeful morality I used to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, or with what eager expectation I used to wake in the mornin to count over the ginger-cakes and lasses candy which I was always sure to git from good old Santa Claus.
The earliest reference I could find with a definite local connection was from an issue of the Wilson Advance published on December 16, 1881. A correspondent from Whitakers, N.C., described as “one of the liveliest little places on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad,” writes,
Santa Claus is seen in every store and shop window, and from all appearances the little ones will awake on Christmas morn with full stockings and glad hearts.