A Boy Dressed As Santa Claus With A Toy-Filled Sled Drawn By White Turkeys In 1909

February 7, 2021

Dashing Through The Snow 

Not much is known about this photo of Santa Claus in a sleigh drawn by turkeys, although it shows up on a number of websites It dates from 1909, the original was copyrighted by Schrader and Dennis in Three Oaks, Michigan, and there is a copy of it in the Library of Congress. Other than these rather sparse details, we can only guess about the backstory of this photograph. Why is Santa a young boy? Why is the sled being pulled by turkeys? The image definitely doesn’t fit the story of Santa, the man from the North Pole or even Saint Nicholas, the gift giver from Turkey.


Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus sliding down the chimneys of boys and girls to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. Of course, his preferred method of transportation is the sleigh, drawn by what else, but reindeer, never mind the fact that reindeer don’t fly in reality. The custom of Christmas presents has its original roots buried in the Roman tradition of giving gifts on New Year’s Day. Once the church named Christ’s birthday as December 25, this Roman tradition was connected to the gifts from the three wise men. The origins of Santa Claus are also connected to the legend of Saint Nicholas, a Turkish bishop who gave gifts. Saint Nicholas died in the 4th Century, sparking a gift-giving tradition across Europe. To commemorate his death, good children woke up to find a toy from Saint Nicholas on December 6. In Holland, Saint Nicholas became Sinterklass, hence his eventual name, Santa Claus.

The Origins Of Santa Claus

New England Historical Society

Then, in 1823, Clement Clarke Moore, a seminary professor wrote the poem “The Night Before Christmas,” which helped to create the story of the jolly man who used reindeer to deliver presents (although some debate the origins of the poem. However, the poem did not describe Santa’s appearance; this was the role of Thomas Nast, a cartoonist from Harper Weekly, who drew Santa in 1863 as tall and a bit rotund, carrying a sack full of presents. Nast illustrated Santa many times throughout his career, and he gradually began dressing Santa in red, although he did outfit him in stars and stripes at one point as Nast supported the Union in the Civil War. Harper’s Weekly also created Santa’s home, which was Santa Claussville, N.P., with the N.P. being a reference to the North Pole. Claiming that the North Pole was Santa’s home made sense, as it was cold enough for reindeer. Nast used the images of Santa Claus in his political cartoons as well.