Plenty has been written about Coca-Cola collectibles. There are people who collect all types of memorabilia, including trays, bottles, calendars, posters, carriers, thermometers and blotters, each of which includes that famous signature, Coca-Cola. But not much has been written about the artists behind the famous artwork on these items.
Among the Coca-Cola archives, you can find information on the well-known artists who worked for them, such as N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, and Hamilton King. Another artist, who is not so well known, is H.H. Sundblom. His portrayal of Santa appeared for many years on the back covers of December issues of National Geographic Magazine.
Sundblum painted his first Santa for this series of advertisements in 1931. The first one used on the cover of National Geographic Magazine, appeared on the December, 1933 issue. The same jolly figure held that spot for the next 31 years with the exception of 1943-44-45-46. The last cover he appeared on was December, 1964. In his long red coat, trimmed with white fur, the red trousers, high boots, wide leather belt with big brass buckle, he remained constant: smiling, fat and thirsty! The toys pictured, changed with the years, as did the furniture styles, but not Santa.
Haddon Hubbard Sundblom (1899 - 1976) was born in Michigan in June of 1899. He was the youngest of nine children. His father had been a ship builder in Finland, when ship building was and art. No doubt the father had considerable influence on the son, as is witnessed by his close attention to detail and his determination.
At the age of 14, Haddon received his working papers, never having finished grammar school. He worked for a contractor as on office boy, then for another contractor as a purchasing agent. After his day's work, he attended art classes at night. When he reached the age of nineteen, he decided art was to be his life's work. He was a student at the American Academy in Chicago for three and a half years, and at the Art Institute for Chicago for four years.
In 1925, with Howard Stevens and Ed Henry, he started his own studio. This association continued until the early thirties. Afterwards, Sundblom was on his own, freelancing. Then in 1946, another organization was formed with Bill Johnston and Austin White.
Mr. Sundblom did much more than paint Santa Claus figures. He did paintings for calendars, illustrations for stories and appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, and Good Housekeeping magazines. Then too, there have been commissions to do advertising art for Cashmere Bouquet, Grand Prize Beer (Texas) and Budweiser Beer. He also painted the picture which appeared on the cover of the December, 1972 issue of Playboy Magazine. In his later years he painted portraits of prominent people. In the beginning of his career, he created the Quaker figure pictured on boxes of Quaker Oats, and also the figure of Aunt Jemima.
He received many honors, He was awarded a gold medal in the National Poster Show (1974). One of his Coca Cola posters was the winner. In 1945 he received the shows silver award, and another year he won the bronze award. In the 1946 Art Directors Show in New York, he won yet another top award, a gold medal. There were also many "honorable mentions" received by him.
Though Mr. Sundblom is no longer with us, his Santa and Quaker figure characters will long remain a memorial to him.