The Twelve Digital Images Of Christmas

21 December 2017


The season of good will, gift giving, holiday, Father Christmas and copious volumes of food and drink is upon us. Like most of us, you probably think you know all you need to about the key elements of Christmas. Yet, historical images of the holiday have varied enormously in their message and impact. So, what better time to rifle through the digital archives and find out how Christmas has been depicted, celebrated, captured and advertised throughout history? From the wacky to the wondrous, the moving to the marvellous (not to mention, the just plain baffling) I present to you, the snappily named, Twelve Digital Images of Christmas: A Miscellany.

One: From American History: 1493-1945

Christmas card, 3rd US Army, "Season's Greetings", 1944 © The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

This Christmas card, produced by the U.S. Third Army, replaces Santa’s sleigh with a tank over a military map backdrop. Perhaps not one for the faint-hearted.

Two: From Victorian Popular Culture

Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey The Greatest Show on Earth © Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin.

From our Victorian Popular Culture resource, a circus pamphlet with a Christmas greeting.

Three: From American History: 1493-1945

The present with a future/war bonds, 1942 © The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

In this poster by artist Adolph Dehn, Santa Claus furiously rides his sleigh scattering war bonds over a snowy village.

Four: From the forthcoming Service Newspapers of World War II: Module I

The Maple Leaf, Christmas Number, 1944. Reproduced with kind permission from The British Library.

Most newspapers for the armed forces distributed a special Christmas edition. In 1944, The Maple Leaf decided on this jolly (if slightly unnerving) image of Santa for their front cover. 

Five: From Victorian Popular Culture.

Santa Claus © Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin

Nothing says Christmas time like a fairy pantomime called ‘Santa Claus’.

Six: From the forthcoming Service Newspapers of World War II: Module I

Victory, Christmas Number. Reproduced with kind permission from The Imperial War Museum.

Hugging those all-important bottles to his chest, Father Christmas parachutes to an island destination in this Xmas edition of Victory. 

Seven: From Trade Catalogues and the American Home

An Old Fashioned Christmas Sale, Spiegel, May, Stern Co., c.1920-1929 © Winterthur Library

Santa couldn’t look more inviting with a special credit deal for his ‘Old Fashioned Christmas Sale’.

Eight: From Medical Services and Warfare

If- !!! the War ended this Xmas, 1915-1919, © Special Collections, University of Leeds

A card brimming with hope and optimism. An officer dances with a private soldier, surrounded by a newspaper announcing 'Peace Declared'. Christmas 1917.

Nine: From Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture – The History of Tourism

Going Away for Christmas!, 1950, © Permission granted by Thomas Cook Archives

Planning a get-away this Crimbo? Cook’s World Travel Service will whisk you away for the holiday season. 

Ten: From Medical Services and Warfare

Christmas with the Red Cross, Jan - Dec 1916, © Hoover Institution Library & Archive

These touching images from The American Red Cross magazine show the importance of their work with wounded soldiers at Christmas time. 

Eleven: From Trade Catalogues and the American Home

Greetings: Christmas Card Catalogue 1926, Canterbury Art Guild, 1926 © Winterthur Library

Shopping for Christmas cards? Why not consult the Canterbury Art Guild catalogue for inspiration?

Twelve: From the forthcoming J. Walter Thompson Archive

Oscar Mayer Holiday Hostess Tree. Reproduced with kind permission from Duke University © Oscar Mayer.

Who doesn’t dream of a tree laden with sausage and smoked meats?

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About the Author

Clare Mence

Clare Mence

I joined Adam Matthew as a Development Editor in 2014. Since then, I have enjoyed working on a number of exciting projects and look forward to many more.