MYNORTHWEST HISTORY

In search of your vintage Santa photos

Dec 6, 2023, 9:20 AM | Updated: 9:21 am

Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, current president of the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, sits on Santa's lap at Frederick & Nelson in downtown Seattle in 1955. (Courtesy Stephanie Johnson-Toliver)

(Courtesy Stephanie Johnson-Toliver)

As first reported by KIRO Newsradio in 2015, department store Santa Claus photos are believed to have been invented in Seattle by Art “Happy” French, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer photographer, during World War II.

In the weeks before Christmas 1943 – 80 years ago – French was inspired to go into business as a Santa photographer by watching Seattle radio actor Dave Harris playing Santa Claus in the window at the old Frederick & Nelson department store.

More from Feliks Banel: Christmas boat parade lights up Columbia River

Frederick’s was across the street from the old Seattle P-I building at Sixth Avenue & Pine Street downtown; that building now houses the Nordstrom flagship store.

To help mark the 80th anniversary of French’s inspiration, KIRO Newsradio is inviting you to share your vintage Santa photos via my Facebook page. We’ll post some of the best at MyNorthwest.com as part of an upcoming feature.

If you’re not on Facebook, you can email your Santa photo directly to me via my email address below.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

MyNorthwest History

An old newspaper clipping from the 1920s shows the "airsign" for SEATTLE at the Standard Oil facili...

Feliks Banel

All Over The Map: Searching for ‘ghost signs of the air’

An aviation historian said you might be able to spot one of these "Ghost Signs of the Air" still on duty in a few Washington towns.

4 days ago

Taco Time Wallingford...

Feliks Banel

Feliks Banel: ‘Beacon of tacos’ shutting down in Wallingford

News broke Wednesday afternoon that the iconic Taco Time restaurant in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood will close in just a few days.

4 days ago

Marshall Dompier of Port Angeles was one of the earliest American Cub Scouts, and likely the first ...

Feliks Banel

Feliks Banel: Forgotten Pearl Harbor hero was a Cub Scout from Port Angeles

A young sailor from Port Angeles who died more than 82 years ago in the early hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor is making history.

6 days ago

Photo: Airborne United Airlines’ DC-4 at Sea-Tac Airport on July 9, 1949....

Feliks Banel

Vintage photos: Sea-Tac Airport celebrates 75 years

While its origins as an airfield date back to the early months of World War II, the Port of Seattle is marking 75 years of Sea-Tac Airport.

12 days ago

Image: XXX Root Beer in Issaquah will reopen as a Burgermaster location in 2025....

Feliks Banel

All Over The Map: Remodel project uncovers hidden past of beloved XXX drive-in

Work underway in Issaquah to convert the old XXX Root Beer to a Burgermaster has revealed a key feature of the original drive-in.

17 days ago

Stacey and her fellow Edmonds Junior High alums went all out with a video singing - and dancing - t...

Feliks Banel

Welcoming summer with vintage local junior high fight songs

Three community members took the time to record the middle school fight songs they remembered so that they could preserved for posterity.

25 days ago

In search of your vintage Santa photos