Recently, when looking through the North Carolina State Archive’s digital collection (a thing I do from time-to-time), I ran across a couple of so-called “Santagrams” from Western Union. I immediately was intrigued by the collection of little notes that appeared to be written by none other than the big man himself, Santa Claus (see above and below).
I had never seen a Santagram before, and I was interested in these little cards that would come to children in North Carolina and across the country during the holiday season. Surprisingly, there is no Wikipedia page for Santagrams, so I gathered some information about this practice from museums and old newspapers. The Smithsonian does have what appears to be a Santagram order form circa 1930. It allows you to fill out a child’s (or children’s) name(s) and address then select from a list of pre-written holiday messages. Not happy with what Western Union wrote for you? There is also an option to write your own message from Mr. Claus.
These Santagrams appear to have made a splash. The Statesville Daily Record wrote of them in 1954. The paper reported a record half-million Santagrams were expected to be sold that year.
In North Carolina in particular, the Santagrams appear to have become a cultural staple. The North Carolina-based department store, Belk, even referenced them in a 1945 ad in the same paper, The Statesville Daily Record.
It wasn’t just Santagrams, though. Western Union provided so-called “Bunnygrams” as well, signed by Peter Rabbit just in time for Easter.
Wed, Mar 28, 1956 – 9 · Rocky Mount Telegram (Rocky Mount, North Carolina) · North Carolina Collection
Unfortunately, the days of Santa sending a telegram to your child are gone. However, a similar practice lives on from the US Postal Service, which encourages you to share your children’s Santa letters with #GreetingsFromTheNorthPole.