It was 76 years ago today that droves of people braved a harsh winter storm to watch the great unveiling of the 22 foot tall Santa statue in our town of Santa Claus, Indiana. The statue was dreamed up by Chicago businessman and philanthropist Carl A. Barrett. The Santa statue was the focal point of his 32-acre Santa Claus Park, one of the first developments looking to capitalize on our town’s unique name.
The Santa statue was designed by artist Ralph Seymour Fletcher and was constructed at the Chicago Foundry. It was then transported by lowboy trailer to its current resting spot on a knoll near the old town settlement of Santa Claus. Barrett originally billed the statue as being made from solid granite. It was later discovered to be constructed from 40-tons of concrete with a granite-like finish. Santa stands on a five pointed star facing due east to the town of Bethlehem.
The unveiling of the Santa statue was undoubtedly one of the biggest events in town history and was heard as a special hour-long radio broadcast from coast to coast. Louisville radio station WHAS had to run special telephone lines into Santa Claus just to transmit the special broadcast. The Columbia Broadcasting System donated the block of time so the dedication could be heard nationwide.
On December 23, 1935 the Louisville Courier-Journal reported:
“Undaunted by bitter cold weather, more than 1,000 persons attended the impressive ceremonies, which were radiocast by WHAS, radio-phone of The Courier-Journal and The Times.”
Four people were lucky enough to unveil the statue to the large crowd. The Courier-Journal, Louisville Times and Evansville Courier newspapers all sponsored a Christmas jingle competition. Aimed at children, entrants were encouraged to “fill in the blank” on several Christmas themed jingles printed as a newspaper insert. Sara Carter, a 9 year old girl from Louisville, and Glenn Dean, a 14 year old boy from New Albany won the contest in the Louisville area. Bobby Schweigert and Doris Sills won the jingle contest in the Evansville area.
On the command of the master of ceremonies, the four winners gripped braided cords that caused “spangled drapes” to fall off the Santa statue and reveal what Barrett had worked so long to fund-raise and create. A living legacy to Barrett and all the people who believe in the true spirit of Santa Claus, the statue recently underwent a $100,000 restoration paid for by the Koch family.
The Historic 1935 Santa Statue still stands in its original spot and continues to be enjoyed by townspeople and visitors traveling through the area. Do you have any memories or photos of the Santa Statue? Please leave us a comment and share.