Santa's Whiskers

Parkinson’s Restaurant, wood engraving, 1853:

 Image shows the former confectionery (building on right) with stone frieze carved “Parkinson” above one of the entrances of the double house (Kohn Mansion) on Chestnut street. Photo taken 1859, building was razed circa 1921.

First Department Store Santa

While both Macy’s (1862 and James Edgar (1890 have been identified as having the first department store Santa, the evidence indicates that the honor of being the first store to employ someone to impersonate Kris Kringle or Santa Claus belongs to Philadelphia merchant J.W. Parkinson.  The "Philadelphia North American" of December 25, 1841, reported:

“Cris cringle, or Santa Claus. Much as our young readers have heard and imagined of this worthy character as the bountiful patron of good children on Christmas Eve, they probably never expected to he hold the real personage in the very act of descending a chimney, as our friend Parkinson has shown him over his well thronged shop door in Chestnut street. He was decidedly the attraction yesterday and last evening, and monopolized more than his share of the attention of the young folks, which is usually bestowed with undivided admiration on the bon bons in the windows.” (Christmas In Pennsylvania, Alfred Lewis Shoemaker, 1959, Kutztown, Pennsylvania Folklife Society, p. 60)

James Wood Parkinson was one of the most influential American cooks of the nineteenth century, and by the mid -1840’s had established himself as a restauranteur in a Philadelphia mansion located at 180 Chestnut Street.  Parkinson’s Salon included a delicatessen featuring imported foods from all over the world. In 1841, his delicatessen was the first in the country to feature Santa Claus at Christmas in order to draw children into a wonderland of French confections and imported toys.