@@img1NEW YORK — This month, Coca-Cola celebrates the 75th anniversary of its dubious claim of creating today’s modern-day image of Santa Claus, when it began using illustrations of jolly St. Nick in advertisements in 1931.
There’s one problem with Coke’s assertion that it created the fat, white- whiskered, red-and-white garbed Santa: The Claus that refreshes was actually introduced two decades earlier by White Rock Beverages.
The White Rock Collector’s Association has posted several White Rock “Santa” ads at http://www.whiterocking.org/santa.html , including a 1915 ad in Collier’s and several from the 1920’s in Life magazine, featuring Kris Kringle enjoying the taste of White Rock.
According to Gerald Bowler, author of Santa Claus: A Biography, “The Coke Santa was in no way ground-breaking, nor was the Atlanta company even the first purveyor of soda to use the gift-bringer in its ads. That honor belongs to White Rock.”
This month, Coke is celebrating its 75th anniversary of its first ad featuring Santa Claus. The company is holding an online exhibit of past Santa ads, as well as a free showing at Lincoln Center in New York.
“For Coke to perpetuate this Christmas myth for so long is abominable,” said Larry Bodkin, president of White Rock Beverages. “They have co-opted Claus and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that they’re trying to claim that they created the Easter Bunny, as well.”
Bodkin, whose family has run the New York-based White Rock Beverages since 1952, is asking the Atlanta soft drink company to either publicly apologize for taking undue credit, or divulge its secret recipe to White Rock.
“You can’t beat the feeling of telling the truth. These upstarts at Coke owe it to the American people to admit that White Rock and Santa Claus is the real thing. Only then can people have a Coke and a smile,” says Bodkin.
White Rock, founded in 1871, is one of America’s oldest beverage companies. Its products are currently distributed in over 40 states and multiple overseas markets. Psyche, a Greek Goddess and White Rock’s trademark, signifies White Rock’s commitment to the utmost quality, purity and refreshment.