The world's first department store Santa Claus was John Edgar who hailed from Edinburgh

Each winter the man in red visits department stores throughout the world offering delighted children a chance to whisper their biggest Christmas wish in Santa’s ear.

Santa at Ocean Terminal
Santa at Ocean Terminal

We all know the famous outfit of Mr Claus and are used to seeing his red coat and white beard in shop windows.

But less well known is that the jolly old man has a Scottish accent having been born in Edinburgh in 1843.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Business owner James Edgar is well known today as the first ever department store Santa having started the popular tradition in the 1800s.

James Edgar was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1843

Born in the Scottish capital, Mr Edgar moved to the city of Brockton, Massachusetts in 1878.

After finding his feet across the pond the entrepreneurial Scot set up a successful dry goods store on Main Street.

In 1890 he got the idea to dress up as Santa Claus based on an 1863 illustration of Santa by Germany-born American artist Thomas Nast.

Within days excited children began arriving by train from Boston, Providence, Worcester, and even New York eager to see Mr Edgar as Santa.

The appearance caused such a sensation that by 1891 Santa became a feature at many major department stores and by the turn of the century the in-store grotto was an institution.

During his life Mr Edgar was known for the sharing of his good fortunes, having helped pay for many children’s medical care and sponsored shelter for the homeless.

Today, Mr Edgar is remembered not only as the man who brought the magic of Santa to millions of children but as a man who embodied true spirit of Christmas.

Brockton was due to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the city’s adopted son and his first portrayal of Father Christmas this year – until the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Mr Edgar was something of a local celebrity and not only for his role as Santa. He dressed up as various characters to celebrate major events in the calendar.

For the Fourth of July, he would dress up as Uncle Sam, or a revolutionary-era soldier, once wearing Highland regalia to mark the involvement of Scot on both sides of the Confederate-Union divide.

John Merian, Brockton's unofficial historian, said he was “very disappointed” the 130th anniversary plans had been abandoned.

He added: "We're putting everything on hold. We're locked down."

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.