Local connection gives Santa his reindeer pull
We all know that Santa Claus could never make his Christmas deliveries without the help of his reindeer-pulled sleigh. Yet how many know that our popular image of Santa and his reindeer-pulled sleigh has a local connection? The notion of a reinde...
We all know that Santa Claus could never make his Christmas deliveries without the help of his reindeer-pulled sleigh.
Yet how many know that our popular image of Santa and his reindeer-pulled sleigh has a local connection?
The notion of a reindeer-pulled sleigh became part of popular culture starting in 1926. That's when Carl and Laura Lomen convinced Macy's department store to feature a reindeer-pulled sleigh with Santa Claus as part of its annual Christmas parades. The events in major cities from San Francisco to Boston all featured Santa Claus in a reindeer-pulled sleigh.
Laura Lomen was the former Laura Volstead, the only child of U.S. Congressman Andrew and Nellie Volstead of Granite Falls. Her husband, Carl, and his brother, Alfred, were Minnesota attorneys who had established the largest reindeer herd in Alaska.
This history is provided by Eldoris Leyse Hustad, a member of the Granite Falls Historical Society who has penned an account of our area's connection to the famous Christmas image.
Hustad and members of the Historical Society are celebrating the connection with a visit by Santa Claus and live reindeer. From 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, two live reindeer and the red-suited elf will be at the Andrew J. Volstead Home Museum at 163 Ninth Ave., Granite Falls.
Hustad said Carl Lomen was known as the "Reindeer King.'' He wrote a book about his experiences called "Fifty Years in Alaska.'' She said members of the local historical group also contacted Macy's and were able to receive confirmation on the history of this connection.
Along with the ties to Macy's, the Lomen brothers practiced what today might be called "guerilla marketing.'' They wrote fake children's letters asking about Santa Claus and his reindeer that were published across the United States, according to Hustad.
No doubt, Carl Lomen's marriage to the former congressman's daughter helped his cause. Laura Volstead's mother had died at a young age, and she spent many years in Washington, D.C., with her father.
Laura Volstead attended balls and other events in the capital with her father, and was well-connected. She had worked in the office of J. Edgar Hoover, and continued a lifelong friendship and correspondence with the longtime director of the FBI.
The Lomen brothers saw their reindeer business decline due to lobbying by the cattle industry and the stock market crash in 1929. In 1937, a federal law placed the management of all the reindeer herds in Alaska under the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Lomen brothers were paid $720,000 for their herd, wrote Hustad.
Carl and Laura Lomen moved to Seattle, Wash. He died in 1965 and Laura died in 1972. He is buried in the Granite Falls City Cemetery, although he had never lived in Granite Falls, according to Hustad.