Stereoviews and Culture: Santa and His Reindeer

This post is written by Kelvin Ramsey ('79), donor and member of the Libraries' Board of Directors.

Last year when I wrote about Santa stereoviews, I stated that I did not know of any stereoviews that depicted reindeer. Now, I stand corrected. Keystone Stereoview Company issued a set of stereoviews about Santa’s travels from the North Pole for his annual delivery. The stereoview below is one of a set that was produced around 1920. There were actually two sets, one of which has a couple of extra views where a hunter knocks off one of the reindeer, which made Santa very angry. Santa had to make the rest of the journey on foot. I guess it is the Saint’s equivalent of a flat tire where one of the reindeer is out of commission (note that there are four reindeer in the image below).

Santa stereoview
"This is the good old saint on the road, Skimming along with his precious load." Keystone View Company stereoview, 1906.

You will have to zoom in to see these things, but there is a lot going on in this image, much of which has to do with taxidermy animals. We see Santa’s sleigh is loaded down with toys. Note the American flag on the back of the sleigh. The reindeer have snow on them. How does that happen unless they are hardly moving? Santa has a whip in his hand to urge on the beasts. Not something you see depicted these days. The first two reindeer have their front legs in the air. Are they in the act of takeoff? If these are taxidermy animals, how did the photographer come up with four full size deer?

While we may not be able to answer those questions, we’ll end with a short holiday quiz: How many animals can you count in this stereoview?

Happy Holidays!


Answer to the quiz: Six animals - four reindeer, a rabbit in the foreground, and some sort of bird in the upper left (that if you look carefully, you can see hanging from a wire).