|"Santa Claus and Birdhouse" quilt made by Patricia Cummings in 1995|
from a pattern by Jan Kornfeind
Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with providing a popular depiction of Santa in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863, during the Civil War. He was the first to show Santa in a red outfit, not the beige one previously popular. The idea that Santa lives at the North Pole can be directly attributed to a poem by George P. Webster titled "Santa Claus and His Works." A mid-19th century poem by Katharine Lee Bates adds a Mrs. Claus in her work "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride."
("Goody" comes from "Good Wife," a common early term).
The idea of St. Nicholas bringing toys in his sleigh can be linked to a poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas," published on December 23, 1823 in the Sentinel newspaper in Troy, NY.
The history of St. Nick, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Sinterklass is deeply entrenched in European traditions. One can read more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus