Did you know the real Santa Claus came from Missouri? On April 4, 1888, William and Henrietta Claus of Saline County, Missouri, gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Santa. When he was young, Santa Claus was often teased about his unique name, but eventually, he learned to embrace it. During his lifetime, Claus responded to tens of thousands of ‘Dear Santa’ letters, grew a beard, and became somewhat of a local celebrity. He died in 1957 and was remembered for his efforts to make the world a happier place.
Santa Claus (some records spell the name Clause) was born in Blue Lick, Missouri, the son of a farmer. “Naturally, when I was a child, I took a lot of punishment over my name. I continually was the object of jokesters, and as I grew older, the name had its drawbacks,” said Claus in a 1936 interview. In attempting to explain his unusual name, he said, “My father had a sense of humor.”
It wasn’t until 1929 that Claus’s fame extended farther than his hometown. While working on the Missouri River, he broke his leg. Papers all over the country carried the story of Santa’s accident, bringing fame to the young father, now living in Marshall, Missouri.
Letters addressed to Santa Claus began arriving at the Claus home. Claus was a part-time minister and struggled to support his family, taking on odd jobs, including plumber and ditch digger. Nevertheless, he worked hard to respond to each child’s letter. In 1935, he appeared on the national radio broadcast for Ripley’s Believe It or Not. His fame spread, and soon Claus was responding to 6,000 letters each holiday season. When the postage became a financial strain, others stepped in to help. Claus received checks from the local Chamber of Commerce and even Hollywood actress Mae West.
In 1944, Claus’s wife died. He remarried in 1948, and the new Mrs. Claus stepped in to help Santa Claus keep up the holiday tradition. On April 1, 1957, Santa Claus died of a kidney ailment in Marshall, Missouri. He was eulogized as a man who always lived up to his name.
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