Back in 1823, Clement C. Moore published the classic Christmas poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, which convinced the world, once and for all time, that Saint Nicholas (perhaps now better known as "Santa Claus") traveled the world in a miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer.
Did you ever wonder what that sleigh looked like?
To find out what a sleigh in Clement Moore's time might have looked like, we turned to the U.S. Patent Office. Since many inventions, like sleighs, really represent the results of the cumulative incremental improvements of things that already exist, by going to the earliest sleigh-related patents, we should be able to get a good sense of what they looked like in that early era.
The oldest patent for a sleigh in the United States that we could find is represented in U.S. Patent 1,334, which was issued to Daniel Carpenter of Nelson, New York on 20 September 1839.
As you can see, it's really more of a sled, but it really gives a good idea of what the suspension for a sleigh was like in the early-1800s: super-rigid. Santa would definitely have been in for a rough experience on his ride!
The next oldest patent we found also gives some insight into the sleigh-riding experience. Here's U.S. Patent 4,667, which looks a lot more like the sleigh we would expect Santa to drive!
The invention incorporated into this sleigh design by Moses Miller of Fort Ann, New York, is the screen for keeping snow out of the sleigh's coach. What that tells us is some twenty years earlier, the typical sleigh riding experience frequently involved having snow kicked up into the cab, which means that in addition to a very bumpy ride, Santa was likely also cold, damp and miserable.
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