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Santa's Got a Gun

Santa's Got a Gun

Santa’s Got a Gun : A case study of cultural stereotypes embedded in a map

by Christopher J.J. Thiry, Map & GIS Librarian, Colorado School of Mines,

(from a forthcoming article in Cartographica)


In the 20th century, the General Drafting Company was one of the “Big Three” American road map makers.  When it came to the Company’s Christmas card maps cultural biases overrode their commitment to accuracy and high standards.  Starting in 1930, General Drafting produced a series of Christmas card maps that featured Santa Claus.  Cultural and regional stereotypes are highlighted in the 1930s maps; the 1950s maps also reveal a prominent American nationalist worldview.  Although Santa Claus generally serves as an avatar for the benevolent “Traditional American” who is generous and jolly, the Santa of General Drafting maps portray him differently.  Santas are seen harvesting natural resources, hunting animals, and being shown deference by non-Americans while disparaging the Soviet Union.  Most disturbingly, Santa is shooting a Native American in the back, and enslaving other Santas in Siberia.  The abhorrent behavior is being cloaked by the kindly image of Santa Claus to make his (America’s) actions more palatable.  These Christmas card maps are compelling and unique examples that illustrate how accurate cartography can be supplanted by deeply engrained cultural stereotypes and ideologies.



1930 map

1930 map of the United States featuring Santa Claus