Santa Claus, his reindeer and a tree surrounded by gifts are some of the Christmas season’s most iconic images—and, as advertisers have long known, they’re also some of the best ways to get shoppers in a spending mood. So it’s no surprise that December issues of TIME tend to be full of seasonal advertisements featuring those Christmas symbols.
Now, decades after they were first published, these ads have taken on the rosy glow of classic Americana. And they also offer a window into how businesses of the 1950s pictured an idealized holiday season: jolly, prosperous and white in more ways than one. Among the images are a Norman Rockwell-painted Plymouth ad, a classic Coke-drinking Santa, a sexist Santa hocking detergent and even a festive two-page spread touting cans.
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