Santa Claus Did Not Always Have a Beard: In the seventeenth century Dutch settlers brought the myth of Santa Claus to America. But the Santa Claus they brought did not look anything like the jolly figure pictured today. Their Santa was tall, slender, and very dignified. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century Santa took on the appearance of a jolly figure. In 1809, Washington Irving imagined Santa as a bulky man who had smoked a pipe and wore a Dutch broad-brimmed hat and baggy breeches. Later in the century artists pictured Santa as a fat man, with brown hair and a big smile. Finally, in 1863, Thomas Nast drew a picture of Santa as a jolly old man with a white beard and wide girth - the first picture of Santa as he looks today.
(Yes, this is from One-Night Stands With American History, too. I tried to find the Harper's Weekly drawings of how Santa Claus used to look, because it was really kind of creepy, but I couldn't manage to. Sorry!)
But we all know that my dad (see Larry, from Hartford, CT) is the real Santa Claus, anyway.