The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York

The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York

by Alex Palmer

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 The true story of John Duval Gluck, Jr., who in 1913 founded the Santa Claus Association, which had the sole authority to answer Santa's mail in New York City. He ran the organization for 15 years, gaining fame for making the myth of Santa a reality to poor children by arranging for donors to deliver the toys they requested, until a crusading charity commissioner exposed Gluck as a fraud. The story is wide in scope, interweaving a phony Boy Scout group, kidnapping, stolen artwork, and appearances by the era's biggest stars and New York City’s most famous landmarks. The book is both a personal story and a far-reaching historical one, tracing the history of Christmas celebration in America and the invention of Santa Claus.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493018901
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 696,023
File size: 9 MB

About the Author

 Alex Palmer is freelance writer and researcher who curated an exhibit on the Santa Claus Association for Brooklyn's City Reliquary in December 2012. It received wide press attention and was the subject of a major holiday feature for WNYC. He is the author of two previous books: Weird-o-Pedia (Skyhorse, 2012), for which he researched hundreds of unusual facts about everyday things from Donuts to Dogs and which has sold more than 10,000 copies to date, with special distribution in Urban Outfitters and elsewhere; and Literary Miscellany (Skyhorse, 2010), which offers a breezy and entertaining survey of the history of literature. His writing has appeared in the NY Daily News, USA Today, The New York Post, Publishers Weekly, and many other outlets.

Alex Palmer is a journalist and researcher based in Brooklyn, NY. Drawing on the photos, documents, and historical data he uncovered about the Santa Claus Association during his several years of research, he curated an exhibit about the group that ran for three months at Brooklyn’s City Reliquary museum. It sketched the story fleshed out in The Santa Claus Man, and garnered extensive media attention. The Village Voice, Time Out New York, and Flavorpill all selected it as a Critic’s Pick event. WNYC dedicated a major holiday radio piece to it (streaming at, which included interviews with Palmer, his 82-year-old great aunt, and even children narrating the century-old Santa letters received by the Association. The exhibit was also a cover story for The Brooklyn Paper and received coverage in New York Magazine and The New York Daily News. Palmer has written two previous books, most recently Weird-o-Pedia (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), for which he researched hundreds of unusual facts about familiar topics ranging from Coffee to Valentine’s Day. The book received special distribution by Urban Outfitters, Spencer’s Gifts, and The Johnson Smith Company, and was featured in Mental Floss magazine’s online store, selling more than 10,000 copies to date. It received media attention in Publishers Weekly, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and numerous syndicated radio programs, on which Palmer was interviewed. For his first book, Literary Miscellany (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010), he researched authors, works, and genres to provide an entertaining but useful survey of the history of literature. Literary Miscellany was excerpted in the Thanksgiving weekend edition of USA Today as well as Writer’s Digest, and he promoted it with several live readings throughout Manhattan. Palmer is a full-time freelance writer, and his work has appeared in The New York Daily News, USA Today, United Airlines’ new Rhapsody Magazine, The New York Post, The Rumpus, and Publishers Weekly. He’s written specifically about New York history and culture for Time Out New York, The New York Times’ “The Local” blog, The Brooklyn Eagle, and The Queens Times-Ledger. He is the co-founder and nonfiction editor of the literary journal Fawlt Magazine (, which has hosted several live events. He is also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and New York City’s Deadline Club. He maintains a blog ( and Twitter account (@theAlexPalmer) where he posts his latest publications, Santa Claus Man research, and other bits of interest. Palmer has an enduring love for all things Christmas, and still feels a thrill when he hears the first holiday song of the season, even if it’s in October.

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