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The Santa Claus Express, Then and Now

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Santa Claus

NASM 7A45388; Courtesy of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Records, the University of Akron, University Libraries, Archival Services.


In 1925, Mr. S. Claus was looking for a modern alternative to his old-fashioned reindeer-powered sleigh. Having once shown an interest in lighter-than-air flight in the form of hot-air balloons, Santa was favorably inclined when Goodyear came up with a solution — toy delivery via airship, in this case, Pilgrim I, renamed the Santa Claus Express for the occasion. In the photograph shown here, Pilgrim’s pilot Carl Wollam holds the gondola door for Santa (as portrayed by Goodyear employee Jack Yolton). Curiously, they seem to be unconcerned about the effect of drag from the presents festooning the gondola, but as Pilgrim’s top speed was only about 40 MPH, it probably didn’t make much of a difference. Here are some more photographs of Goodyear’s Santa Claus Express, 1925-1927, from the University of Akron’s library. By the way, the Pilgrim gondola is on display at the Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia — we might consider loaning it out to qualified Jolly Old Elves around this time of year…



Photograph by Edward E. Ogden. Courtesy of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

The Santa Claus Express was re-instituted by Goodyear last year to support the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program. Santa, portrayed in the photo shown above by Spirit of Goodyear mechanic Ron Heaps, and Spirit pilot Gerald Hissem re-enact the original Santa Claus Express photograph.

The staff and volunteers of the National Air and Space Museum hope that all of our readers, visitors and friends have a fine holiday season; and that whatever method of aerial transport Santa chooses, that you’ll get a visit from him on Christmas Eve.


Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the National Air and Space Museum’s Archives Division



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6 thoughts on “The Santa Claus Express, Then and Now

  1. But I wonder: does Santa’s blimp fly high enough (not to mention fast enough) for Norad to track it properly?

  2. Nice pictures and story. Just for Christmas; Goodyear should build a giant double zeppelin like the one seen in the movie “Polar Express”! Merry Christmas to all at Air and Space – you continue to be a great magazine.

  3. Merry Christmas! Looks like it might be a very long flight for Santa. Time to petition Mrs. Claus for an SR-71 perhaps?

  4. Make sure you guys do another Christmas one this year. I loved seeing this one last year! Go Goodyear!

  5. Pingback: Enter the Santa Copter | AirSpace

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