"A Visit From St. Nicholas," also known from its first line of "'Twas the night before Christmas," was published in 1822. It had been believed that New Yorker Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem, but modern scholarship often gives authorship to another New Yorkers, Major Henry Livingston, Jr.
Remember the film Miracle on 34th Street (1947)?
What about Santa Claus himself?
(Oxford English Dictionary)
[a. Du. dial. Sante Klaas (Du. Sint Klaas), Saint Nicholas: see NICHOLAS.]
a. In nursery language, the name of an imaginary personage, who is supposed, in the night before Christmas day, to bring presents for children, a stocking being hung up to receive his gifts. Also, a person wearing a red cloak or suit and a white beard, to simulate the supposed Santa Claus to children, esp. in shops or on shopping streets. Also transf., fig., attrib., and ellipt. as Santa.
Now virtually synonymous with Father Christmas.
1773 N.Y. Gaz. 26 Dec. 3/1 Last Monday the Anniversary of St. Nicholas, otherwise called St. A Claus, was celebrated at Protestant-Hall.
1808 Salmagundi 25 Jan. 407 The noted St. Nicholas, vulgarly called Santaclaus of all the saints in the kalendar the most venerated by true hollanders, and their unsophisticated descendants.
23 December 1773, Rivington's New-York Gazetteer (New York, NY), pg. 3, col. 3:
Last Monday the anniversary of St. Nicholas, otherwise called St. a Claus, was celebrated at Protestant Hall, at Mr. Waldron's, where a great number of Sons of that ancient Saint celebrated the day with great joy and festivity.
17 December 1810, Albany (NY) Gazette, pg. 2, col. 3:
From the New-York Spectator.
Festival of St. Nicholas.
The New-York Historical Society having, in compliment to the original settlers of this state, selected the Festival of St. Nicholas, usualy pronounced Sancte Claus, the tutelar Saint of the Dutch, for their anniversary discourse and dinner, they accordingly, on Thursday, 6th inst. assembled at 1 o'clock, in the North Court Room, in the City-Hall, when an excellent occasional discourse, replete with learning and instruction, was delivered by Hugh Williamson, Esq., a member, for which he received the thanks of the Society, wih the request of a copy for publication.
14 January 1811, The Columbian (New York, NY), pg. 3, col. 1:
Will you become a member of the Historical Society, and eat cookies on the festival of Santa Claus?
13 January 1824, Salem (MA) Gazette, "Poetry," pg. 1, col. 1:
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.
BY S. WOODWORTH
That Santaclaus,* since ages of chivalry,
Visits the nursery on holiday eve.
*Contracted from St. Nicholas.
30 December 1824, The National Advocate (New York, NY), pg. 3, col. 1:
THE COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON. -- The Lucky Lottery Offices of SECOR, No. 210 Broadway, and No. 171 Chatham street, were yesterday honoured with a visit from that, at this season of the year, peculiarly interesting personage St. NICHOLAS, or, as he is generally termed, Sentneeclaus.
2 January 1826, Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC), pg. 2, col. 5:
FROM THE CHARLESTON MERCURY.
AN account of a visit from St. Nicholas, or Sante Claus.
The Volunteer of America's "Sidewalk Santas" started about 1900 in Los Angeles. However, the Santas (with their bell-ringing and money chimneys) soon became famous in New York City, also.
Volunteers of America
1896 General William Booth orders his son and daughter-in-law to mortgage Salvation Army properties in America to fund overseas missions. The Booths refuse, and are ordered home. Instead, they resign. On March 8, they announce the formation of a new religious and social movement, Volunteers of America.
1900 The first Sidewalk Santas appear on the streets of Los Angeles, raising money for Christmas dinners for the poor.
21 December 1919, Syracuse (NY) Herald, pg. 1, col. 5:
So says the department store and the sidewalk Santa Claus of Syracuse.
23 December 1933, Frederick (MD) Post, pg. 4, col. 2:
New York, Dec. 22. - Apparently Thundering Hugh Johnson couldn't be heard up around the North Pole this year, for Santa Claus and his assistants - the "throne" Santas, the floorwalker Santas, and the Sidewalk Santas - took up their Yuletide duties without having submitted an NRA code.
22 December 1935, New York Times, pg. SM3:
Many sounds mingle in the din: the tinkle of hand bells rung by sidewalk Santa Clauses, woolly and innumerable;...
20 November 1959, New York Times, pg. 9:
One-hundred sidewalk Santa Clauses will begin to ring bells around the city today. They are sponsored by the Volunteers of America, a religious welfare organization.