Santa PEZ Artifact Highlight #38

This little PEZ candy dispenser was donated to our collection in 1983. It is a full-body Santa Claus in a red suit. The PEZ name is visible in raised lettering on Santa’s coat.

Santa’s head operates as a lid and is set on a hinge that is attached to the back of the dispenser shaft. When the head is bent backwards a spring with a tiny bracket pushes the candy out. This dispenser was donated without candy. It was made in Austria in 1955.

Eduard Haas III

PEZ was invented in Vienna, Austria, in 1927 by Eduard Haas III, a confectioner who marketed his candies as anti-smoking mints. PEZ is a shortened version of the German word pfefferminz, which means peppermint.

The candies were made of confectionary sugar and flavoring and were originally round, but the design was changed to the brick shape. At first, they were packaged in metal tins and foil and paper wrapping.

As part of their marketing campaign PEZ featured ads with pin-up girls in blue uniforms and slogans like “'Smoking prohibited, PEZing allowed!” or “Already PEZing?” The company also hired young women to hand out free samples of PEZ candy at trade shows, sporting events and stores.

The first mechanical dispensers, or “regulars,” were introduced in 1948 and looked like cigarette lighters.

Commemorative reissue of the original PEZ despenser

In 1952 PEZ started selling candy in the United States and began marketing to kids with new fruity flavors. The Santa Claus PEZ was one of the company’s bestselling designs and first of its character dispensers.

Calgary Herald December 10, 1955

They were expensive to make, so soon the company began making regular dispensers with rectangular bodies and character heads like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Popeye and the Halloween Witch. In 1987 PEZ added feet to its dispensers, so they could stand when on display.

The dispenser was donated by Vincent Gianella of Auburn. Vincent Gianella was a professor of geology, who spent his career at the University of Nevada and the Mackey School of Mines. He was a resident of Auburn for twenty years and was a member of the Auburn Rotary Club, the Placer County Historical Society, and the Placer County Historical Museum Foundation.

Background Image: Vincent and Catherine Gianella. Married June 27, 1917. PCM Collection