Samuel Robb created this lively characterization of Santa Claus as a Christmas present for his daughter, Elizabeth, in 1923. According to her, it was the last figure that he carved. The smiling face and finely carved beard are especially engaging features, demonstrating that Robb still had the master's touch at age seventy-two. He died five years later after an extended illness.
Robb was the most prominent member of the last generation of traditional shipcarvers who created shop and cigar store figures. He was born in New York, the son of a Scottish shipwright who had recently immigrated to the United States, His mother was related to Jacob Anderson, one of the most talented New York shipcarvers at midcentury. Robb was probably apprenticed to Thomas V. Brooks, another successful shipcarver, in 1864. After serving his term in Brooks's shop, Robb went to work carving figures for William Demuth, a tobacco products distributor who carried a full line of shop figures.
Robb closed his workshop at 114 Centre Street in 1903, not long after completing a series of elaborate carvings for circus wagons for Barnum & Bailey. For the next few years, he kept small shops in various locations in Manhattan and, from 1908 to 191O, shared space in Brooklyn with another carver, Charles Brown. After that, he worked out of his home, first on 156th Street and then on Seaman Avenue in upper Manhattan, where this figure was made. -R.S.