I found this story on Futility Closet's blog here.
"The U.S. government did not issue paper money until 1861. Until then, private banks printed their own currency under charters to the states.
"As a result, this $5 bill featuring Santa Claus [in the middle illustration] was legal tender in the 1850s. It was issued by the Howard Banking Company of Boston.
"A number of banks issued Santa-themed money in the same period — the most natural being the St. Nicholas Bank of New York City."