This article contains the transcription of a brief recounting of one five-year-old boy’s letter to Santa Claus, published in Chicago Daily Tribune on December 26, 1883. The vintage newspaper report sheds light upon the attitudes and perceptions of our late Victorian-era ancestors, a young and well-to-do boy’s Christmas wish-list, and how his parents must have attempted to impress upon him an awareness of the good he might do for others. I find it interesting that residents of the Old Ladies’ Home are referred to as “inmates”.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Letters to Santa Claus were a common appearance in newspapers. Whether the practice alerted parents, shared heartwarming tales of postal employees gathering nickles from among their department to stand in as a “Secret Santa” (modern lingo), or perhaps brought about by a store’s advertisements in the newspaper, Letters to Santa Claus provide a unique glimpse into the past. Want to know what toys children found appealing in the 1870’s? Or what dolls were fashioned of? Take a peek inside!
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In the very early years of the United States’ history, Christmas celebrations remained highly localized and dependent upon the traditions of the settlers’ homelands. But by 1876 (The Centennial), what we consider a “Traditional Christmas” had become firmly formed. Contemporary Americans will recognize almost all of the Victorian traditions surrounding the holiday.
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