Letters to Santa Claus Reveal Wishes of Pennsylvania Children from 1904

In December 1904, Santa Claus made the offices of the Harrisburg Telegraph his post-office for the children of Central Pennsylvania.

“The Telegraph will publish all letters to Santa Claus in the order in which they are received,” wrote the Telegraph’s editors on December 3, 1904. Over the subsequent week, hundreds of children submitted letters expressing their Christmas wishes. This holiday tradition provides a window into the minds of children more than 110 years later.

Letters to Santa

In a letter addressed to the readers of the Telegraph, Santa Claus announced the following:

Dear Telegraph: I find it impossible to get entirely over my route before Christmas to find what the dear little folks want, owing to a sprained leg received by a fall down the south side of the ice berg in my backyard. I’ll be all right by Christmas, but meatime I would be obliged to you if you would publish letters from the little ones to me. I get the Telegraph every evening and will learn exactly what each wants. Of course I can’t promise to bring everything they ask, but I will do my best. Tell them that bad little boys and girls get only bunches of sticks from me. Dear Telegraph: I find it impossible to get entirely over my route before Christmas to find what the dear little folks want, owing to a sprained leg received by a fall down the south side of the ice berg in my backyard. I’ll be all right by Christmas, but meantime I would be obliged to you if you would publish letters from the little ones to me. I get the Telegraph every evening and will learn exactly what each wants. Of course I can’t promise to bring everything they ask, but I will do my best. Tell them that bad little boys and girls get only bunches of sticks from me. 

“Your Old Friend Santa Claus”

Children almost immediately responded to the call for letters, and they poured into the offices of the Republican newspaper in Harrisburg. Each day, dozens of letters were published on the pages of the Telegraph. Children poured out their Christmas wishes, but also exhibited some of the cultural and economic struggles of the time.

r020_034_1904UnfinishedCapitol
The unfinished Capitol building in Harrisburg in 1904. (PHMC)

“Dear Santa Claus,” wrote 7 year-old Samuel Baker from Duncannon, “My mama is dead and I live with my Uncle and Aunt. I am sorry you hurt your leg & I hope it will soon get well… Please bring me a sled and an Express wagon & a pair of gum boots, and some nuts and Oranges, and I want two nice gum balls and a top that sings.” Young Samuel concluded with, “Please Santa Clause, don’t forget me.”

Robert Michael of Harrisburg was sick with the mumps when he wrote his later only a few days before Christmas. “I would like you to bring me a suit, overcoat, [pair] of shoes, and don’t forget ice skates, No. 9,” he wrote. “I will have the fire place door open for you so you won’t have any trouble to find my stocking. Mine will be the middle one.”

Three-year-old Robert Rickert couldn’t quite write yet, but dictated a letter to Santa Claus by asking his older brother Wilbur to write it. “I am going to kindergarden and we are learning how to make toys,” Rickert’s letter said, “so I no [sic] how hard you have to work.” Rickert asked Santa Claus for a little piano, “an airgun to shoot the  naughty birds” and a box of candy.

Unlike many of the letters written to Santa, Ruth McClaughen’s missive to Santa was short and simple. Whereas her peers asked for an incredible variety of clothes, toys, and other delights, Ruth asked simply: “I thought I would write to you to ask you if you could spare a present for me.”

screenshot-2014-01-31-09-36-53
Ruth McClaughen lived on Tanner’s Alley, a poor neighborhood near downtown Harrisburg. (Historic Harrisburg Association)

By December 24, 1904, hundreds of letters addressed to Santa had poured into the Telegraph offices and everyone was ready for the holiday festivities.

“After weeks of waiting and feverish preparation tired folks will this evening say ‘Good Night’ to arise on the morrow with ‘Merry Christmas’ on the ends of their tongues and hearts attuned to the glad song of ‘Peace of Earth, Good Will to Men,’ forgetful entirely of the fatiguing labors of the past month,” wrote the editors at the Telegraph on Christmas Eve.

“Harrisburg is ready to celebrate Christmas in true Christmas style. Tomorrow will be occupied mostly by church services, entertainments, and celebrations.”

In Pennsylvania’s capital on the Susquehanna, the holiday was celebrated in high-style at the Governor’s Mansion where Governor Samuel Pennypacker wished everyone a Merry Christmas by playing Santa Claus and distributing more than 300 pounds of candy to the city’s children. The weather was perfect for the season. A blanket of snow covered the Midstate on Christmas Day.

Want to see more? Click here to read a full list of ‘Letters to Santa Claus’ from December 15, 1904


Featured image: Children looking at Xmas toys in shop window (Library of Congress)

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 786 other followers

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s