According to Santa the most requested item this year is an Apple iPad. I couldn”t help but smile upon discovering that among the most requested items on letters to Santa in the 1800s was an—apple. Kind of brings to mind that old saying; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The tradition of writing to Santa supposedly started in 1871 when Harper’s Weekly published a cartoon by Thomas Nest showing Santa sitting at his desk reading letters. Fortunately, letters to Santa were often published in nineteenth century newspapers, giving us a glimpse into the hearts of Victorian children and society as a whole.
The form of the letter hasn’t changed much through the years. Then as now, girls generally wrote longer letters than boys and tended to be more polite, asking after Santa’s wife or reindeer. Most letters included a testament to good behavior, although Santa might well shake his head today if he received the following:
Dear Santa, I’m 12 years old and have been good. Please bring cigarettes. Your friend, Paul.
Some children mentioned seeing a particular toy in a store window, but the Sears Catalogue was the Wish Book of choice. Some enterprising boys and girls even include catalogue page numbers in their letters.
You can send me one of everything from the boys” section of the Sears catalogue. But nothing from the girls” section. – Kent
The Henry Ford household apparently didn”t have a Sears Catalogue:
Dear Santa Claus:
I Havent Had Any Christmas Tree in 4 Years And I Have Broken My Trimmings And I Want A Pair of Roller Skates And A Book, I Cant Think Of Any Thing More. I Want You To Think O Something More. Good By. Edsel Ford
I was surprised by the number of girls asking for boy dolls. Dolls with brown eyes were all the rage in the 1880s; previously only blue-eyed dolls were available. Shooting off fireworks was a popular way to celebrate Christmas, so it was no surprise to find many requests for roman candles and pop crackers—mostly from boys. Trains, baby carriages, cook stoves, alphabet blocks and marbles were also popular items.
Many letters in the 1800s inquired as to Santa’s health, which puzzled me, until one letter writer cleared up the mystery. It seems that parents unable to afford Christmas toys told their kiddies that Santa was sick and couldn’t come.
Many children remembered to ask Santa for something for siblings, but this letter from Texas gave me pause:
Dear Santa, please bring my baby brother a rattler.
It was tempting at times to read between the lines:
Dear Santa, I had an accident happen to me not long ago. Please bring a rifle. Your friend Amos
I hope Santa left castor oil with this hefty load :
Dear Santa, I write these lines because my stomach is very empty and keeps flip-flopping; Please send a barrel of nuts, 14 pounds of candy, a small barrel of molasses and chewing gum.-Jesse
Santa it seemed could do anything: One little girl asked for a cradle and washboard and a “sweetheart for my teacher, Miss Georgia.”
One thing that really stood out was the charitable nature of children. Many letters contained pleas for poor children. In 1893 One little Texas boy named Louis St. Clair “bursted” his bank to send Santa twenty-five cents to give to the “poor little sick boy.”
Requests for teddy bears started popping up in the early 1900s and something called an Irish Mail, pictured here.
Children didn’t always receive their heart’s desire, which probably explains the number of letters that ended like this: “And don’t try to fool me.”
DEAR SANTA: Now it”s your turn: What do you want from Santa this year?
What I want is for one of you to win a prize.
How to Enter the HONK IF YOU LOVE BOOKS contest:
In WAITING FOR MORNING set in the Arizona Territory in 1896, Dr. Caleb Fairbanks introduces the residents of the Last Chance Ranch to his beloved “horseless carriage” named Bertha. When Caleb and his backfiring Bertha incite gunfire from former dance hall girl, Molly Hatfield, the handsome doctor knows he”s in for an adventure with the intriguing woman and her spirited wheelchair bound kid brother, Donny.
Share your memory of a car that played an important role in your life”s story for a chance to win a $100 gas card. Email your story (no more than a couple of paragraphs) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be notified on January 8.
CARS NOT YOUR THING?
There”s still time to enter the Preorder Contest for a chance to win $100 Amazon or B&N Gift card from my publisher. To enter, order the book and copy proof of sale to: . To order click on cover. It”s that simple, but hurry; contests ends January 8th.