Thursday, December 23, 2010

Old Fashioned Holidays

Currier & Ives print "American Homestead Winter"
One hundred years ago, most of Long Island looked like this scene from a Currier and Ives print.  The occasional "horseless carriage" was  a bother for pedestrians and animals alike, but during the winter months most of the owners of these nuisances stayed in their city homes.  Many of the seasonal vacation homes in The Branch (as the Five Towns were then known) were unheated and early Twentieth Century winters were long and cold -- , few paved roads, no snow blowers, wood and coal stoves...

The December 1910 issues of the Rockaway Journal list some of the holiday festivities for residents of The Branch.
  • Joseph Ueblacker of Lawrence offers a splendid large sleigh for hire for sleighing parties, two or four horses.
  • a Christmas Tree and Carol Festival at St. Johns Church, held for the scholars of the parish school
  • a musical recital by the pupils of Mr. Sigmund Herzog performed at the Olympia Athenaeum on Mott Avenue
  • three events hosted by The Woodmere Country Club, for the entertainment of the members:
    • an "Open House" on December 31st
    • a Bridge Tournament on January 14th
    • a "Stag" with beefsteak supper on January 28th
in addition, the grounds of the Club occupied by the tennis courts are being flooded each cold night to provide a skating rink.
Skaters on the pond, c1906. (Wallace Small, photographer; HWPL collection)

  • Skaters also practiced on Willow Pond, Birch Pond (on the grounds of the Whiton Estate -- now the Stella K. Abraham School), Sage Pond in Lawrence and even Woodmere Bay when it froze!
  • Nebenzahl's Department Store in Far Rockaway suggests last minute gifts in the December 23rd Rockaway Journal (see below).  The first Jewish services in the area were conducted in a room above the store - later the congregation would become Temple Israel.


while their competitors, Mullen and Buckley touted their wares:

It seems that gift-giving was no less hectic a century ago.  Advertisements directed at last-minute shoppers abound in the December 15, 1910 New York Times.  Among these are the AutoStrop Safety Razor ("Economy Christmas Gift for Him"),  The Coward Shoe ("a sensible Christmas Gift") and Macy's Toyland ("....delighting the hearts of thousands of children.....a Fairyland of Toys.") Macy's also featured "French Boudoir Novelties (Third Floor)", French Lingerie and Tea and Luncheon Baskets, while B. Altman and Co advertised "real lace pieces suitable for holiday gifts and "footwear for gift purposes" including "plain and embroidered silk hosiery in shades to match costumes and slippers."

Scribner's advertisement for holiday gift books in includes the following titles:
  • African Game Trails by Theodore Roosevelt.      According to official reports THE BEST SELLER of all non-fiction. Splendidly illustrated with photographs by Kermit Roosevelt and others, also with drawings.   $4.00 net     $4.33 postpaid.
  • Peter Pan by James M. Barrie.     with 15 of Arthur Rackham's framous full color  Pictures. A new edition of this classic for children, now famous for both text and illustrations at a moderate price.   $1.50 net

  • The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton, by  Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton (his grandson)  based chiefly on family letters, papers and documents never before published and giving views hitherto unobtainable of almost all famous men and women of Hamilton's day.  8 vols.    $3.50 net. Postage extra.

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