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December2006
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Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis P. Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies and other editorials, and on posters and stamps. His reply appealed to the imagination and hope of a young child’s heart: “Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus… A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Christmas card from “the Stuart M. Baileys” to Charles and Ray Eames cut in the profile of Santa Claus holding packages. Dec. 16, 1970 Man, two women and two children listening to phonograph--Girl is holding doll and another doll is under Christmas tree--There is a sign on the wall, The Edison Home Phonograph, and a portrait of Edison. 1897

For a personal message from Saint Nick himself, listen to “Santa Claus hides in your phonograph,” a recording made by the Thomas Edison Company in 1922. A prolific inventor, Edison patented close to 1,100 gadgets, including the phonograph, the kinetograph and the kinetoscope. As part of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound collections, the Library makes available motion pictures, sound recordings, photographs and print articles from the Edison Company in an online presentation “Inventing Entertainment.”

Santa can also be found in life histories collected as part of the Federal Writers’ Project from 1936 to 1940. Using the search term “Santa Claus,” you can discover recollections of Christmases past, including one by Mrs. Margaret Davis, who delighted in telling the story of some holiday houseguests.

Inevitably, though, the time comes for everyone to let go of Santa Claus whimsy, whether it comes from the playground naysayers or from an overheard late-night conversation between parents as they stock the Christmas tree. Poet Charles Webb presents his feelings of loss on this very moment in his poem “The Death of Santa Claus,” which is part of the Library’s Poetry 180 collection. Offering up a “poem a day for American high schools,” the project is an initiative of former Poet Laureate Billy Collins to inspire and encourage a love of poetry from the nation’s students.


A. Christmas card from “the Stuart M. Baileys” to Charles and Ray Eames cut in the profile of Santa Claus holding packages. Dec. 16, 1970. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-06433 (digital file from original print, cover). Rights status not evaluated. For general information see “Copyright and Other Restrictions”; Call No.: Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 1989:150 [item] [P&P]

B. Man, two women and two children listening to phonograph--Girl is holding doll and another doll is under Christmas tree--There is a sign on the wall, The Edison Home Phonograph, and a portrait of Edison. 1897. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-89930 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: SSF - Phonographs <item> [P&P]