Santa and the shopping season
Published 10:47 am Wednesday, November 1, 2023
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The front page of the Dec. 9, 1914, Christmas edition of the Freeborn County Standard featured this charming picture of Santa bestowing dolls, trucks and other toys upon children. Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum
At the December 1958 Kiwanis noon Christmas party, two eager children sat on Santa’s lap. The tradition of having children visit Santa during the weeks leading up to Christmas dates at least to the turn of the 20th century when department stores began inviting Santa to visit their stores during the holiday shopping season. Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum
In 1958 Santa accompanied this advertisement by the Skinner Chamberlain Department Store in the Albert Lea Evening Tribune. The Skinner Chamberlain Department Store operated on the 200 block of S. Broadway — the present home of Brick Furniture — from 1902 until 1967. Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum
In 1898, Santa’s helpers at Plymouth Shoe Store advertised their “Fine Stock of Shoes and Slippers” during the holiday season. Plymouth Shoe Store opened its doors in 1893 and remains open to this day at 129 S. Broadway. Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum
In December 1914, Lembke Dry Goods Company ran a holiday advertisement for “fine and handsome dolls” for little girls. The Lembke Dry Goods store opened in 1906 and stood at the corner of Broadway and Main Street, the present-day location of Midwest Antiques. Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum
In this Prohibition-era cartoon from the Dec. 13, 1928, edition of the Albert Lea Evening Tribune, Santa got political. Prohibition, which made the production, sale and importation of alcoholic beverages illegal in the United States, began with the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919 and ended in 1933 when the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition. Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum
By Sarah Lilienthal
The image of Santa Claus is embedded in the American holiday experience — particularly holiday shopping and gift-giving. Of course, historically speaking, our modern-day Santa Claus is loosely based on the 4th century Christian bishop St. Nicholas of Myra, who was known for giving gifts to those in need.
The idea of gifts at Christmas time — especially for children — has become an integral part of Santa, with his snow-white beard, fur-lined red coat and sleigh full of gifts.
Albert Lea’s newspapers of yesteryear are filled with cheerful depictions of Santa in festive holiday advertisements showing the latest and greatest gift ideas. A brief survey of Freeborn County newspapers dating back to the 1890s shows an interesting progression of holiday advertising.
In 1898 in the Freeborn County Standard, Santa (or any other mention of Christmas) didn’t show up until mid-December. Sixteen years later, in 1914 Christmas advertisements began in early December, and in 1928, in the Albert Lea Evening Tribune, Santa showed up in advertisements beginning already in late November.
Finally, in 1958, the Christmas advertisements began before Thanksgiving, giving Santa and his helpers a little over a month to prepare their Christmas gifts.