Monday, December 22, 2014

Letters to Santa...

Did you ever wonder if Santa was able to deliver presents during the Civil War or what children asked him to bring them in the 1800s? Well, wonder no more. Let items from the Tennessee State Library and Archives answer your St. Nicholas questions.

In her diary entry of December 28, 1862, Lucy Virginia Smith French wrote:

"We had to be “Santa Claus” ourselves this season, for cakes, apples, a little candy, & some picture books were all that could be procured for the children. We had to tell them Santa Claus couldn’t get thro’ the pickets, - Jessie wanted to know why “the old fellow couldn’t go to his Quartermaster & get him a pass?” They seemed to enjoy their Christmas quite as well as usual however, notwithstanding that Santa Claus was blackheaded."

Lithograph portrait of Lucy Virginia French from Women of the South Distinguished in Literature (1865) by Mary Forrest. She appears to be seated, looking directly ahead while wearing a dress. The printed letters, G. R. Hall, (presumably the engraver), rim the bottom of the portrait, while the name L. Virginia French is written beneath the portrait. According to the preface, the portraits in the volume were made expressly for the book and "with one exception, from life."
Library Collection, TSLA

Lucy Virginia French (1825-1881) was born in Accomack County, Va. In 1848, she and her sister moved to Memphis, where they became teachers. While living in Memphis, she began writing for the Louisville Journal under the pen name "L'Inconnue," and in 1852 became the editor of the Southern Ladies Book. In 1853, she married Col. John Hopkins French and relocated to McMinnville, Tenn., where they had 3 children, 1 boy and 2 girls. She kept detailed diaries during the Civil War, including this diary entry from December 28, 1862...

Lucy Virginia French diary entry, December 28, 1862.
Lucy Virginia French Diaries, TSLA

In another example from our collection, the Boyd Family Papers, 1838-1947, contain letters from Franklin Boyd and Amie “Dovie” (Boyd) Nicholson. Both letters are dated Dec. 22, 1896, and are on J. F. Boyd stationery. The letters were written from Shelbyville, Tennessee.

In Franklin Boyd’s letter, he asks for a long list of items, including a horse, roman candles, and firecrackers. He also asks Santa not to forget his sister. Dovie asks for multiple things as well, including a doll trunk and a set of wooden dishes. She signs her letter, “your little friend Dovie Boyd.”

Dovie Boyd's letter to Santa, Dec. 22, 1896.
Boyd Family Papers, 1838-1947, TSLA

We hope you receive all you have asked for from Santa Claus this holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

"Christmas Gifts" sheet music cover from the Kenneth Rose Music Collection, TSLA

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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