40 Years of Christmas Eves

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40 Years of Christmas Eves

Today: 40 Years of Christmas Eves, from 1900 to 1945. Anna and Richard Wagner had a photograph taken of themselves in their front room every Christmas Eve, and they sent the picture as a Christmas Card to their friends.

These stereoscopic holiday portraits of Richard and Anna Wagner—taken every Christmas Eve from the first year of their marriage in 1900 until just three years before Anna’s death in 1945—were sent out as Christmas cards to the couple’s friends. Today, they inadvertently offer the modern viewer a fascinating perspective on the passage of time. There are the expected physical changes, like weight fluctuations and thinning hair, as well as the addition of new technology. (Check out that vacuum cleaner in 1927!)

“We know nothing about the Wagners’ motive for taking their photographs every year,” Douwe Draaisma writes in Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older. “Nor do we know how they themselves viewed the photographs once the series had started… For the modern spectator who can page through the whole series and in perhaps an hour watch 45 years pass by in review, this photographic memory has become an unintended work of art.”

Don’t we wish we had sets of family photographs like this of our great-grandparents? That’s the first photo in their series above, when the Wagners were newlyweds in 1900.

40 Years of Christmas Eves

40 Years of Christmas Eves

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine’s “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

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