24 Dec 2016

Stockings and Oranges at Christmas

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
– “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” aka “The Night Before Christmas” (1823)
From Smithsonian Magazine, Emily Spivack tells us about the cultural origins of those Christmas stockings that old St. Nick fills with such care for us each year. Debate still endures about which of two New Yorkers first wrote the poem, but the origin story is usually pretty faithful to this version:
St. Nicholas was wandering through the town where the man lived and heard villagers discussing that family’s plight. He wanted to help but knew  the man would refuse any kind of charity directly. Instead, one night, he slid down the chimney of the family’s house and filled the girls’ recently laundered stockings, which happened to be drying by the fire, with gold coins. And then he disappeared.

The girls awoke in the morning, overjoyed upon discovering the […]

5 Sep 2016

Lewis Hine Project

The Lewis Hine Project documents the research of retired social worker Joe Manning. He set out in 2004 to see what had happened to the children featured in Lewis Hine’s heartbreaking photos of child labor in the United States in the early 20th century. The Lewis Hine Project documents his findings—showing the lives of hundreds of subjects—on his website,
The Lewis Hine Project
Because Hine only recorded the dates and places of his photos, Manning became a researcher-genealogist to identify the children and find their descendants.

Manning set out to find the identity of the little girl in one of Hine’s most famous photographs.

The little girl staring out the window has no name and a very short story. At 10 years old, she had been working at Rhodes Manufacturing Company for more than a year…. I came up with a novel idea. I searched the 1910 Lincolnton census, and made a list of all […]

27 Mar 2016

Is the American Easter Bunny German?

In honor of the holiday today, we ask
Is the American Easter Bunny German?
Stephen Winick’s article, On the Bunny Trail: In Search of the Easter Bunny, indicates that we have the German colonial immigrants–known familiarly as the Pennsylvania Dutch–to thank for the Easter Bunny in the United States. In the Folklife Today blog from the Library of Congress, Winick explores the antecedents of the Easter Bunny we know today: the “swift little creature” who visits and hides pastel-dyed eggs and baskets of candy around American lawns and homes for children to find. Sometimes, as seen in the Winterthur fraktur above, “…the bunny is even said to lay eggs, presenting a challenge to biology teachers everywhere!,” writes Winick.

The first known reference to the German tradition of the Easter Hare comes from Georg Franck von Franckenau’s academic essay De ovis paschalibus [About Easter Eggs] from 1682. This Latin work refers to the German tradition of an Easter […]

21 Dec 2015

Letters Santa Missed Long Ago

From The New York Times today, a story about
some letters Santa missed long ago.
Some genealogy research helped solve the mystery of two letters Santa missed long ago, left in a fireplace a Hell’s Kitchen apartment in Manhattan and recently rediscovered. When Peter Mattaliano, an acting coach, renovated his apartment, his brother worked on the fireplace and discovered

…a delicate piece of paper with faint children’s scrawl bearing a request to Santa from a century earlier. …A century ago they lived in what is now Mr. Mattaliano’s home. He has honored Mary and Alfred McGann every December for the past 15 years, ever since he learned of their existence when he renovated his fireplace. It had been sealed with brick for more than 60 years.
“I’m sharing their space,” he said, adding that he adopted the spirits of these children, frozen in pre-Christmas longing. Their spirits remain in the apartment, he believes, forever young, in something of a Hell’s Kitchen […]