Christmas Letters from 1929 Remind Us of Hardships

Dec 19, 2018

For many children, writing a letter to Santa has always been an important part of this time of the year.

Back in 1929 though, the letters reflected hardships in Rhinelander families. Gary Entz remembers those families this week as part of our continued series A Northwoods Moment in History.

Thanks to Liana Teter, Brynn Teter, and Cooper Dick for reading the letters from 1929.

The Great Depression began after the stock market crash of 1929, and Christmas of that year was the first of the Depression era.  The Rhinelander Goodfellows Club launched a fund drive to buy presents for poor children in the Northwoods, and the “Rhinelander Daily News” cooperated by asking children to write letters to Santa.  Many letters simply expressed wishes for candy and toys, but some reflected the growing hardship of the times.  Here then, in their own words, is a selection of letters to Santa written by Northwoods children in 1929.

The Krueger family Christmas tree with toys, 1901.
Credit Credit Wisconsin Historical Society, Image ID: 23942, wisconsinhistory.org

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Dear Santa,

We are four little children.  We live on the old country farm.  Our daddy is away from home, and mamma has a hard time getting along.  We would like to have you come to our house Christmas.  We would like some playthings.  Tony, age 7, would like a sled.  Dolly, age 5, would like a doll.  Patsy, age 4, would like a car and train.  Cecelia, age 2, wants a doll and stockings.  We all enjoy candy and nuts.  Santa, don’t forget mamma.

With much love,

Tony, Dolly, Patsy, and Cecelia Paris

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Dear Santa Claus,

I am sorry I haven’t wrote before but my pet dog got his leg broke and I thought we would hafta have him killed but he will get well.  So Santa please come to Rhinelander.  I and my pet dog Shep would like to see you.  I haven’t any little brothers and sisters only one big brother.  I am nine years old and bring me, dear old Santa, what you think is best for me.  But as long as my dog will get well that is all I ask you.  But would like to see you.

Bye bye dear Santa

Wayne Akey

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Dearest Santa Claus,

I saw in the “Daily News” all children should write to Santa Claus if they wanted to see him visit Rhinelander.  We sure do Santa.  Would love to have you come and to see your great reindeers, like we saw and read in papers and books.  There are five in our family.  I am the oldest so I am writing for all.  We thank you very much for all the gifts you gave us last year.  Mother said Santa Claus won’t come this year as our father is very sick and can’t work.  But just the same when you come and see the other children come see us too.

From Mabel, Myra, Orval, Agnes, and little Seabert Nelson

We live on Upland Avenue.

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Christmas hopes, Christmas dreams, and Christmas wishes from 1929.

This story was written by Gary Entz and produced for radio and the web by Mackenzie Martin. Some music for this commentary came Podington Bear. A sound effect for this commentary came from constructabeat. The photos above are used with permisson from the Wisconsin Historical Society and can be found on their website here and here.

A Northwoods Moment in History is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.