EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 22, 2013

An 1899 Christmas story lives on

Haverhill boy's Christmas wishlist may be oldest existing letter to Santa Claus


Blanchette, who prides himself as “the family archivist,” said he was fascinated enough by young Harry’s letter to frame it.

“His simple and polite letter, in remarkably clear penmanship, reflects the wishes of most every young boy over the past 100 years; a football, a golf 'stick,' and like Ralphie in the 1983 film classic 'A Christmas Story,' an air rifle,” Blanchette said.

“Harry’s ‘thank you’ letter to Santa Claus, written the first week in January 1900, tells us of a young boy whose wish list went unheeded by Santa, but who was thankful nonetheless for the simple gifts that he found under the tree Christmas morning: candy and nuts, a toy top, a winter cap and gloves, a handkerchief and, thankfully, a hook and ladder fire truck,” Blanchette said.

A 'neat’ link to his past

Blanchette figures the folder containing his grandfather’s papers probably sat in a drawer for several years before he began perusing it. Once he did, he realized the Santa letters were of historical value to him personally, from a cultural and social standpoint.

“I got thinking, ‘isn’t it neat what my grandfather was writing to Santa about, around the turn of the century?’ The letters are very special,” Blanchette said.

“Many of us have vital records and pictures of ancestors we may have never met. We know their birth dates and when they died. But we rarely have anything else that can offer us a glimpse into the realities of their daily lives,” Blanchette said.

“Letters like these bring me closer to my grandfather and who he was. Holding and reading something he wrote as a child over a century ago — something so personal and sincere — and so similar to things I wrote at Christmas a half century ago, is like touching him again. It is a special connection with my past,” he said.

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