Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Christmas Spirit Gift Giving in Henry Clay Frick's Family Was Practical and Charitable

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Christmas Spirit Gift Giving in Henry Clay Frick's Family Was Practical and Charitable

Article excerpt

For Adelaide Frick, preparing for Christmas in the 1880s meant shopping for 50 to 75 presents plus preparing gift baskets of food, clothing and toys for needy immigrant families.

"She has a very long shopping list for the family, social acquaintances and domestic staff. That was pretty common for a woman of her status," said Dawn Reid Brean, associate curator of decorative arts for The Frick Pittsburgh.

To prepare this year's holiday decorations at Clayton, the Frick family home in Point Breeze, Ms. Brean looked at Mrs. Frick's handwritten shopping list from 1894.

"Some of the kitchen staff and ladies maids might get a linen handkerchief embroidered with initials. Some years they received pins," Ms. Brean said.

Mrs. Frick bought silver trays or rings for friends and social acquaintances, and for her daughter, Helen, she picked up a miniature sewing machine and a tea and china set.

"These were appropriate gifts for a young girl because they encouraged her domestic side," Ms. Brean said.

Helen's brother, Childs, received a Kodak camera one Christmas and a telegraph set, gifts suited to his adventurous nature, she said.

The Fricks could afford extravagant presents, but Mrs. Frick often bought practical items for her husband, including a card set for whist, a book and bottles of cologne. The family library includes one book, "Christmas Drawings for the Human Race," that features drawings by famed artist Thomas Nast.

"The book includes some really great examples of those early representations of Santa Claus. As a character in popular culture, Santa Claus is just coming into his own right at the time the Frick family has young children," Ms. Brean said.

In the 1880s, the customs of decorating trees, sending holiday cards, hanging stockings and exchanging gifts were growing more popular in the United States. …

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