Universal York

Part of the USA Today Network

More late 19th century York Christmas photos

Christmas presents, Mrs. D. E. Small, 1898
Christmas presents, Mrs. D. E. Small, 1898

Christmas presents, 1902
Christmas presents, 1902

As I noted in my last post, showing photos of the Christmas trees of the Small family boys at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, you don’t see too many snapshots from that era. The first consumer camera had been recently introduced by Kodak and they were pretty expensive. Indoor photos more rare than those taken outdoors, as you also had to have a strong source of light.

Here are several more Christmas photos from the same album, which was donated to the York County Heritage Trust Library Archives by Dr. Luther A. Gotwalt in 1957.

The two photos at top above give you an idea of what an older woman would have received as gifts. The one dated 1898 include several pillows, perhaps a small lamp, a doily and lots of photographs, probably of family members. The woman is identified as Mrs. D. E. Small, probably the grandmother of the children in my last post and possibly the widow of David Etter Small, railroad carmaker and one of the leading citizens of York.

The 1902 photo of gifts shows them arranged on the same table at those previously. The gifts are similar, so they might also be for Mrs. D. E. Small. There are fewer pillows and more doilies. It also looks as if there is a pair of fairly tall figurines on the table.

"Christmas design, 1897"
“Christmas design, 1897”

The three photos of a stage are almost certainly the settings for Christmas programs at local church. The one with Santa sitting in the “log cabin” is captioned “Christmas design, 1897.” Looking at that mask, I can see why we now adorn Santa with fake hair and moustache, not a mask.

"Xmas design, Junior Xmas exercises, Dec. 22, 1898"
“Xmas design, Junior Xmas exercises, Dec. 22, 1898”

The photo with the girl and all the dolls is dated December 22, 1898. She is dressed as an older woman, probably her character in a Christmas play.

Uncaptioned, probably around 1903
Uncaptioned, probably around 1903

The one that show the too-tall Christmas tree is undated, but it is positioned in the album with photos from the very early 1900s. There seem to be some very slight differences from the 1897 photo. The background scene is the same as the one in the background of the previous Henry Small tree photos. I think it may have been printed on something like cardboard and commercially available. The only other theory is that the Smalls loaned it to the church and then took it home to use.

The more closely I look at early photos, the more I realize that they are another valuable component in preserving out rich history.