Some York County Christmases of the 1890s
It looks like children of over a century ago received plenty of toys for Christmas if they were from well off families, like Morris Small and Henry Spahr Small, pictured here.
The photos are from an album of photos taken from 1896 to 1910 and donated in 1957 to the York County Heritage Trust Library and Archives by Dr. Luther A. Gotwalt, who might have been related to the Small children.
I’m not sure if Morris and Henry were brothers, or, perhaps, cousins. Each seems to have his own Christmas tree. Even though these snapshots are over a century old, you can make out some of the very nice toys in the photos.
Note that little Henry S. Small is wearing a dress, the fashion of the day for very small boys. His father was David E. Small, who, according to Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, Pennsylvania, was active in two manufacturing businesses: The Ruth Machine Company, makers of hosiery knitting machines and, also, commercial scale manufacturer York Automatic Scale Company.
The photo captioned: “Dec. 25, 1896, Morris Small” shows a sled painted with a horse, a child’s rocking chair, and a book or game titled Museum Wonders. A box has “Barnum’s” on the lid, probably a circus toy. There are ten pins behind the fence surrounding the tree and maybe a house model. Morris is holding what looks to be a full-sized hammer. The dog is real, just managing to get into the picture.
More toys are probably out of camera range in the photo of “Henry S. Small’s Christmas Tree, Dec. 25, 1897.” You can see a stick horse, toy riding horse and a drum set. The child’s chair might have a bow on it. There is a village under the tree–you can see a train tunnel. The woman is identified as Mrs. D. E. Small, probably the grandmother. I need to check the files at York County Heritage Trust, but I think she might be the widow of David Etter Small of Small and Billmeyer Car Works fame.
“Henry S. Small’s Xmas Tree, Dec. 26, 1898” also shows lots of toys, including a large toy train on the floor, a sled, a book with elephants and palm trees and an impressive steam ship. You can see the same train tunnel in the layout under the tree. The other boy in the photo is Morris. This time he is holding a hatchet.
The presents under “Morris Small’s Xmas Tree, Dec. 26, 1898” include a large tool chest with a sizable saw sticking out of it. I see a pattern here.