Houston at Christmas: 100 Years Ago

Christmas in Houston  ~ 100 Years Ago, 1913 ~

Christmas in Houston
~ 100 Years Ago, 1913 ~

The photo may or may not be exactly from 1913. The goal here is not the precise accuracy of the photo depiction, but looking at how the print media covered Christmas in Houston 100 years ago.

Some things change. Others remain the same.



Houston, Tex., December 25, 1913 — The peaceful spirit of Christmas hung over Houston today and directed all the activities of its citizens from the staging of the gorgeous municipal Christmas tree to the giving of the smallest present  that marked the esteem of a friend for a friend. All business houses were closed and even the streets were almost deserted, while the citizens gathered about the family boards and ate of the Christmas turkey or helped the children enjoy their new presents.

Masses were said in all the Catholic churches of the city in the forenoon and in many of the Protestant churches special services were held. In the afternoon the municipal Christmas tree was the feature of the children, while the theaters held large crowds at the matinees. In the evening the streets were almost deserted except for the occasional party of theater goers, the chilling blast that swept the streets making the cozy firs of the homes preferable to the out of doors.

“Municipal Tree” is a Success

After a month of work on the part of a hundred women and expectancy on the part of 4,000 children, the first municipal Christmas tree ever held in Houston is a successful thing of the past, and those who fostered and executed the idea were so encouraged by the sight of so many happy faces gathered together that it is practically assured that the municipal Christmas tree in Houston will become an established event. One woman said today:  “When I saw the happiness portrayed in those thousands of faces I felt amply repaid for the slight services I rendered in making it possible.”

The exercises at the municipal auditorium began at 2:30 o’clock this afternoon with a concert by the Municipal Band, which was enjoyed by a crowd of about 4,000 children and 2,000 grown people. This continued for thirty minutes, when Dr. W. S. Lockhart read a short passage from the Bible and then spoke briefly on the origin and importance of Christmas. This was followed by a duet rendition of “Holy Night” that was very beautiful. The children were then led in singing “America,” to the band accompaniment, following which several motion pictures were shown on the canvas.

Mayor Campbell is Santa Claus

At this juncture, (Houston) Mayor Campbell, who had been deputized to act as Santa Claus, arrived on the scene in a big touring car. Entrance was effected through the big doors on the Capitol avenue side of the auditorium, and a part of the seats had been cleared away, leaving an aisle through which the car was driven to the very center of the building and directly in front of the stage. The car was driven quietly and quickly into the building, and when the children recognized the presence off Santa Claus they gave a tremendous ovation.

After making the children a speech, the Mayor directed the distribution of the 6,000 stockings piled up in front. The arrangement  of the crowd was systematized that when a child left his seat, he marched down to the front aisle, where he was handed his stocking, and then he marched out of the building. All were requested to go out on Capitol avenue, where a moving picture machine was taking a film picture of the happy faces as they emerged with their gifts in their arms.

The Tree and the Gifts

A huge Christmas tree of pine was set deep in the stage and was brilliantly lighted with white, red, and blue, and green lights. The sight of this tree, when the curtain was raised, provoked hearty applause. The gift for the children consisted of a small stocking, filled with fruits and candies. The stockings were made by the ladies of the city and their contents were donated by various merchants.

Child Burns to Death Amidst Christmas Romp

Excited over an examination of her Christmas presents, Edna May Keller, the 12 year old daughter of Porter D. Keller, brushed against a red hot stove this morning when she went to turn the damper, and within a few minutes she was dead as a result of her clothing having ignited and burned almost entirely off her body. The accident happened at her home, 1818 Franklin Avenue, at 11:25 o’clock, just after the child had been playing with some of her new toys.

The child had arisen early and had spent the morning viewing the playthings which had been given her for Christmas, and had called the rest of the family into a room adjoining the one in which was the stove. It was while the family was assembled in there that the stove became overheated, and when the little girl went near it to turn the damper, her clothing ignited. Like a flash she was enveloped in flames, and when a physician arrived he found she was fatally burned, and also had swallowed a quantity of the flames and smoke.

The funeral will be held from the family home at 3 o’clock Friday afternoon (Dec. 26, 1913), Rev. J.L. Gross officiating, and interment will be in the German Cemetery.

Auto Accident Proves Fatal

W.L. Wayland, advertising manager for the Foley Bros. Dry Goods Store, died at noon today at the St. Joseph’s Infirmary from injuries received last night in a collision between an automobile in which he was driving and a wagon of the Houston Transfer Company.

In company with G.H. McCormick, Mr. Wayland was driving out Main Street. At the intersection of Main and Pease, Mr. Wayland was blinded by a street light blinded Mr. McCormick (the 1913 reporter mistakenly used the name of the passenger here. All other writing references here state that Mr. Wayland was the driver) and he (Wayland) did not see the wagon until it was too late to avoid a collision. When he did see the wagon he swerved the car and Mr. Wayland was thrown out, alighting on his head. He was taken to the infirmary and was unconscious until his death occurred.

Wayland lived at 1608 Tuam avenue and is survived by a widow and two children. It is expected that the funeral will be held Friday (Dec. 26, 1913).

100,000 Packages are Mailed

With the (Houston) Christmas rush over. the local postal authorities have estimated that the stamp sales for the five days between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23, inclusive. amounted to $11,865.42.

The heaviest sales were those of Monday (Dec. 22, 1913), which amounted to $3,110.76, when about 30,000 parcels were mailed. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 parcels were mailed during the Christmas rush, and the expediency with which these have been handled has provoked much favorable comment.

It has been found that the average price of the sending of a parcel is about 7 cents, while some have gone for 4 cents, and very few cost more than 15 cents. The method of sending Christmas gifts has been given approval.

~ Galveston Daily News, Friday, December 26, 1913, Page 6 ~



One Response to “Houston at Christmas: 100 Years Ago”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    How very sad about the young girl. What an awful way to spend Christmas. I knew a family that lost a son on Christmas Eve when his bicycle was struck by a car driven by an off-duty policeman. A drunk off-duty policeman. The boy’s gifts under the Christmas tree were given away. I don’t think the parents ever really got over it.

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