Tiffany’s Daffodil Terrace rebuilt in Florida

January 3rd, 2011

The Daffodil Terrace at Laurelton Hall before the fireWhen Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Long Island estate Laurelton Hall burned down in 1957, scavengers flocked to the site to scoop up whatever they could find. Hugh McKean, a personal friend of Tiffany’s who had lived on the estate as fellow-in-residence, and his wife Jeannette took away large chunks of the 84-room house. What they didn’t salvage on the spot, they spent four decades locating and buying from sales, auctions and owners.

The reconstructed Daffodil Terrace on display at the Met, 2006They founded the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida to house the Laurelton Hall pieces and the rest of their collection of Tiffany objects. Most of the collection remained in storage until 2006, when the Morse Museum collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to unpack the pieces and put them together for a temporary six-month display.

Detail of Daffodil Terrace columnThe reconstructed Daffodil Terrace, so named because its columns are topped with long-stemmed glass daffodil capitals, was the centerpiece. As soon as the Morse board members saw it at the Met, they realized they couldn’t just pack it back up once the exhibit was over. So the Morse spent $5 million building a new 6,000-square-foot wing to house the Daffodil Terrace and the 250 other Tiffany pieces in the collection.

Construction is done and the new wing is scheduled to open on February 19th. The new gallery was designed to mirror the flow and placement of Laurelton Hall, and to emphasize Tiffany’s characteristic blurring of indoor and outdoor spaces.

The Daffodil Terrace will be displayed in a glassed-in alcove to recreate the feel of the original outdoor space.

“It’s bathed in natural light for the first time since it was taken from the estate,” said Catherine Hinman, the museum’s director of public affairs.

As it did at Laurelton Hall, the terrace flows directly into a recreation of the estate’s dining room, which includes a nearly 14-foot high mosaic mantelpiece, 25-foot long Oriental carpet and a suite of six leaded-glass wisteria transoms.

The adjoining living room features four leaded-glass panels depicting the four seasons, which won a gold medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, and five turtleback-glass hanging lamps.

The Morse Museum website has set up a webcam in the Daffodil Terrace gallery. Right now it just looks like grainy security cam footage, but I’ll try again tomorrow when the alcove should be bathed in natural light.

The living room gallery, Morse Museum

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Last roll of Kodachrome film developed

January 2nd, 2011

Kodachrome filmDwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, developed the last roll of Kodachrome film on Thursday. As digital photography took over and developing outlets closed en masse, Kodak announced in June of 2009 that after 74 years of iconic success, they would no longer produce the development chemicals necessary to print Kodachrome negatives. Dwayne’s Photo got a special dispensation. Kodak ensured that as the only shop left not just in the United States but in the world, they would receive the chemicals through the end of 2010.

Kodachrome was the first successful mass-produced color film process. It created a rich depth of color and warm light which made it a favorite of videographers and photographers, peaking in the 1960s. Paul Simon even wrote a song about it whose lyrics include, “They give us those nice bright colours. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day.”

Or not so sunny, as the case would have it. Abraham Zapruder shot his famous footage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Kodachrome film.

Before the deadline loomed so prominently, the store was developing an average of 700 rolls of film a day, which is a remarkable amount considering the dominance of digital. The end of an era stimulated a huge final rush of people bringing in every roll they’ve had lying around for decades.

In the last weeks, dozens of visitors and thousands of overnight packages have raced here, transforming this small prairie-bound city not far from the Oklahoma border for a brief time into a center of nostalgia for the days when photographs appeared not in the sterile frame of a computer screen or in a pack of flimsy prints from the local drugstore but in the warm glow of a projector pulling an image from a carousel of vivid slides.

In the span of minutes this week, two such visitors arrived. The first was a railroad worker who had driven from Arkansas to pick up 1,580 rolls of film that he had just paid $15,798 to develop. The second was an artist who had driven directly here after flying from London to Wichita, Kan., on her first trip to the United States to turn in three rolls of film and shoot five more before the processing deadline.

The artist, Aliceson Carter, 42, was incredulous as she watched the railroad worker, Jim DeNike, 53, loading a dozen boxes that contained nearly 50,000 slides into his old maroon Pontiac. He explained that every picture inside was of railroad trains and that he had borrowed money from his father’s retirement account to pay for developing them.

Is it weird if I hope that he’s able to digitize that collection some day?

National Geographic Afghan girlThe last roll of film Kodak made they gave to photographer Steve McCurry, the author of the famous portrait, shot in Kodachrome, of an Afghan girl with piercing green eyes that was on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. He shot pictures in New York and India on the roll and took it to Dwayne’s Photo in person for development.

His wasn’t the last roll to be developed, though. That honor went to Dwayne’s owner Dwayne Steinle, but first he had to fish out a camera that actually worked, because, o tempora o mores, he himself uses a digital camera these days. He took pictures of the town in the last week of Kodachrome, leaving the last space on the roll for a group photo of all of Dwayne’s Photo’s employees standing in front of the store wearing custom printed t-shirts to mark the moment: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

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Divers welcome New Year by diving into the Tiber

January 1st, 2011

Marco Fois jumps off Cavour BridgeIt’s a relatively recent tradition for a city like Rome, started just after the end of World War II. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1946, Belgian expat Rick De Sonay dived off the Cavour Bridge into the cold, muddy, sewage-ridden, rat- and dead body-infested Tiber to welcome the new year. He had been an Olympic champion and was looking for work as a movie stuntman.

What started as one man’s publicity stunt became a tradition, and De Sonay became known as “Mr. OK” from the thumb-and-forefinger in a circle gesture he made to reassure the crowd that he was in fine fettle after he surfaced.

That’s not a foregone conclusion. The Tiber isn’t frozen, usually, but it’s still frigid on New Year’s Day — average water temperature is 5°C, 40°F — and at 13 feet deep, it’s shallow for a dive off a 55-foot-tall bridge. The currents and whirlpools are forceful around the pylons of the bridge. Also, there are things going on down there. Things involving boats and many people on them. (You can see some of the traffic in the footage below.)

Mr. OK died in 1988 at age 89. That year lifeguard Maurizio Palmulli (the guy with the long white hair) did his first New Year’s dive off the Cavour Bridge into the Tiber, considering it a duty to De Sonay whom he had known as a boy. He took on Mr. OK’s famous gesture and eventually the nickname followed.

This year Palmulli did his 22nd dive — his threatened retirement a few years ago never panned out — and he told news crews to look for him on bridges over the Seine in Paris and the Thames in London next year. Other divers have also taken on the fond tradition. Bartender and professional diver Marco Fois did his 12th dive this year.

It’s a New Year’s Day tradition now. Instead of diving at midnight New Year’s Eve as Mr. OK did the first year, divers have for decades now used the traditional noontime cannon shot from the Janiculum hill as the starter pistol for their dives.

Have a prosperous New Year, all. :boogie:

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No Pardon for Billy the Kid

December 31st, 2010

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has decided not to posthumously pardon Billy the Kid, aka William H. Bonney, aka Henry McCarty, for any of his many crimes. Richardson considered pardoning him because the historical record suggests territorial Governor Lew Wallace may have extended the promise of a pardon in exchange for Billy’s testimony against another murderer. Billy testified but the pardon never materialized. He escaped from jail killing two guards only to be caught again, escape again, then finally shot to death by Lincoln County sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881.

The Wallace and Garrett familys were not pleased that Gov. Richardson was willing to re-examine the question of whether Wallace made a deal with Billy the Kid that he welched on and whether Garrett had shot the wrong man. The descendants of Billy the Kid’s victim Sheriff William J. Brady, killed on April Fool’s Day, 1878, were also offended by the very notion of a pardon.

Sheriff Pat GarrettIn July of this year, Garrett’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren wrote to Mr. Richardson: “If Billy the Kid were living amongst us now, would you issue a pardon for someone who made his living as a thief and, more egregiously, who killed four law enforcement officers and numerous others?”

But history buffs who also happen to be Governor can’t be deterred that easily, especially when they can’t run again because of term limits anyway. Richardson set up a website about the Billy the Kid pardon, soliciting comments on the question from the general public. Out of the 809 emails received, 430 of them favored granting the pardon, 379 were against it.

Overwhelming pro-Bonney numbers notwithstanding, the Governor ultimately decided the evidence was just too inconclusive even for this level of tourism-luring stunt pardoning. After all, even if Lew Wallace did offer Billy the Kid a pardon, he could have been lying to get his testimony. There was never any guarantee, nor is there any formal record of Governor Wallace making any such offer.

Some historians suggest that Mr. Wallace never explicitly offered a pardon to the outlaw, who also went by the names Henry McCarty and William H. Bonney, and might have been trying to trick him. Shortly before Mr. Wallace left office, he told a newspaper: “I can’t see how a fellow like him should expect any clemency from me.”

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Högström gets 3 years for Auschwitz sign theft

December 30th, 2010

Swedish national and founder of Sweden’s National Socialist Front party Anders Högström has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by a Polish court for masterminding last year’s theft and dismemberment of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the entrance to Auschwitz.

Högström, who claimed to have abandoned his neo-Nazi ways over a decade ago, received the sentence as part of plea agreement that allows him to serve his time in a Swedish prison rather than a Polish one. If what I’ve seen on Wallander is at all accurate, I suspect that’s a pretty sweet exchange.

Auschwitz "Arbeit Macht Frei" signThe exact nature of his involvement in the plot is still nebulous. When he was extradited from Sweden, he said he had played the middle man, simply arranging the transportation of the sign from one location to another. He also claimed that he had turned himself in once he discovered the proceeds from the sale of this ultimate symbol of Nazi genocide were going to be used to disrupt the upcoming elections.

Poland convicted him of masterminding the theft after prosecutors failed to turn up any evidence which supported Hogstrom’s claims that he was acting as a middle man in a plot to steal the sign for financial and possibly political gain.

Swedish police arrested him early in 2010. Hogstrom also claimed that rather than being arrested, he had turned himself into the Swedish authorities after he realised that proceeds from the sign’s sale was meant for a political campaign to disrupt Swedish general election in September which saw huge gains by the right-wing Sweden Democrat party. No evidence has emerged to support his claim that there was a political element to the theft

Polish prosecutors said Hogstrom had admitted his guilt at the last minute. The most likely cause for Hogstrom’s change of heart appears to have been the settlement reached with prosecutors which allows him to return to Sweden to serve his sentence.

But whether the motives behind the sign’s theft were political or linked in any way to the election gains by Sweden’s anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, remains a mystery. Robert Parys, the Polish prosecutor who headed the investigation, said he was convinced the main motive was financial.

Two Polish nationals, Marcin Auguscinski and Andrzej Strychalski were sentenced 30 months and 28 months in jail respectively for the theft and dismemberment of the sign. They cut it into three pieces so it would fit in their truck. Marcin Auguscinski knew Högström personally. He did odd jobs on Högström’s southern Sweden estate more than two years ago.

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New Georgia AC to remove slavery murals

December 29th, 2010

George Beattie mural of slaves harvesting sugar cane in lobby of GA Dept. of AgricultureThe incoming Georgia agriculture commissioner plans to remove seven murals by George Beattie from the lobby of the Department of Agriculture in Atlanta across from the state Capitol.

Beattie’s paintings were commissioned in 1956 and depict the history of agriculture in the state, from half-naked Native Americans cultivating corn to a state farmers market to a 20th-century veterinary lab. Somewhere in between there are two idealized depictions of slavery, one of strapping slaves harvesting sugar cane, the other of equally strapping slaves picking cotton and using a cotton gin to separate seed from fiber under the dignified eye of a pair of white overseers.

Conservative Republican Commisioner-elect Gary Black finds them “undesirable” and plans to take them out of the lobby and put them in storage. The unobjectionable state farmers market one might remain in use, but not in the lobby.

“I don’t like those pictures,” said Republican Gary Black, the newly elected agriculture commissioner. “There are a lot of other people who don’t like them.” [...]

“I think we can depict a better picture of agriculture,” Black said.

There are no signs of the whippings, beatings, shackles or brutality used to subjugate the slaves, who appear healthy, muscular, even robust.

George Beattie mural of slaves picking and ginning cottonBeattie’s son George Beattie III says his father thought slavery was terrible but that he was asked to depict the history of agriculture in Georgia, and that means depicting slaves who were 40% of the state’s agricultural workers by 1840. Historical accuracy did not demand that he depict them in the blazing good health of a ruddy Soviet farmer on a propaganda poster, though.

Even Beattie’s close friend, sculptor and professor emeritus at Georgia State University George Beasley, who believes the paintings should remain where they are, admits that the painter had a penchant for idealized, shiny-happy images, which puts the lie to the notion that the paintings are only about presenting Georgia history as it was.

The year those paintings were hung, after all, was a landmark year in Georgia’s racist history. It’s the year a Confederate Battle Flag was added to the state flag in protest of school desegregation. Governor Marvin Griffin declared that “the schools are not going to be mixed come hell or high water.” The Confederate flag remained on the state flag until Governor Roy Barnes replaced it in 2001, a decision that may have played a pivotal role in his failure to secure re-election the next year.

Gary Black is the first new agricultural commissioner in 41 years. Outgoing commissioner Tommy Irvin was appointed by segregationist governor Lester Maddox in 1969 and ran undefeated, often unopposed, for the next 10 elections. If Irvin hadn’t decided to retire this year, Black might have lost yet again, just like he did in 2006. He has all kinds of reasons for wanting a fresh start.

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2,600-year-old Celtic tomb found in Germany

December 28th, 2010

A 2,600-year-old Celtic tomb has been found by archaeologists excavating the ancient hill fort at Heuneburg, Germany. The 13-by-16-foot burial chamber is in an excellent state of preservation and still contains a treasury of gold and amber jewelry.

The jewelry allowed archaeologists to pinpoint a precise date, the first time they’ve been able to do so with early Celtic remains. It also strongly suggests that the tomb belonged to a noblewoman of the fort’s early period of Celtic habitation, the 7th century B.C. Further analysis of the burial chamber will be needed to confirm the date and owner.

This should be a lot easier for scientists since the entire tomb has been lifted out of the ground in one solid block of earth by two cranes, loaded on a specialized flatbed truck and transported tout entier to the lab of the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Stuttgart.

The Heuneburg hill fort site is one of the oldest settlements north of the Alps, and a major source of information about Iron Age Celtic culture at a time when wealth and population were increasing rapidly in a few population centers.

The Celtic citadel was first enclosed with a wood and earth wall in 700 B.C., a standard Celtic building technique. By 600 B.C., however, they had built a mudbrick wall over a limestone foundation almost 20 feet high. The mudbricks were painted in limestone plaster and must have been a very visible landmark in the area for the 70 years they lasted. There are no other similar such walls known in any Celtic settlements in central Europe of the time.

Cranes remove entire burial chamber as solid block of earth Intricate gold jewelry found in the tomb

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Portland chef finds 200-year-old Italian cookbook

December 27th, 2010

Pumpkin soup page from "Il Cuoco Maceratese"Stefania Toscano packed many of her beloved aunt’s books when she moved from Italy to Oregon. She was in a rush and didn’t catalog them before boxing them up, so when she found a coverless, worn book in a Ziploc bag at the bottom of one of the boxes, at first she didn’t think much of it. Her aunt was a hugely accomplished cook and had a large collection of cookbooks.

Upon closer inspection she realized it was an 1809 edition of Il Cuoco Maceratese (The Cook from Macerata — a city in the central Italian region of Le Marche) by Antonio Nebbia. It’s one of the earliest cookbooks written on Italian soil, decades before it was a country.

Toscano went to the Reed College library to find out more about the book, and a search of the school’s massive database of libraries around the world confirmed that it was a rare volume indeed. Out of 42,000 libraries searched, there were only three copies of this edition.

The University of Oregon’s Nicola Camerlenghi, an Italian-born assistant professor of art history, told us that the mere fact that recipes were even written down and published reflected the region’s growing economic prosperity and the emergence of an upper-middle class, who were employing cooks who needed information.

According to Camerlenghi, who has an academic interest in medieval architecture and gastronomy, the new bourgeois class in Macerata looked to France and its nouvelle cuisine for inspiration — even before Napoleon stormed Italy in 1798.

“Papal rulership is conservative,” Camerlenghi says. “And here is this exciting stuff that is going on in France: the 19th century Enlightenment. Voltaire, all these big thinkers.” And France, he says, embodies a cosmopolitan sophistication that appeals to upper-middle-class Italians.

Nebbia introduces French-style sauces to give flavor to food, eschewing heavy use of spices, roasted meats and other medieval carryovers.

Along with the more traditional lard and pig fat, he recommends using butter, even in pasta. Dishes call for making puff pastry and sweet custard creams to accompany meats and breads.

As important as what is in the book is what’s not. You see no mention of tomatoes or potatoes. It took years after the tomato’s arrival in Europe from the New World for it to be considered edible (the first pasta recipe with tomatoes was recorded in 1790). Potatoes were introduced in 1773, Camerlenghi says, but only became widely used after the government played up their health properties.

You see Enlightenment principles at work in his description of rational rules for the organized kitchen, the ordered, measured instructions for each dish, and his focus on sanitation. He recommends, for instance, that people who are sick be forcibly evicted from the kitchen, that cow hairs should be filtered out of milk and that feathers should be removed from birds before they’re cooked and then actually kept off. (There was a gross habit in medieval cookery of serving birds with their feathers draped back on them so they looked like a live display.)

In the video below Stefania Toscano says the book is written in an archaic Italian, a mixture of the modern language and Latin, but from what I can see in the picture it looks just a little old fashioned; for instance, they use the medial s, the elongated form that looks like an f.

It’s readable enough, though, because she’s been making some of the recipes and even the odd ones like Piatto di Sellari di Vigilia con salsa di Tarantello, a pan sauté of tuna, boiled celery, a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a slurry of flour and water, have turned out surprisingly well. Then there’s the one she’s been making for Christmas, a marvel called Lasagna Princisgrass, so called because it’s rich enough for a prince, made from sheets of pasta layered with white sauce, shaved truffles and prosciutto.

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Civil War message decoded: help not on the way

December 26th, 2010

A glass vial containing a coded message from a Confederate commander across the Mississippi from where Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton’s forces were losing the battle of Vicksburg has been decoded. The commander reports that Pemberton can expect no help from him. The message is dated July 4, 1863, the day Pemberton surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Union army.

The tiny sealed bottle was donated to the Museum of the Confederacy in 1896 by Capt. William A. Smith who fought on the Confederate side at the siege of Vicksburg. It remained unopened and unexamined in the collection for 120-plus years, until collections manager Catherine M. Wright decided to open the bottle and see what the message said.

Inside the bottle they found the coded note, a .38-caliber bullet and a white thread. The bullet was a weight that would allow the vial to sink if the messenger had to hastily dump it in the river upon discovery.

Wright asked a local art conservator, Scott Nolley, to examine the clear vial before she attempted to open it. He looked at the bottle under an electron microscope and discovered that salt had bonded the cork tightly to the bottle’s mouth. He put the bottle on a hotplate to expand the glass, used a scalpel to loosen the cork, then gently plucked it out with tweezers.

The sewing thread was looped around the 6 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch paper, which was folded to fit into the bottle. The rolled message was removed and taken to a paper conservator, who successfully unfurled the message.

But the coded message, which appears to be a random collection of letters, did not reveal itself immediately.

Wright tried to decipher the note herself but was unsuccessful. She contacted David Gaddy, a retired CIA code breaker, and he was able to crack the code in just a few leisurely weeks. Navy cryptologist Cmdr. John B. Hunter confirmed Gaddy’s interpretation.

The note was written in a Vigenère cipher, a fairly simple code that shifts letters a certain number of places, first described in the 16th century by Giovan Battista Bellaso. Blaise de Vigenère created a stronger version 30 years later for the court of Henry III, and in the 19th century its invention was misattributed to him.

The full decoded text of the note is:

Gen’l Pemberton:

You can expect no help from this side of the river. Let Gen’l Johnston know, if possible, when you can attack the same point on the enemy’s lines. Inform me also and I will endeavor to make a diversion. I have sent some caps (explosive devices). I subjoin a despatch from General Johnston.

It wasn’t signed, but it was probably sent by Maj. Gen. John G. Walker of the Texas Division. William Smith served under him at Vicksburg. General Johnston was Gen. Joseph E. Johnston who commanded 32,000 troops south of Vicksburg. He and Pemberton’s forces were separated by 35,000 of Grant’s troops.

Grant’s force besieged Vicksburg for six weeks, reducing the city to near starvation. People were eating dogs and wallpaper paste by the end. They were so bitter about the surrender that for 80 years the city refused to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Civil War bottle with coded message and bullet

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Yes, Virginia, but it’ll take a while

December 25th, 2010

Virginia O'Hanlon in the 1890sWhen Virginia O’Hanlon sent a letter to the Question and Answer column of the New York Sun newspaper in 1897 asking if there was a Santa Claus, little did she know that she would engender a deeply cherished Christmas tradition that would outlive her, her century and the one after that.

It all started in July of 1897, the month Virginia turned eight years old. As she would tell a group of Connecticut high school students 62 years later, she always spent the months between her birthday and Christmas thinking about what Santa would bring her. When school started in early September, she shared her musings with her friends and they clouded up and rained all over her, telling her Santa didn’t exist.

Perturbed, she asked her father if Santa Claus existed or if her friends were right, and instead of taking the hit he dodged her question. As a loyal reader of The Sun, he had always said that if anyone in the family had a question, they should write to the Q&A column because “If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so.” Since her father wasn’t answering her directly, she told him she’d just write to The Sun and get the truth from them. He agreed that they’d be sure to give her the right answer, as they always did.

Virginia's letter to The SunDear Editor,

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Francis Pharcellus ChurchHer question never was printed in the Question & Answer section of the paper, as fate would have it. That section was more for witty responses to factual questions. Poking the hornet’s nest of a child’s belief in Santa wasn’t in its purview, so the letter was forwarded to the editorial department where it ended up on the desk of editor Francis P. Church. The son of a Baptist minister, Church had been a Civil War correspondent for the New York Times and at the time of Virginia’s letter had worked for The Sun for 20 years. Church’s background had made him the go-to editor to address thorny theological questions.

"Is There A Santa Claus" clippingHis response to Virginia would become the most reprinted editorial in American journalism, widely requested, quoted and beloved from the day it was first published on September 21, 1897.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

The Sun had no idea what Mr. Church had wrought. “Is There A Santa Claus?” was printed three months before Christmas in the third column of three columns of editorials. Before it came editorials on pressing matters like Connecticut election law and the new chainless bicycle technology expected the next year. The recently-deceased editor, Charles A. Dana, was an old school journalist who believed reporters and editorial staff should be heard and not seen. The editorial was printed anonymously and would remain unattributed until after Church’s death in 1906.

The legend that has grown around the editorial has it that The Sun immediately began reprinting it every Christmas until its demise in 1949. That’s not so. In fact, The Sun resisted for years even as readers deluged it with requests to reprint the column. They finally did so only in 1902, and they weren’t very gracious about it:

Since its original publication, the Sun has refrained from reprinting the article on Santa Claus which appeared several years ago, but this year requests for its reproduction have been so numerous that we yield. Scrap books seem to be wearing out.

They only printed it again after Church’s death in 1906, crediting him as the author for the first time. After that, they were more willing to publish it and far more respectful of its fans. In the 1913 reprint they even went so far as to compare it to the Gettysburg Address in the wide familiarity with and love for its wording.

The Sun finally embraced the beloved piece fully in 1924 and made it the lead editorial every Christmas from that point onward. Virginia O’Hanlon went on to get a BA from Hunter College in 1910, a Masters in Education from Columbia in 1912, and a doctorate from Fordham in 1930. Her doctoral dissertation, entitled “The Importance of Play,” examined the importance of play in childhood and how children in poverty-stricken homes had few toys “to make glad the heart of childhood,” a direct quote from Mr. Church’s editorial.

She was a teacher and principal for 47 years, and continued to receive mail about her letter for the rest of her life. She died on May 13, 1971. You can hear her read from the editorial in this 1963 interview where she talks about her letter and the positive long-term impact the editorial had on her. She has a beautiful voice. I imagine her students loved hearing her read to them.

She mentions in that interview that she had only one child, a daughter, but seven grand-children and two great-grandchildren on the way. One of her great-grandchildren appeared on Antiques Roadshow in 1998 with a scrapbook containing the original letter Virginia wrote. It was valued at $20,000-$30,000. You can see that segment here.

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