Christmas encourages a certain amount of historical reflection. Family gatherings are warmed by nostalgia for past holidays and bittersweet memories of absent relatives, journalists trot out tired but popular human interest stories (virtually all newspapers, it seems, print the old “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” editorial), and churches embrace tradition in their selection of carols and staging of Christmas pageants.
As we approach Christmas 2013, I pulled up a few examples of Christmases past from a website that I created over a decade ago (with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and about twenty graduate students), the Children in Urban America Project. The fully searchable site contains a number of illustrations and over 5000 documents chronicling the history of children in Milwaukee from about 1850 through 2000. Although the documents include memoirs and autobiographies as well as government reports and magazine articles, a majority of them were culled from the Milwaukee Sentinel, one of Milwaukee’s oldest newspapers (it merged with the Journal in the 1990s to form the Journal Sentinel). Continue reading ‘Ghosts of Christmases Past: Milwaukee Celebrates the Holiday’