Holidays in Philly

Historical letters to Santa: 15 funny, cute, touching requests from Pennsylvania kids

At the turn of the 20th century, children asked St. Nick for money, monkeys and a “leg full of presents”

Image from The Daily News Standard, Dec. 10, 1929

Image from The Daily News Standard, Dec. 10, 1929

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An introduction to a girl, a hammer for a hammer boy, and no more cats — please. These are just a few of the requests Pennsylvania kids made of Santa at the turn of the 20th century.

Inspired by the highlights found on the delightful account Tweets of Old, Billy Penn scoured newspaper archives to find more letters to St. Nick from children in the commonwealth.

Full disclosure: The beginning of our search was bleak.

But we pressed on, and came up with some real gems. Read our transcriptions of the best ones below, endearing misspellings and all.

Pittsburgh Dispatch, 1892

These letters showed the desperation of children living with the fallout from the Homestead Steel Works strike against the Carnegie Steel Company.

“Dear Santa Claus-You are a kind man. I hope you won’t forget us. Homestead is in trouble.”

“Dear Santa Claus-We have hard trouble to keep our living. My papa is not working in the mill. Please send my brothers and sisters some clothes. Please remember us. Good-bye Santa Claus; that is all to-day.”

“Dear Santa Claus-You are a kind man. I hoap you won’t forget us. Homestead is a poor place. Dear Santa Cluss bring me some gum boots and then I dont want nothing more this year.”

Scranton Tribune, Dec. 26, 1896

On a lighter note, here’s a letter from a child the paper referred to as a “considerate urchin.” 

“Dear Santa Claus bring Roy a Jackie Jumper and a pair of skates and bring some candy and nuts and oranges for little Roy and fill his stocking up to the top and Bring Willie sley and a pair of skates and fill my stocking up to the top be careful you dont burnt yoreslef coming down the chimney and dont get black and dont burn your wiskers coming down the chimney. ”

Chester Times, Dec. 3, 1903

Money and monkeys are both reasonable requests. 

“Dear Santa Claus, Please bring me a little dolly and a little coatch and a bed for my dollie, a little monkey. I like little monkeys don’t forget and bring them all.”

“Dear Santa, Please bring me a pair of ice skates and a light sled and a game and a good story book and a boat and don’t forget the tree. This is all I want. Please bring papa a nice desk and a big pocketbook filled with money and that is all I want for Papa.

1944.2
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin via Temple University Libraries

Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 23, 1904

Some kids in 1904 were apparently very practical.

“Dear Santa Claus: Will you please send me a express wagon and harness for my Billy goat, as we have no Santa Claus around where we live in the woods and rocks. I am 10 years old, and want to haul wood with my Billy Goat for my mother.”

Monessen Daily Independent, Dec. 24, 1907

You’re never too big for Christmas — or too young for insomnia.

“Dere Sandy Claws: The fellers say I’m too big to write you a letter but I know better cause I’ve been awful good this year. I want you to bring me a Teddy bear that squeaks, a red and green sled, some candy and a grape fruit. Bob wants to write too so that will be all for this time only bring me an alarm clock, I’m awful sleepy mornin’s-sometimes.”

Greenville Evening Record, Dec. 22, 1908

This little mind assigned a different Santa to each town, which would be a lot easier, logistically.

“To Dear Santa Claus in Greenville, Pa.: I want a sled and some now to ride on it. A big dollar, a go-cart, a pair of stocking. And one of these legs full of presents, a glass of water, a toothpick, a match, as I remain your sincere friend.”

Kittanning Simpsons Daily Leader Times, Dec. 15, 1931

Sounds like a deal too solid for Santa to turn down.

“Dear Santa, I am a little girl 4 years old, please send me a doll some nuts candy, oranges. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you I want a stove then I can make a pie for you.”

1942
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin via Temple University Libraries

Daily News Standard, Dec. 13, 1937

Just in case Santa was wondering exactly how big these kids are.

“Dear Santa Claus: I want a balloon tire scooter, a Mickey Mouse wrist watch, a box of tin soldiers, an airplane, an electric train, an airport to go with the airplane, and a box of candy. I am eight years old. I weigh 53 pounds.”

The Wellsboro Gazette, Dec. 18, 1940

Deferring to the whims of St. Nicholas is a great flattery tactic. 

“Dear Santa Claus-I have always wanted a banjo, just one for a little girl. Do you think I could have one this year, Santa? Or would it be easier for you to get me a small accordian? I will be glad to have anything you want to bring. Thanks, Judy.”

Uniontown Evening Standard, Dec. 24, 1941

Did she take herself off the nice list with that post script?

“Dear Santa: I am a girl 13 years old. For Christmas I would like to have a watch, dress, baton. Don’t forget some candy and nuts, and don’t forget my niece … and nephew. Good luck. …

P.S. Don’t get too fat for the chimney.”

Oil City Derrick, Dec. 21, 1957

Washing of your own face and ears is a great first step toward adulthood.

“Dear Santa: I have been a very good boy this year. Every day I wash my face and ears. I always do what my Mommy and Daddy tell me to. I dress myself every morning. I would like a steam-shovel and a frog. I want a big truck and cowboy suit. I would like a doctors kit and a gun and holster. And dear Santa, would please give me a catchers mit? There is a lot more things I want but I can’t them. …

P.S. Would you bring me an alligator to go with my frog?”

1944.1
Philadelphia Evening Bulletin via Temple University Libraries

Oil City Derrick in Dec. 21, 1957

Love for siblings goes a long way.

“Dear Santa: My name is Georgie WeIms and I am (9) nine yrs old. I go to Rouseville School and I am in the fourth grade. Would you please try and bring me a Revlon doll or any other kind that I would like, a sled or sno coaster, a big world globe, molding clay, ping pong set, a new suitcase for my dolly clothes and anything else you might think I like. Please don’t forget my brother John he wants a better report card next period.”

Stroudsburg Daily Record, Dec. 24, 1963

Too bad Santa can’t gift a new name.

“Dear Santa: I’ve been a good kid. I want you to bring some clothes for my family and bring my dog a soup bone and a flat collar and bring some toys for my kid brother. Will you make him shorter than he is now so I can boss him around? Billy the Kid

P.S. My real name is Linda Jones, but I don’t like my name very well.”

Want some more? Explore other Holidays in Philly stories.

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Holidays, History