Saturday, December 26, 2015

John B. Stetson -- "Father Of The Cowboy Hat"

Since 2015 is the 150th Anniversary of the John B. Stetson Hat Company, we should all take a moment to recognize the creator of the cowboy hat, John Batterson Stetson.

Friends, while James Lock & Company of London is credited with the introduction of the Bowler hat in 1849, and Giuseppe Borsalino is credited with the Fedora in the early 1860s, there is no question that John B. Stetson is deserving of being called "The Father of the Cowboy Hat."

Yes, he is credited with inventing the classic cowboy hat. And because of his hats, I don't think there is a cowboy alive today who hasn't heard of Stetson.

And just to be fair, while there are other brands of hats, no other name brand carries with it such historical identification to America and the Old West as Stetson. Yes, and it's all due to the resilience of one man.

The man who became a legend was born John Batterson Stetson on May 5th, 1830, the 7th of 12 children, in New Jersey. Yes, the man who is responsible for inventing the "cowboy hat" was an Easterner. And shocking as that sounds, it's true.

Hats, and hatters, hat makers, were in the Stetson family as his father, Stephen Stetson, was a "hatter." Subsequently as a youth, young John Stetson learned hat making by working with his dad.

He did so up until his father's death, then John B. Stetson worked for his older brothers. As for that, well it's said that while he bought the raw materials, made hats, taught others the trade, and sold hats, his brothers took the profits. And yes, it was no surprise that after a while of this, John Stetson decided to go into the business for himself.

It was while he was just completing arrangements for opening his own hat business that he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB), what was called at the time "consumption" because it slowly consumed the afflicted patient enduring the hardship of the disease. Yes, for Old West fans, I suppose the most famous person to ever be afflicted with TB was the gambler John Henry "Doc" Holliday.

Since Stetson was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a doctor predicted he had only a short time to live, TB was a death sentence at the time, Stetson decided that his only chance for survival was to get away from the industrial East and head for the open spaces and clean air of the West.

During his travels, it is said that he met cattle drovers, bull-whackers, settlers, and of course day wage cowboys, all very hardy men and boys who worked in the heat of the day and snows of winter, weathering all seasons.

And frankly, while it might still baffle some how places Kansas and Missouri in the East can be referred to as the West, soon Stetson found himself in St. Joseph, Missouri, where he got a job making bricks.

It is said that even with fragile health that he was a hard worker. And through his hard work, he soon became manager and then a partner in the brickyard. But as in life, even when everything looks great, disaster can strike.

In his case, one day the Missouri River flooded and everything at the brickyard was lost. Yes, a half-million bricks, ready to be baked, melted into silt under the river’s advance and floated downstream, carrying Stetson’s job with them. After that disaster, Stetson looked around for something new to do. The Civil War was being fought, and he tried to enlist, but his physical disability of TB mean that he was rejected by the Union Army.

At the time, St. Joseph, Missouri, was a trading post where parties were outfitted for the long trek to Pike's Peak to the gold prospects in the Rocky Mountains. One of these parties actually invited Stetson to join them on their journey. And yes, it is said that with high hopes, he accepted the invitation.

OK, so as with most stories of great men and women, there are those moments that occur to enlighten them as to what they should be doing in life. The trek up Pike's Peak was his.

Friends, remember, he has TB and subsequently his lungs are in a horrid condition. But in late spring, 1862, with the weather mild enough for sleeping under the stars, John B. Stetson took the challenge of heading for the gold fields.

Occasionally a storm came up, and when that happened the 12 members of the party rushed to lash animal skins together to serve as tents to shelter them from the weather. Since the skins were not tanned, they ruined under the soaking. Afterwards the ruined skins had to be discarded.

There in the Rocky Mountains, each storm meant new work and lost hides for the gold seekers. The story goes that once as they were bedding down, one of the men remarked, "Too bad there isn't some easier way to make tent cloth."

And yes, supposedly Stetson replied, "There is by felting!"

Felting is a process that dates back centuries before Christ. Although a strand of animal fur appears smooth to the naked eye, it is actually covered with scales. When clean fur is matted together, the fur's scales interlock. If the mat is alternately dipped in hot water and then squeezed, the scales lock even more tightly together. The material that is formed is "felt."

Story has it that rather than trying and explain the concept of felting to his companions, John B. Stetson gave them a demonstration on the spot. He did so by taking his axe and sharpening it to a razor's edge before shaving fur off several hides.

After gathering the fur, with a hickory sapling and a leather thong, he made a bow and began agitating the fur, keeping it in the air until the long hairs and dirt were separated. Once it was ready, he then sprayed water over the fur. In a few minutes he had a mat that could be lifted. Stetson then dipped the mat in boiling water. As it began to shrink, he squeezed out any excess water until he had a soft blanket of felt. Stetson then fashioned the limited supply of fur, not into a tent, but into a big hat -- one that would protect a wearer from rain, sun, cold, wind and even hail.

After reaching Pike's Peak, Stetson discovered that mining was very hard work and that only a few of miners were actually making any money. But even though that was the case, as with other die-hards who don't know the meaning of giving up, he decided to linger and keep trying his luck.

While at the camp, he soon discovered that his felt hat had become the talk of the mining camps. And then, one day out of the clear blue sky, it is said that a rough-looking horseman appeared and wanted to try it on. Stetson handed over the hat and the horseman placed it on his head.

Stetson is said to have watched the giant of a man, sitting in a silver-ornate-saddle on a spirited horse, and noticed that he liked Stetson hat. In fact, legend says that the horseman liked it so much that he gave Stetson a five-dollar gold piece for that hat.

He knew that the common hats of the day, the flea-infested coonskin caps, the sea captain hats, straw hats, and wool derbies, were all left-overs from other occupations. Stetson looked at this and knew that fur-felt would work for a lightweight, all-weather, hat suitable for the West.

In 1865, yes the last year of the Civil War, John B. Stetson returned East to Philadelphia. There with $100, John B. Stetson rented a small room, bought tools he needed, and then set out to make a hat that no one had ever seen before. Yes, it was there that he bought $10 worth of fur and the John B. Stetson Hat Company was born.

Stetson’s first output was simply a copy of the style then in vogue in Philadelphia. He put those out while experimenting with other hat designs. But sadly, there were only limited sales and time was running out for his fledgling hat company.

To survive was one thing, but to prevail he know that if he were to avoid disaster that he would have to make a hat different from those being worn in fashionable East Coast circles. However, dealer resistance to anything new was strong.

Slowly going broke, Stetson asked himself the question that would turn his life around: "Why not sell hats somewhere else?"

And yes, it was then that Stetson decided to not to make copies of fashionable hats for Eastern "dudes" -- but instead make hats for hardy Westerners.

He knew that it had to be durable, waterproof, and have a style all its own. Durability alone meant he did in fact do what he set out to do -- manufacture hats suited to the needs of the Westerner. Not Easterners, not citified folks, but a hat for the rugged individualist, those pioneers and settlers, and yes cowboys out West.

Thinking about out that horseman and how he placed his on his head, Stetson knew that the cattle business was a new enterprise in the 1860s and that cattlemen needed hats that distinguished them as cattlemen. Because he saw that the hats they worn were from every walk of life, he saw the cattleman as an untouched market waiting for a hat that would address their unique trade and would give them their own identity.

As with the greatness of America, knowing that nothing worth achieving comes easy, he kept at it until after a year of trial and error, he finally produced what would be known as a Stetson design unique among other designs. It was a design that would make the term "Stetson" interchangeable with what later became known as the "cowboy hat."

In fact, it is said that one day John B. Stetson went out wearing a hat made from the finest fur he could obtain. He named the hat "Boss of the Plains." The hat achieved instant popularity and was the first real cowboy hat.

Yes, with that first very soft felt hat, the name Stetson was on its way to becoming the mark of quality, durability, innovation and beauty. And yes, with his selection of that name "Boss of the Plains," Stetson showed his understanding of the wearer's desire to make his hat a symbol of authority and style.

While some have this belief that the "Boss of the Plains" only came in black, the original designs was a big natural-colored hat with a four-inch brim and a four-inch crown. It came with a plain strap that was used for the hatband.

The hat included a sweatband, a lining to protect the hat, and, as a memorial to earlier designs, a bow on its sweatband, which had the practical purpose of helping distinguish the front from the back. All features still used today. And yes, a high quality hat in good condition was also viewed in some places as a status symbol.

To answer the question as to the reason why a "cowboy hat" is commonly called "Stetson" is because he had his name John B. Stetson Company embossed in gold in every sweatband.

The "Stetson" soon became the most well known hat in the West. In fact, after the introduction of Stetson's "Boss of the Plains" hat, all the high-crowned, wide-brimmed, soft felt western hats that followed were associated with the cowboy image created by Stetson.

The "Boss of the Plains" hat was designed with a high crown to provide insulation on the top of the head, and a wide stiff brim to provide shelter from both sun and rain for the face, neck and shoulders. The original fur-felt hat was waterproof and shed rain. Overall, the hat was as tough as nails and lightweight.

Because the wide brim would protect those outdoors from the hot sun and winter rain, there were those who saw the "Boss of the Plains" as a modified version of a Mexican sombrero. But all in all, the new hat was designed with durable and style in mind.

So what about using beaver you ask? Well, it is said that Stetson worried about the waterproofing his hats for a year until he finally decided to make his hat of beaver felt.

It took about 42 beaver belly pelts to produce a high quality hat. And yes, as with the legend of a Stetson being used a bucket to fetch water for your horse, because of the tight weave of most Stetson hats -- yes, it really was waterproof enough to be used as a bucket.

In the early advertising, Stetson featured of a cowboy watering his horse with water carried in the crown. The wearer could also use the brim as a cup to direct water to a person's mouth.

Of course there is an old story about a cowboy crossing a long dry stretch of prairie. The story goes that since his canteen sprung a leak, he is said to have saved his drinking water by carrying it in his Stetson.

It quickly caught on with cattlemen as they needed in a hat those very things Stetson recognized when he made the original Stetson hat to cope with the rugged Colorado weather. Stetson soon decided to mass market the “Boss of the Plains,” which later became known simply as the "B.O.P."

Obtaining a list of every hat dealer in the Southwest, he sent each one a sample hat, along with a letter asking for an order. And yes, being a good businessman, Stetson made a Western hat for each hat dealer in the "Boss of the Plains" style he had invented during the trek to Pike's Peak.

This was considered a calculated risk because Stetson knew his new hat would either make or break him. His gamble forced him to go into debt to obtain raw materials, but within weeks orders started pouring in. Business was a boom and some dealers even sent cash with their orders in the hopes of getting preferential treatment and expedited orders.

Before long, a big "Stetson" hat became the most distinguishing feature of a cowboy’s outfit almost as identifiable as the type of saddle he used. And yes, like a good saddle, the new hat was a tool for cowboys. The broad brim shielded a working cowboy from blistering sun and driving rain, but also by waving it above his head -- a cowboy could use it to turn cattle during a roundup or even a stampede.

In case of emergency, he could carry oats in the crown for his horse. Many a cowboy climbed into almost inaccessible places, dipped up water in his hat, and carried it out to his horse. He would do as many would and cup the brim to use it as his own drinking vessel.

The hat started out at $4.50, but soon was $10 to $20 or more, which really was a considerable amount of money at the time -- especially when considering the day wage was usually one dollar in the late 1800s.

But all in all, since a Stetson was practically a lifetime investment because it would last almost forever, it was seen as a great buy.

I've read somewhere that supposed "a Stetson with a bullet hole in it has always been a prized possession with cowboys."

But frankly, after reading that -- I laughed. And yes, the last thing I want is someone putting a hole through one of my hats. I would not be happy at all!

By the late 1800s, the Stetson became the best-known hat West of the Mississippi River. Wealthy ranchers wore them, but so did others including the ranch-hand out painting some barn, cowboys moving cattle, teamsters pulling their wagons into town, surveyors charting new towns, engineers and builders of bridges, the lone prospector looking for gold in some cold river. Yes, just about anyone who worked outside.

Of course that included lawmen, the U.S. Marshals, County Sheriffs and their Deputies, from small town City Marshals to big outfits like the Texas Rangers, they all adopted the Stetson.

Before the invention of the cowboy hat, which really means before John B. Stetson came along, cowboys and men of the plains wore castoffs of previous lives and vocations. So thanks to the time that he had spent with cowboys and settlers out West, Stetson knew firsthand that the hats they wore were extremely impractical. He knew that something else was needed.

The straight-sided, round cornered, flat brimmed original "Boss of the Plains" design dominated for about twenty years. Most 19th-century photographs show that the hat doesn't have an intentional crease at all. Most hats were kept open crown.

But, fact is, through use, abuse, and customization by individual wearers, hats were modified from their original appearance. In particular, the crown would become dented, at first inadvertently, then by deliberate choice of individual owners.

Over time the manufactured styles also began to change. The first popular modification was a long crease sloping from the high back down towards the front, called the "Carlsbad crease" after a style used by wearers in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Another design became known as the "Montana peak," which had four dents, originally derived from being handled on top with four fingers.

The brim was often rolled or curved and ornamentation of sorts were sometimes added. Often, these creases and brim shapes began to reflect where a particular hat owner lived or worked, and in some cases, even cowboys on individual ranches could be identified by the crease in their hat.

Yes, as with the tack that a cowboy used, type of saddle, bit, reins, stirrups, and even spurs one wore, all telling volumes about you and where you're from and who've you worked for. And while it is true that most Stetsons were kept open crown, they could be ordered with creases. 

For example, while the overwhelming majority of hats were first shipped as open crowns and it was the hat shops that created the creases and bend designs in them. the original five creases by Stetson became known as the original five "Stetson" creases:

1) The Montana Crease: Back when people traveled less from place to place, regions of the country developed a hat crease unique to their own local land , much like an accent. The Montana Crease or Montana Slope, known today as "The Gus", was created on a Montana ranch and adopted by other Montana cowboys.

2) The Cattleman Crease: The hat crease most people identify today is the Cattleman. It was originally worn by cattle ranchers and buyers in the 1880s. It meant you ran a ranch and probably had a lot of money. That fact is likely why fine Cattleman hats today are like a status symbol. The Cattleman compliments a wider face and squarer jaw and is the crease that was worn mostly by men. Today that has changed as now cowgirls also like to wear a Cattleman crease. 

3) The Pinch Front Crease: Over the years, women lean toward a Pinch Front Crease as it accentuates the narrower jaw line and can make the face look thinner. However, it's important to note that today, both pinch front creases and Cattleman Creases are worn by both men and women.

4) The Telescope Crease: The Telescope crease came from the "Charros" (Mexican cowboys) who came to Nevada from Mexico and South America for work. The low crown covers your head but stops hot air from accumulating and its wide brim provides even more sun protection. The Telescope Crease is often known today as "The Gambler's" hat.

5) The Tom Mix Crease: Hollywood has helped dictate the popularity of some styles, like "The Gus" which was originally called "the Montana Crease". It was made famous by Robert Duvall in Lonesome Dove. Fame can even earn a custom crease style named after you. Such is the case with Tom Mix. Tom Mix was one of the first movie cowboy stars in America and often carried with him a half a dozen or a dozen Stetson Hats which he was known to gave away to important people as he traveled around the world. Imagine that. 

They say the greatness of someone is not only measured in what one creates, but by what one does with his creations. In the case of John B. Stetson, while Stetson profited from his business, he also wanted to give back to his community and did in huge ways. In fact, toward the end of his life, John Stetson began donating a great deal of his money to charitable organizations.

He built grammar and high schools and helped build colleges, including Temple and Stetson Universities. He also helped establish the YMCA in Philadelphia. Stetson donated generously to DeLand University in DeLand, Florida, which was renamed in 1889 to John B. Stetson University. In 1900, Stetson created the first law school in Florida, Stetson University Law School.

John Stetson co-founded Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, in 1878. Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission has since expanded to provide more services and is still in use for the homeless population of Philadelphia.

Under Stetson's direction, The John B. Stetson Company became one of the largest hat firms in the world. Stetson hats won numerous awards, but his company grew, he "faced the challenge of developing a reliable labor force."

Reportedly, at the time it was said that people working in the hat trade at that time tended to drift from employer to employer and absenteeism was rampant.

Stetson, who was "guided by Christian principles," believed that by providing for his employees he would lend stability to their lives and attract higher caliber craftsmen and women.

Unlike most other employers at the time, Stetson decided to offer benefits to entice workers to stay. Stetson also made sure his employees had a clean, safe place to work, while also building a hospital, a park and houses for his 5,000 employees. Stetson's unusual moves helped him build a factory in Philadelphia that grew to 25 buildings on 9 acres.

Some in the Labor Union movement tried to criticize John Stetson's employee policies. Yes, believe it or not, the caring that John Stetson had shown for his employees was demonized by the Labor Unions as "paternalism" which they said was akin to slavery.

Fact is, John Stetson's care for his employees was ages ahead of his day. The safety and cleanliness, the health benefits and the housing allowances, were all years ahead of other employers in the manufacturing industry of the Industrial Age. His feelings of taking providing for his employees came out of Christian kindness and a sense of family.

John Stetson owned a mansion in DeLand, Florida, where he died in 1906. The over 8,000 square ft masterpiece called John B. Stetson House is a mixture of Gothic, Tudor, and Moorish styles.

Stetson is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. And yes, when John B. Stetson died in 1906, his company was making two million hats a year. He left an estate worth seven million dollars. By 1915, nine years after Stetson's death, there were 5,400 employees turning out 3.3 million hats.

While he might not know it at the time, his company's hats would one day be synonymous with the term "cowboy hat" most now commonly refer to simply as Stetsons.

John B. Stetson led the hat industry his entire career by designing new hat styles for fashion and function. When it came to quality, it was his creed and for the past 150 years that it has so stamped the product that the name and the word are synonymous.

Today the Stetson hat factory in Garland, Texas, is one of the largest in the country and produces a line of hats in hundreds of different styles and colors. In spite of its size, nothing has been sacrificed as classic styling and premium quality remain as the driving forces behind each and every hat.

As a result, Stetson hats are the most well known hats in the world. Wherever and whenever hats are discussed Stetson will be mentioned. Stetson is the standard in cowboy hats. And yes, the spirit of the West lives in each as an icon of America. Because of its authentic American heritage, Stetson is a big part of American History.

Yes, John Wayne advertised Stetson
The Stetson cowboy hat was the symbol of the highest quality. Western showmen such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Pawnee Bill, and the famous Annie Oakley all wore Stetsons. And as for Hollywood, yes indeed, most all silver-screen cowboys including Hopalong Cassidy, John Wayne, and Robert Duvall have all worn Stetsons.

Stetson has also made hats for law enforcement departments, such as the Texas Rangers. Stetson's Western-style hats have been worn by employees of the National Park Service, U.S. Cavalry soldiers,  our armed forces. and many U.S. Presidents including Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

The "cowboy hat" is truly an example of form following function. Invented by John B. Stetson, today's cowboy hats have remained basically unchanged in construction and design since the first one was created in 1865. In addition to the cowboy hats, Stetson has also made fedoras, derbies, and women's hats, but it is the cowboy hat that Stetson will always be famous for creating.

John B. Stetson experienced trying times in his life, but through it all he relied on the one thing that he did exceptionally well. He was a hat maker. Remember, he was trained by his father, who was a master hatter, and he applied the skills and knowledge he learned from his father to a trade that was really not held in high very regard at the time. It's true, the reason is that back in those days "hatters" had a reputation of being unreliable, lazy, free spirit types who only wanted to make money to have fun.

John B. Stetson changed all that when he built one of America's most well-known and successful businesses. A business which has longevity and history based on innovation and quality. A business that today sells a lot more than just hats.

This article has been compiled from many sources with the hopes of telling you about a man who did not quit, found a way to make his live and others better and did so.  John B. Stetson was an American who typifies the "Can Do" spirit of America . He is someone who should truly be admired as we can all learn a great deal from him.

Let's not forget that he himself was given the death sentence of TB in a time when TB killed millions. He was a hard worker who did not come from money. He strove to produce just the right product, and did just that. He was a creative genius but also smart in business. Because of his Christian ideals, he gave back a great deal to his community and our nation -- all while making the lives of his employees better and safer. Friends, that is someone to be admired.

Yes, I truly admire John B. Stetson.
Tom Correa 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas My Friends!

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your wonderful support of my blog. I cannot thank you enough for making my blog such a success. I am truly grateful for your support.

While it never ceases to amaze me just how many people out there are interested in the same things that I am, as a kindred spirit I feel blessed that you visit to see what's new. It is great to know that I can provide something that you may enjoy reading. And yes, it also feels pretty good knowing that I can be useful in passing on information whether it be history as it really was, or simply current events that might be buried on the back pages of the news.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I pray that God Blesses you and those you love. May the good Lord keep you safe and well.

As always, your friend,
Tom Correa

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

California Gold Rush Christmas & The Christmas Nugget

Christmas was a huge celebration that was always looked forward to during the years of the California Gold Rush. And yes, as with other Christmas celebrations all having their own customs taking place in different regions of the nation, Christmas in the California Far West had it's own customs.

Because the California Gold Rush was such an extraordinary event that brought people from all corners of the earth, many who participated in the Gold Rush were young and far from home. Many from foreign lands, many religions, many customs, and all were factors that added to the intense revelry. 

In its earliest days, the Gold Rush was almost exclusively male and the sentiment was usually a mixture of homesickness, horseplay, and revelry. Yes, Christmas celebrations in the mining camps were typical for 19th Century America. 

A Gold Rush Christmas was usually an unassuming, often spontaneous affair that consisted primarily of eating, drinking, companionship and entertainment. Although, in the mid-19th century, gift giving was becoming fashionable, if there were presents in the gold fields they were practical in nature. 

For example, clothing, hats, knitted socks, scarves, and mittens were always prized. In the towns where there were children, little girls received homemade rag dolls and miniature quilts while little boys received tops or other wooden toys. 

Often Christmas represented the only time when some people, both adults and children, received presents. As a result, Christmas held an important place in the hearts, minds, and memories of 19th century Californians.

There are many accounts of Christmas festivities in the gold fields -- most modest, some complicated, but all heartfelt.

Alfred Doten, who is well known to have chronicled the Gold Rush, was also a friend of Mark Twain. He was widely renowned as a leading "reveler," and he described Christmas in Amador County in 1853. In his account, Doten talked about how he threw a "Christmas Spree" which featured "a glorious game supper of fried deer tongue, liver, quails, and hares, washed down with barrels of cognac and accompanied by fiddle, flute, banjo, clarinet and accordion music." 

Andrew Hall Gilmore wrote about his California Christmas Day experience in 1851 in a letter to his brother in Indiana:

Thursday night - 25th

Dear Brother,
"Christmas Gift to You." Oh, I wish that I could be at home today. I think we would have a Christmas party. We would have the old gobbler roasted with a score of fat hens, pound cakes, pies, and lots of other good things. But the best of all would be the pleasure of seeing you all. Probably if we live we may be with you next Christmas.

I will tell you what kind of a day it has been and what we have been doing. It has been the most rainy day I believe that I have ever seen in this country. … As we had no invitations to any Christmas parties: and feeling no inclination to go on a "bust", we thought we might spend the day as profitably by going down to our diggings and working like fine fellows, even if it was Christmas and awful rainy at that. So Aaron and I encased ourselves in our waterproof suits and went to work …. We made $11.25 each, which was a tolerably good rainy day's work …

An elaborate California Christmas during the Gold Rush was described by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe in 1851. Better known as Dame Shirley, Ms Clappe wrote a series of letters describing her life in the Gold Rush community of Rich Bar on the Feather River. 

These letters are considered one of the best eyewitness accounts of the California Gold Rush. Here, Dame Shirley recalls the "Saturnalia" of Christmas 1851:

The saturnalia commenced on Christmas evening, at the Humboldt [Saloon], which, on that very day, had passed into the hands of new proprietors. The most gorgeous preparations were made for celebrating the two events. The bar was retrimmed with red calico, the bowling-alley had a new lining of the coarsest and whitest cotton cloth, and the broken lamp-shades were replaced by whole ones. All day long, patient mules could be seen descending the hill, bending beneath casks of brandy and baskets of champagne, and, for the first time in the history of that celebrated building, the floor (wonderful to relate, it has a floor) was washed …. At nine o'clock in the evening they had an oyster-and-champagne supper in the Humboldt, which was very gay with toasts, songs, speeches, etc. I believe that the company danced all night. At any rate, they were dancing when I went to sleep, and they were dancing when I woke the next morning. The revel was kept up in this mad way for three days, growing wilder every hour.

The Christmas Nugget

Yes, then there is the California Gold Rush Christmas story of the "Christmas Nugget" which was recounted in William P. Bennett’s 1893 memoir of the California Gold Rush entitled The First Baby in Camp.

On Christmas Day in 1849, Mrs. William George Wilson delivered a healthy 12-pound baby boy at Canyon Creek, near Georgetown up near Hangtown.

Soon the news spread to a neighboring claim. Then before you knew it, the gold field grapevine had spread the news that Bill Wilson had struck it rich with a 12 pound nugget. 

"News of the big find spread like wildfire up and down the canyon where hundreds of men were at work," wrote Bennett, "At once, there was a grand rush to Bill Wilson's cabin. Every miner was anxious to see the 12-pound lump."

Seeing that most took the news literally, the Wilsons thoroughly enjoyed the moment as the men lined up at the cabin door to get a look at the large nugget. 

"Then a few were let in at a time to view the Christmas nugget." Bennett wrote. "Each of the miners loved being had."

For three more days, the joke continued throughout the area. Bennett wrote of miners who came from more than ten miles away to see the giant "Christmas Nugget."

It turned out to be a very Merry Christmas. One that many talked about for months to come. One that few forgot. After all, it was one that spoke to their struggle and their sacrifice, their hard work and their search, the elusive prize and their belief, and of course their grasp of holding on to those things that mean more than gold. 

For as Bennett recalled, "As each squad came out of the cabin, the men solemnly asserted that the Wilson nugget was the finest ever seen."

Yes, it was a very Merry Christmas indeed. 

Merry Christmas!
Tom Correa

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Traditions -- "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

Dear Friends, as I stated in the last two posts, a few of you have written to ask about my Christmas traditions. And as I've said, I do have a couple of personal things that I do each year at Christmas just for myself.

Almost every year, I have alternated between reading O. Henry's "The Last Leaf" and "The Gift of the Magi", and reading the Sept. 21st, 1897, editorial response by the Editor of The (New York) Sun newspaper which is now simply known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

I believe that besides reading of the account of the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas in the Bible, these stories are very inspirational. I hope you enjoy this as it was published in 1897.

Is There a Santa Claus?

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 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?


Here is the Editor's response:

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

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. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

-- end of Editorial.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" is a phrase from an editorial called Is There a Santa Claus?

The editorial appeared in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun and has since become part of popular Christmas folklore in the United States. It is the most reprinted editorial in any English-language newspaper.

Francis Pharcellus Church is the author of the famous editorial. He was an American publisher and editor. He was a member of the Century Association.

He was born in Rochester, New York on February 22nd, 1839, and he graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York City in 1859.

With his brother William Conant Church, they established The Army and Navy Journal in 1863, and Galaxy magazine in 1866 which merged with Atlantic Monthly after 10 years. 

He was a lead editorial writer on his brother's newspaper, The Sun, and it was in that capacity that he wrote his most famous editorial, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" in 1897.

Mr. Church was a war correspondent during the American Civil War, a time that saw great suffering and a corresponding lack of hope and faith in much of society. Although the paper ran the editorial in the seventh place on the page. Even though it seemed hidden beneath ads, it was well-received by readers.

On April 11th, 1906, Mr. Church died in New York City at the age of 67.  He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. He had no children.

So How Did This All Start?

In 1897, Dr. Philip O'Hanlon, a coroner's assistant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, was asked by his then eight-year-old daughter,Virginia O'Hanlon (1889–1971), whether Santa Claus really existed. 

O'Hanlon suggested she write to The Sun which was a very prominent New York City newspaper at the time, assuring her that "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." 

In so doing, Dr. O'Hanlon had unwittingly given one of the paper's editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question and address the philosophical issues behind it.

More than a century later it is the most reprinted editorial in any newspaper in the English language.

"Yes, Virginia, there is (a)..." has become an idiomatic expression to insist that something is true.

In December 2015, Macy's department store in Herald Square, New York City, NY used Virginia's story for their holiday window display. Illustrated in three-dimensional figurines and spanning several windows on the south side of the store along 34th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. This version of "Yes, Virginia" is based on the 2010 television series of the same name, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Bea Miller.

So who was Virginia O'Hanlon?

Laura Virginia O'Hanlon was born on July 20, 1889, in Manhattan, New York. At the age of 21 in 1910, she married Edward Douglas. Their marriage was brief, and ended with him deserting her shortly before their daughter, Laura, was born. 

In the 1930 United States Census, she was listed as divorced but kept her ex-husband's surname the rest of her life -- "Laura Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas."

Virginia received her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in 1910, a Master's degree in education from Columbia University in 1912, and a Doctorate from Fordham University. She was a school teacher in the New York City ISD. She started her career as an educator in 1912, became a junior principal in 1935, and retired in 1959.

Virginia received a steady stream of mail about her letter throughout her life. She would include a copy of the editorial in her replies. In an interview later in life, she credited it with shaping the direction of her life "quite positively."

Virginia died on May 13, 1971 at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, New York. She is buried at the Chatham Rural Cemetery in North Chatham, New York.

In 1971, after seeing Virginia's obituary in The New York Times, four friends formed a company called Elizabeth Press and published a children's book titled Yes, Virginia that illustrated the editorial and included a brief history of the main characters. 

It's creators took it to Warner Brothers who eventually made an Emmy award-winning television show based on the editorial.

The History Channel, in a special that aired on February 21, 2001, noted that Virginia gave the original letter to a granddaughter, who pasted it in a scrapbook. It was feared that the letter was destroyed in a house fire, but 30 years later, it was discovered intact.

Every year, Virginia's letter and Church's response are read at the Yule Log ceremony at Church's alma mater, Columbia College of Columbia University.

The story of Virginia's inquiry and The Sun '​s response was adapted in 1932 into an NBC produced cantata, the only known editorial set to classical music, a segment of the short film Santa Claus Story (1945), and an Emmy Award-winning animated television special in 1974, animated by Bill Meléndez who had worked on various Peanuts specials.

In 1991 it was adapted into a made-for-TV movie starring Richard Thomas and Charles Bronson. In 1996, the story was adapted into an eponymous holiday musical by David Kirchenbaum (music and lyrics) and Myles McDonnel (book).

The last two paragraphs of Church's editorial are read by actor Sam Elliot in the 1989 film Prancer, about Jessica Riggs, a little girl who believes the wounded reindeer she is nursing back to health belongs to Santa. Jessica's story inspires the local newspaper editor, as Virginia's letter did to Church, to write an editorial which he titles Yes, Santa, there is a Virginia.

On September 21, 1997, the 100th anniversary of the editorial's original publication, The New York Times published an analysis of its enduring appeal.

In 2003, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" was depicted in a mechanical holiday window display at the Lord & Taylor department store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

In 2009, The Studio School in New York City, honored Virginia's life and legacy. Janet C. Rotter, Head of School, announced the establishment of the Virginia O'Hanlon Scholarship, speaking passionately about their commitment to offering need-based scholarships for students of merit. 
Virginia's descendants continue her legacy.

In December 2012, radio station WGNA-FM in Albany, NY secured a never before published photo of Virginia finally meeting Santa on Christmas Eve 1969, two years before her death.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas! May God Bless you and yours! 
Tom Correa

Christmas Traditions -- The Gift of the Magi

Dear Friends, a few of you have written to ask about my Christmas traditions. And while like many of you, I have family traditions, I also have a couple of personal things that I do each year at Christmas just for myself.

In 1976, when I was a young Marine and away from home during Christmas, I was given a book of O. Henry's short stories. I read a few stories, but a couple really struck my fancy -- especially for this time of year.

Since then, almost every year, I have alternated between O. Henry's "The Last Leaf" and "The Gift of the Magi", and reading the Sept. 21st, 1897, response by the Editor of The Sun which is now simply known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

I believe that besides reading the account of the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas, these stories are truly inspirational.

"The Gift of the Magi" is a short story, written by O. Henry, a pen name for William Sydney Porter. It is about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying Christmas gifts for each other when they have very little money.

This moral lesson about gift-giving, was initially published in The New York Sunday World under the title "Gifts of the Magi" on December 10, 1905. It was first published in book form in the O. Henry Anthology The Four Million in April 1906.  I hope you enjoy this short story.

By O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men -- wonderfully wise men -- who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house.

But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.


From my family to yours, Merry Christmas! May God Bless you and yours!
Tom Correa

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Last Leaf -- A Christmas Tradition

By O. Henry

In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called "places." These "places" make strange angles and curves. One Street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!

So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth Avenue, and became a "colony."

At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. "Johnsy" was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d'hôte of an Eighth Street "Delmonico's," and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown "places."

Mr. Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.

One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow.

"She has one chance in - let us say, ten," he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. " And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-u on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopoeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she's not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?"

"She - she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day." said Sue.

"Paint? - bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking twice - a man for instance?"

"A man?" said Sue, with a jew's-harp twang in her voice. "Is a man worth - but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind."

"Well, it is the weakness, then," said the doctor. "I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten."

After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy's room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.

Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.

She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.

As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle of the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.

Johnsy's eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting - counting backward.

"Twelve," she said, and little later "eleven"; and then "ten," and "nine"; and then "eight" and "seven", almost together.

Sue look solicitously out of the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.

"What is it, dear?" asked Sue.

"Six," said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. "They're falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it's easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now."

"Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie."

"Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?"

"Oh, I never heard of such nonsense," complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. "What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don't be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were - let's see exactly what he said - he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that's almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self."

"You needn't get any more wine," said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. "There goes another. No, I don't want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too."

"Johnsy, dear," said Sue, bending over her, "will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down."

"Couldn't you draw in the other room?" asked Johnsy, coldly.

"I'd rather be here by you," said Sue. "Beside, I don't want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves."

"Tell me as soon as you have finished," said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as fallen statue, "because I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves."

"Try to sleep," said Sue. "I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I'll not be gone a minute. Don't try to move 'til I come back."

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo's Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along with the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress's robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.

Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy's fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away, when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.

"Vass!" he cried. "Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der brain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy."

"She is very ill and weak," said Sue, "and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr. Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn't. But I think you are a horrid old - old flibbertigibbet."

"You are just like a woman!" yelled Behrman. "Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes."

Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.

When Sue awoke from an hour's sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.

"Pull it up; I want to see," she ordered, in a whisper.

Wearily Sue obeyed.

But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last one on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from the branch some twenty feet above the ground.

"It is the last one," said Johnsy. "I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time."

"Dear, dear!" said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, "think of me, if you won't think of yourself. What would I do?"

But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.

The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.

When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.

The ivy leaf was still there.

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.

"I've been a bad girl, Sudie," said Johnsy. "Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring a me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and - no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook."

And hour later she said:

"Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples."

The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.

"Even chances," said the doctor, taking Sue's thin, shaking hand in his. "With good nursing you'll win." And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is - some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable."

The next day the doctor said to Sue: "She's out of danger. You won. Nutrition and care now - that's all."

And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woollen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.

"I have something to tell you, white mouse," she said. "Mr. Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn't imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and - look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece - he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell."


"The Last Leaf" is a short story by O. Henry, a pen name for William Sydney Porter, and was published in 1907 in his collection The Trimmed Lamp and Other Stories. The story is set in Greenwich Village, and it depicts characters typical of other O. Henry works. I hope you enjoy this short story and its message of hope.

Since a few readers have written to ask about my Christmas traditions, I decided to post this story of hope. While like many of you, I have family traditions, I also have a couple of personal things that I do each year just for myself. 

My biggest tradition for myself started in 1976 when I was a young Marine far from home during Christmas. That was the year that I was given a book of O. Henry's short stories. I read this story and that, but a couple really struck my fancy. 

Since then, almost every year, I have alternated between O. Henry's "The Last Leaf" and "The Gift of the Magi". Besides those two short stories, I will read the response by the Editor of The New York Sun which is now simply known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." It was published on September 21st, 1897, and has endured. 

Remember, those with hope have everything. 

So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas!
May God Bless you and yours!

Tom Correa

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Harvard's Placemat Propaganda -- Giving Students Liberal Tabletop Talking-Points

Democrat Propaganda 101 -- What To Do When You Can't Think For Yourself? Read Your Placemat!

Today, Fox News reported that Harvard University hands out placemats with Liberal talking-points as "Social Justice Flow Charts."

Harvard administrators decided to get students ready for the holidays by handing out pointers to help them debate their tuition-paying grownups.

Imagine that for a moment? The school doesn't trust their students to stand on what they have been taught in the ultra-Leftist Political classes, so they actually provided them with Liberal cheat-sheets that seems to be taken right from the Democrat Party's Occupy Handbook.

The once venerable school's Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the Freshman Dean's Office printed up and handed out laminated placemats described as "guides for holiday discussions on race and justice with loved ones." No kidding!

The table-setting talking points are designed to help student combat, or attack, pesky parents, aunts and uncles, when asked about what they are learning for the big bucks. The belief is that Harvard students will be able to put others "in their place" on such subjects as race, diversity and even the Syrian refugee crisis.

"Why are black students complaining? Shouldn’t they be happy to be in college?" reads one question anticipated on the "Holiday Placemat for Social Justice."

Harvard wants their students to respond by quoting the table settings, by saying, "When I hear students expressing their experiences on campus I don't hear complaining."

Placemat Propaganda Used As Passive Programming
Democrat Propaganda 101 -- Need Liberal Passive Programming? Read Your Placemat!

In the center of the placemats, which are in school dining halls, are "tips for talking to families," with propaganda instructions telling students to act interested, to act as though they are listening mindfully.

While most mature people know that politics and religion are subjects that really should be avoided at mixed gatherings, even family gatherings where not everyone is on the same page, Jasmine Waddell, a freshman resident dean, said the placemats give first-year students "strategies" for discussing issues with their families. Imagine that? She needs "placemat strategies" for discussing today's issues with her family.

She said the Freshman Dean’s Office opted not to email the placemats directly to students, instead leaving them in dining halls as "Passive Programming."

Placemat Propaganda Confirms How Anti-Conservative Harvard Really Is, Or How Their Students Can't Think For Themselves?

No, it is not a surprise that Harvard has put out such propaganda. Harvard has a well earned legacy of disregarding the viewpoints of Conservatives on their campus. A few years ago, Harvard University actually came out to tell Conservative students that they were not welcome there.

It's true, in 2013, The Harvard Crimson actually published an editorial urging Conservatives not to apply to Harvard. The editorial, titled "Warning: Do Not Enroll" denigrated famous Conservatives who graduated from Harvard.

While that editorial already confirmed Harvard's ultra-Liberal hostility toward Conservatives, the Democrat Party talking-point placemats are just more evidence that one of America's most prestigious universities is nothing more than a place where students are programmed in Liberal ideology. This confirms Harvard does not encourage students to think for themselves.

Whether Harvard students can or can't think for themselves, there is no getting away from the fact that having the door-opening name HARVARD on one's diploma is still seen as a positive.

While I believe that universities like Harvard would better serve students as "on-line schools" so that students can concentrate on core content, that will never happen. Wouldn't it be great if students were able to simply skip the Leftist-brainwashing by way of all of the standard Liberal, Socialist, Communist rhetoric coming from over-paid American hating faculty members?  Yes, but that will never happen.

You see, while those Leftist, Liberal, Socialist, Communist over-paid American hating faculty members spew their hate, they are very much Capitalist when it comes to making sure they keep getting their big paychecks and corporate contracts. And no, as much as they hate America, they love money and will never give up positions that bring them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year salaries!

Lastly, to be fair, not all Harvard students are happy with the "placemat programming." Some are even insisting that they can think for themselves.

But whether that is true or not, with this latest example of Liberal programming, one can't help but see this as just more proof that Harvard, like many Liberal universities, has students who mindlessly follow the Democrat Party line of thought. And frankly, after hearing about this, it shouldn't surprise anyone if people ask if Harvard is really producing graduates who can't think for themselves or just programmed dummies?

Are Harvard students so dumb that they really need cue-cards, teleprompters, tabletop talking-points, and other forms of cheat-sheets to hold a conversation? It does make you wonder.

And yes, that's just the way I see it.
Tom Correa

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Schools Of Indoctrination

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/Historian

By now I am sure everyone has heard about the school systems who charge kids as young as five and six years old with sexual harassment because one kissed another on the cheek or some such idiocy.

The police have even been called in some of these incidences and kids this young are even being handcuffed and taken out of school.

What ever happened to sending kids to the principals office then notifying the parents? This is absolutely ridicules and out of hand. Why? Indoctrination into Socialism in the manner of doing what you are told or else, that's why!

No longer is the public school system the place to send our children for an education. Schools today teach and preach things which are politically correct instead of just teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, and other courses of true study.

If people don't believe the schools are indoctrinating our children then why is Common Core being implemented? Why are kids at very young ages being taught about sex education in graphic forms?

Why are kids getting in trouble because they may talk about the bible or flat be told they can't even bring their bible to school, yet the schools allow teachers to speak to them about Islam. One school in New York even had the children recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic.

Parents need to wake up to the fact that kids today are even being taught to spy on their parents without them even realizing it. Common Core for example, questions put to our children are such as, Does your mom and dad hit you? Does your mom and dad fight? Which way does your family vote, Democrat or Republican? Do they own guns?

Common Core opens the door to ask all of these personal questions that are none of the school boards or governments business. Then there is the environmental issues, or the "greenie" movement as many of us refer to it.

Kids are now being trained in school to watch their parents, watch them in the manner of doing something considered environmentally incorrect and then to correct the parents on the issue. If people don't believe that then just pay attention to the kids and you will find this to be true.

Then they are teaching them that same sex couples are to be accepted no matter if you agree with it or not. Personally, I don't care how you live your life but I don't want other life styles forced upon me if I don't believe in it -- and the whole point of this article is to point out that our school systems should be teaching and not preaching or pushing indoctrination of politically motivated subjects to our children.

If what I am saying isn't true, then how come many of our college kids can't read at more than a sixth or seventh grade level? If not true, then how come many of these kids can't even count back change in a store without a computer telling them the amounts to return to the customer? If not true, then why is it kids today know very little about our Founding Fathers, Constitution, and Bill of Rights?

How about history? Ask your children or grandchildren what they know about the Civil War, World War One, World War Two, Korea, or Vietnam? Ask them why those wars were fought?

I guarantee you they cannot answer those questions unless you have taught them yourself. If they do not know the history of our country and why these things took place, they cannot understand what this country stands for and how easily we could loose our freedoms in the future due to Socialism which is running rampant with the Progressives in Washington D.C..

Parents, Grandparents, it's time to start teaching our children this countries history and let them know that many of the things they are being taught in school is wrong!

If we don't do it, no one will! And think about what kind of a country our children will be living in, if they don't know right from wrong or how this country is supposed to be run.

Please, take a little time to research what your children and grandchildren are being taught. It's important for us to know so we can stop the Political Correctness and Socialist indoctrination.