Home / HistoryVintage Photos Reveal the Spirit of the Holiday Season in New York City 100+ Years Ago

Vintage Photos Reveal the Spirit of the Holiday Season in New York City 100+ Years Ago

old pictures of New York Christmas

Christmas in New York has always been a special time of year. From shoppers bustling about to the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, the city buzzes with activity. And this glimpse of New York City in the early-20th century shows that much of that spirit was alive even in the past. In fact, the nation's first public Christmas tree was installed in 1912 in Madison Square Park, complete with bulbs donated by the Edison Company.

The tree was a charitable act, envisioned by Emilie D. Lee Herreshoff, wife of a chemical scientist, who wanted a public tree that everyone could enjoy, regardless of social status. Through these vintage images from the 1910's, it's clear that charity was an important aspect of the holiday season. The sight of Salvation Army collecting funds to provide Christmas dinners is familiar even today, while an image of volunteers packing a ship full of gifts for European children during World War I is a distinct act of the era.

By contrast, shop windows filled with gifts and street peddlers selling toys shows the commercial aspect of the holiday. Even then, shoppers filled the streets and children longingly stared at the toy displays, hoping for that special gift under the tree. The photographs are just part of the Library of Congress' images from the Bain News Service. One of America's first new picture agencies, they specialized in life in New York City.

These vintage photographs of Christmas in New York during the 1910's show the holiday spirit that has always engulfed the city.

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The photographs were taken by the Bain News Service, one of America's first news pictures agencies, and now belong to the Library of Congress.

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New York City was the first place in America to display a public Christmas tree, with the first going up in Madison Square Park in 1912.

photographs of early twentieth century New York Christmas in New York - 1910s

Charity has always been an important part of the holidays in New York, whether donating toys to less fortunate children or taking collection for Christmas meals.
old photographs of New York Christmas

Christmas in New York - 1910s photographs of early twentieth century New York early twentieth century New York Christmastime in New York

How much do you think the holiday season in New York has changed since the early twentieth century?

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h/t: [Vintage Everyday]

All images via the Library of Congress.

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