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Christmas Customs

The first traces of Christmas observance found in ancient history are early in the second century, at least prior to A.D. 138. In some churches, the Epiphany and Christmas were celebrated as one festival.

In the fourth century, after an elaborate investigation, the 25th of December was agreed upon, and has ever since been observed throughout Christendom. There may be still more unbelievers, but the historical and astronomical evidence in favor of this day, amounts to almost a demonstration, if such language can ever be applied to that class of testimony.

We derive our Christmas customs more immediately from old England, where it was a religious, domestic and merry making festival, for every rank and every age.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.


King George and the Indian Chiefs in London

This report from London appeared in the December 8, 1730 issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette.

September 10, 1730: Yesterday the Indian Chiefs were carried from their Lodgings in King street, Covent Garden, to the Plantation Office at Whitehill, guarded by two Files of Musketeers.

When they were brought up to the Lords Commissioners, they sang 4 or 5 Songs in their Country Language; after which the Interpreter was ordered to let them know that they were sent for there to join in Peace with King George and his People; and were desired to say, if they had any Thing further to offer relating to the Contract they had before entered into.

Upon which the King stood up, and gave a large Feather he had in his Hand to the Prince, who thereupon spoke to the Lords Commissioners to this Effect:

That they were sensible of the good Usage they received since they came here, and that they would use our People always well; that they came here like Worms out of the Earth, naked, and that we had put fine Cloaths on their Backs, (pointing to the Cloaths) and that they never should forget such king Dealings, but should declare the same to their Countrymen.

The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the United States’ most prominent newspapers from 1728—before the time period of the American Revolution—until 1800. Published in Philadelphia from 1728 through 1800, The Pennsylvania Gazette is considered The New York Times of the 18th century.
And thereupon the Prince laid the Feather with a Bit of Skin upon the Table, saying, It should be as good as the Bible to bind the Contract with King George; and said also, that a Feather should not better love his Son, than they would do us: So made a Peace.

The Commissioners then told them they should have a Copy of the Contract, with the King’s seal to it; and the Governor should entertain them; upon which the King got up and kiss’d the Commissioners, as the Prince had done before; the other Chiefs also did the same; whereupon they sang some more Songs, and then returned home.

Source: The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 8, 1730


Intelligent Suffrage

West Eau Clare, Wis., Dec. 20, 1869

DEAR REVOLUTION: The doleful condition of the enfranchised negroes suggests the question, whether when we call the ballot “the one thing needful,” we can mean any more than this. “It is that right without which there is no security for any other.”

At least three other things are needful to make it effective:

  • 1st. Education. We must teach them to vote right. The school is the only hope of the South, and the only hope for the Southern schools is in our pockets.
  • 2d. Independence. “ Electors meet in vain, when want makes them the slaves of the landlord.” Now, the negroes in America, as well as Hayti, the British West Indies, etc., show a general disposition to get and use land for themselves, in a very slovenly and lazy way indeed; still the tendency is wholesome, and we must inspire them with our own ambitious spirit, and make them not only desire land, but wealth.
  • 3d. Force, and the spirit to use it. This the negroes possess. It is sometimes said that women do not, and therefore should not vote. ‘But it is daily becoming more universally true that power consists less in animal strength than in wealth, which can buy animal strength, and knowledge which can govern it. Let women have education —not the trifling, superficial education which they now receive, but education of a practical and thorough character; let them be encouraged to get and use wealth, and they will not only be able to obtain the ballot—they will get it before that—but the ballot in their hands will be a power, and so it will in the negroes’ hands when he is armed with wealth and knowledge.

–C. L. James

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

As a colored man, and a victim to the terrible tyranny inflicted by the injustice and prejudice of the Nation, I ask no right that I will not give to every other human being, without regard to sex or color. I cannot ask white women to give their efforts and influence in behalf of my race, and then meanly and selfishly withhold countenance of a movement tending to their enfranchisement.” —Robert Purvis, Philadelphia.

Source: The Revolution, January 6, 1870


An International Thanksgiving Day

Not the Fourth of July, but Thanksgiving is our most distinctive national holiday. Other nations have days celebrating their birth or independence; none other has Thanksgiving. Other peoples have had harvest festivals, in joyousness similar to the day we celebrate; but no other people has ever had a distinctive day like Thanksgiving. It is a religious, not a sectarian—a national, not a sectional— festival.

Set apart first by the Pilgrim fathers of New England, it spread to all parts of the land. It exalts gratitude, one of the finest human traits. It calls together the scattered members of the family. Coming at the time it does, it serves as an admirable prelude to the joy of the universal Christmas-tide. Our observance of the day has its own peculiar traditions, but these traditions appeal most strongly to the old stock of New England or to their descendants scattered throughout the West.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.


Giving Only Eye-Service

There is nothing more humiliating to a right-minded person than to be watched. There is nothing more annoying to an employer than the spectacle of men hard at work in his presence, but idle, or dilatory as soon as his back is turned.

A man who is desirous of earning his wages works at all times during business hours, but one whose chief anxiety is to draw his salary, is better out of the way than in it, and is, moreover, dishonest. Whether the engagement be for one year or one week, the agreement, on the one hand, is to pay a certain sum for the services of an individual; on the other, to work faithfully and honorably for the said term.

What would be thought of the employer who should, on pay-day, withhold a portion of the salary by reason of the contract not being kept by the workman? He would be universally condemned as mean beyond precedent; but is there any more justice or honor in frittering away an employer’s time, or deceiving him by a pretended performance of work, than withholding an employee’s salary?  None at all.

Labor is honorable, and the man who works for his living, whether with a pen or a hammer and chisel, is to be respected, but no one respects a man who is constantly trying to evade his duty.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Source: Godeys Ladys Book, November 1866
Top Image: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, v. 22, no. 552 (1866 Apr. 28), p. 89.