Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas in Butte 1876

Butte was still a crude mining camp built around mining claims at Christmas in 1876. It was customary to salute the dawn of Christmas Day with firecrackers, tying them in packages and hanging them on the telegraph poles. In the aftermath, Park Street and Broadway were littered with bits of paper from the explosions. Then on Christmas night, families gathered at Loeber Hall on Broadway. A play had been presented weeks before raising $170 to pay for the party. The tree was brilliantly lit with candles and a committee of ladies had spared no expense in its decoration. But, according to the Butte Miner, some “croakers” complained that the base of the tree was left unfinished, and it would have been better had the ladies added some moss or other decoration.

Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine, 1876, offered suggestions for tree decorating
 and included this engraving to illustrate.
All agreed, however, that the tree was spectacular. The ladies carefully chose gifts for each of the children sparing no expense. Some community members also sent gifts. All were hung on the tree as was the custom. Stockings made out of mosquito netting were filled with apples—a rare and a very special treat—along with popcorn, candies, and nuts for all children ages two to thirteen. Young ladies who had reached the age of 14 had reason to wish they were children again, reported the Miner.

William Porter played St. Nicholas, dressed in a buffalo overcoat, buffalo shoes, and a buffalo cap with long white whiskers and jingling bells. He distributed the gifts, but unfortunately, not all the gifts went to those for whom they were intended. Some of the gifts were taken off the tree by persons unknown before St. Nick could hand them out. This caused some hard feelings, and a dance planned for parents and friends unfortunately never materialized. Children, however, were unaware of others’ bad behavior and went to bed happy as Christmas 1876 passed to become a pleasant memory. 

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