In 1914, the United States Post Office began courtesy forwarding some letters addressed to Santa Claus to a tiny town of the same name in Indiana, where the new Postmaster there, James Martin, took it upon himself to reply. In 1930, he was featured in a Ripley’s Believe it or Not cartoon panel and the number of letters vastly increased. Now 100 years later, the town receives over 400,000 pieces of mail each December and has an official operation in which volunteer elves reply, called Santa’s Elves.
Containing more than 250 of these actual letters and envelopes from the naughty and nice reaching back to the 1930s, Letters to Santa Claus, a new book from Indiana University Press, will touch readers’ hearts and bring back memories of a time in our lives when the man with a white beard and a red suit held out the hope that our wishes might come true.
Its letters are arranged chronologically and are a window into the past, capturing the hopes and dreams of kids and adults over the years while resting against a backdrop of national events that affected their daily lives.
Arriving from all corners of the globe, the letters ask for toys, family reunions, snow, and help for the needy—sometimes the needy being the writers themselves. They are candid, heartfelt, and often blunt. Many children wonder how Santa gets into their chimneyless homes, others send keys. One child reminds Santa that she has not hit her brothers over 1,350 times that year, and another respectfully requests two million dollars in “cold cash.” One child hopes to make his life better with a time machine, prisoners send wishes for their children, kids ask for their parents to return from war, an adult woman asks for a man (in a very specific letter), and one miscreant actually threatens Santa’s reindeer! Some letters even arrive in braille.
Pat Koch, who penned the foreword, is founder of the Santa Claus Museum & Village in Santa Claus, Indiana, and the daughter of Santa Jim Yellig, one of James Martin’s original helpers and the man who served as the region’s Santa Claus for over 50 years. Since 1943, she has worked tirelessly to make sure every child who writes to Santa Claus receives a response.
Emily Weisner Thompson, Executive Director of the Santa Claus Museum & Village, is a historian and author of Images of America: Santa Claus. She writes on the history of the town and operation in the afterword of the book and holds a BA in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in History from American University.
Book Information—Letters to Santa Claus
By “The Elves”, Foreword by Pat Koch, Head Elf, Afterword by Emily Weisner Thompson
224 pages, 8.5 x 11, 270 color illus.
Cloth ISBN 978-0-253-01793-2 $20.00
eBook ISBN 978-0-253-01794-9 $19.99
Publication Date: October 5, 2015
To order: visit http://iupress.indiana.edu