All I Want For Christmas…

Image of young Mary Jesup Sitgreaves holding a doll.

A young Mary Jesup Sitgreaves poses for the camera with a doll.

A recent email to my mother regarding some gift possibilities for Christmas led her to reminisce about the “good old days” when my sister and I penned letters to St. Nick, detailing how we had been good girls for the past year and requesting certain items as presents for Christmas.  The letters were carefully deposited on the family room coffee table on the eve of St. Nicholas’s feast day, the 6th of December, along with a small treat of some sort.  St. Nick always left us a kind note along with a bowl of candies and fruit (no stockings/shoes were filled in our household).  More often than not, many of the presents we requested were under the tree for us on Christmas day (although I never did get the Optimus Prime Transformer toy that I had so desperately wanted…).

This conversation led me to wonder if my friend’s children were engaging in similar compositional pursuits.  It turns out that today, children can actually email Santa – a quick web search provided me with a free site for emailing Santa Claus:, as well as a vehicle for Santa to write back:  For those who prefer more traditional “snail mail” service, the United States Postal Service informs me that one can get an actual response postmarked from the North Pole.

Envelope of letter from Mary Jesup Sitgreaves to "Mr. Kriss Kinkle"

Envelope of letter from Mary Jesup Sitgreaves to "Mr. Kriss Kinkle 18 December 1863

The Postal Service’s website informs readers that Post Office locations began receiving letters to Santa “over 100 years ago,” but I found evidence here at The Filson that such letters began even earlier.  The Jesup-Sitgreaves Family Papers collection includes correspondence from a young Mary Jesup Sitgreaves.  Mary’s father was Lorenzo Sitgreaves, an Army captain who fought in the Mexican War and was later employed as an Army engineer and surveyor; Mary’s mother was Lucy Ann Jesop, a granddaughter of Lucy Clark and William Croghan, original residents of Locust Grove.  Mary Jesup Sitgreaves was born and grew up in Washington, D.C.

On 18 December, 1863, at the age of five years and one month, Mary, using what I am sure what her best handwriting, penned a letter to“Mr. Kriss Kinkle” [sic].

Mary Jesup Sitgreaves letter to "old kriss" 18 December 1863

Mary Jesup Sitgreaves letter to "old kriss" 18 December 1863

Mary writes,

“dear old kriss will you bring me a stove and a baby and a desk with paper and a pen and a paper knife in it please send me some sugar plums too and cakes and I will love you mary J. Sitgreaves dec. 18th 1863”

The collection does not indicate whether or not little Mary received her presents, although the above photo of her suggests that she perhaps received the requested “baby.”

Happy Christmas to all from The Filson!

Jennie Cole

Jennie Cole is the Manager of Collection Access at The Filson. She has a MLIS with a specialization in Archives from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA in History from the University of Louisville. Jennie's research interests in the Filson's collections include women's history, Camp Zachary Taylor, and Speed family of Louisville.

4 comments on “All I Want For Christmas…

  1. Daniel Weddington

    Ditto on the Optimus Prime disappointment. Good for her getting the doll she wanted. Neat find!

  2. Mary Margaret Cole

    Glad that our correspondence about Christmas gifts sparked such an interesting investigation! It is good to know that some traditions never die, they just change according to the times … written letters become emails! In some ways I’m sorry that we didn’t buy you Optimus Prime all those years ago … did you see what they are selling for on Ebay?? Yet, I’m sure we could never have convinced you to keep it in the original box!! Good job, Jennie!

  3. Jennie Cole

    Full disclosure – my parents did get me an Optimus Prime poster for Christmas two years ago!

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. Seth Newton

    You can write letters from Santa on too. Lots of templates to choose from, and it’s mailed from North Pole, Alaska.


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