Newspaper industry and Christmas trees

Contributed photo

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And to all the local newspapers, thank you for protecting our history. The newspapers and the Mountain Top historians and photographers are credited for saving our history.

Past articles, along with information from the Library of Congress website, remind us about the birth of the Christmas Tree tradition in America. It all started right here in Hunter, New York. It was 160 years (in 1851) ago that farmer and woodsman Marc Carr carted a wagon load of evergreen trees down to the river and on to Vesey Street in Manhattan. Local articles tell us his neighbors thought it silly of him, but it was not only profitable; a new industry began that provided years of work for local men. For just under 100 years, it was the only source of the Christmas tree tradition. But it wasn’t always easy.

Hunter Review, 1910, “The gross receipts of the Christmas tree industry will probably exceed $10,000 this year ($281,759.06 in today’s money), on this section.” (The Mountain Top).

A future challenge arose in 1934 when Fiorello LaGuardia was elected Mayor of New York. He soon declared a sort of “War on Christmas Trees.” His goal was to reduce street peddling,

But for most New Yorkers, banishing Christmas trees from the streets was going too far. For the 1938 Christmas season, LaGuardia enacted regulations requiring sellers to apply for licenses that were nearly impossible to get. It was also 1938 when LaGuardia took on the Good Humor ice cream peddlers, also with limited success. The City Council enacted the so-called “coniferous tree” exception, which not only allows the sale of evergreen plants on city streets during December but no license is required to do so, only the consent of the adjacent property owner.

A surprising Christmas Tidbit about artificial trees:

In the 1930s, Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree from brush bristles, the same ones used in toilet brushes. The popularity of this tree led other companies to begin manufacturing aluminum trees. “These space-age trees could be found in many houses during the 1950s and early 1960s. The reason behind the decline in sales of aluminum trees is rather surprising. In 1965, a popular cartoon Christmas special portrayed these trees in a very negative way. Instead of choosing a pink aluminum tree as requested by Lucy, in Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Charlie chooses a small real live tree to protest the holiday’s commercialization.” After the airing of this special, the popularity of the aluminum tree wanded.” From the patent website.

Some real Christmas tree Tidbits:

Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 States, employing approximately 100,000 people full or part-time.

Of the 2,00 trees planted in the U.S. per acre, on average, 1,000-1,500 of these trees survive: with only perhaps 750 surviving in the northern part of the country.

To get a mature tree, it takes six to ten years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail, and drought.

The 14th President (1856) of the United States, Franklin Pierce, was the first President to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

Local Christmas Tidbits:

December 20, 1889, the popular 55-year-old Samuel S. Mulford, Esq., of Tannersville, died at a Manhatten hotel after bringing a shipment of Christmas trees to New York. The article told how Mulford had been a clerk at the Catskill Mountain House. He later bought a Tannersville farm and built the Mountain Summit House (needing to enlarge it many times).

The Catskill Recorder article said, “Mr. Mulford was a counselor, attorney, and banker for people for miles around. It continued, “his surplus capital he loaned to his neighbors, and to his credit he never distressed those who were in his debt.”

The Recorder said that Mulford was a Democrat, a leader of his party in both the town and the county. He was school commissioner twice for the first district, and in 1888 was a candidate for sheriff. He was the Town of Hunter’s Supervisor in 1870-71 and 1877 through 1886, winning every year’s election. (During the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, town elections were held annually.) Mulford was the past Tannersville Postmaster during the end of the 1800s.

A 1917 story from the Kingston Daily Freeman said, “Mr. Happy” party-giver paid some of the following prices for his party.

Porterhouse Steak --- just .14 a pound.

Stew beef----just .10 a pound.

Fancy Killed Chicken---- .28 a pound.

Pork Chops---- were .25 a pound, while Veal Chops were .20 cents, yet Salt Pork was up to .28 a pound.

Potatoes, Home Grown---$1.60 a bushel.

Lettuce--- just .19 a head and only .01 for one orange.

Christmas Treed (from an April 1913 Ithaca Daily Journal: “Christmas is a word that pains P. W. Perkins of Tannersville, N.Y. A Vermont jury has just found him guilty of dealing in green trees without a license, and the court has imposed $300 in fines and costs.” It also said the state of Vermont will proceed to collect the tax of .25 (about $7.31 today) on every evergreen tree cut in Vermont by persons other than the owner of the land in greater amounts than twenty trees. It is estimated that Perkins shipped 100,000 trees ($731,000 today). An appeal was made, but no results were found.

Thanks for reading. May you all have a healthy and happy New Year.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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