1838 Letter describing Christmas in Philadelphia

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Letter describing Christmas in 1838


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A sister writes to her brother describing the Christmas Holiday

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During the United States Bicentennial, my wife and I visited Batsto Village Historic Site in South Jersey.  We had been there many times before.  What made this visit different from the rest was an unusual stroke of luck.  We were in the old Batsto Post Office, which has been in operation since 1852.  On this particular day there were a number of old letters dating back 100 years or more.  They were sealed in plastic envelopes with a short typed notation on the outside indicating the date, places mailed to, and a short statement about the contents.  The price for each letter was only 50 cents.  Fifty cents for a piece of history!  We carefully looked through the envelopes, and picked out 6 that looked most promising, judging from the limited information given.

We opened a few before departing the village.   They all appeared to be old business letters of no particular interest.  Later that day the remaining letters were opened.  They proved to be more old business letters....all except one.  It was a letter to Pleasonton Laws, Kinderhook, New York from his sister, Elizabeth, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania dated December 30, 1838.  To our surprise it contained a description of an old fashioned Christmas holiday.

We believe that this letter must have somehow been added to the pile of ordinary business letters by mistake.  For the price of 50 cents we received a glimpse of nineteenth century Christmas history.

I have attached copies of the original letter along with a typed version of the contents.



  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Philada. 12 mo 30th 1838

Contributor: ShutterbugBill
Created: February 14, 2009 · Modified: May 30, 2011

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