The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on December 23, 1972 · Page 65
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 65

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Indianapolis, Indiana
Issue Date:
Saturday, December 23, 1972
Page:
Page 65
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THE Mam Wm Wa SANTA CEAUS By FREDERICK JOHN J AMES EDGAR, a native of Scotland who came to the United States when he was only a child, is the man who made American children more aware of Santa Claus than they had ever been before. Yet, for some unknown reason, the story of this great and wonderful man has been lost amid the hustle and bustle of our modem American Christmas season. James Edgar was a tall, well-stuffed soul with a ruddy complexion, and a loud and hearty laugh. He had a rich, warm voice. And a snowy white beard. He was the very first department store Santa Claus. He was a natural. Now this claim to fame in itself might be considered crass commercialism were it not for the very nature of the man. He loved children. He would stand on the roof of his department store in Brockton. Mass., and shower pennies down on them on Saturday mornings. He had a daughter of his own. And on the Fourth of July, he hired all the trolley cars available so he could take every youngster in Brockton on a picnic in the neighboring community of Avon. It has been estimated that some years he hired as many as 30 trolley cars for the annual outings. If he heard of a child who was seriously ill, the best medical care available was dispatched immediately to the youngster's home. The donor was always anonymous. If there was a youngster who needed to earn extra money to r .MKT. .viiv. 4kjivM-.--' James Edgar his love for children created department store Santa. help out at home, Edgar was quick to hire him, even if there was no real need for a new employe. "Times were hard, and I had to find work even though I was only a boy," recalled famed artist John Castano, who is now approaching 80. "James Edgar hired me on the spot. When he learned I wanted to be an artist, he put me to work painting scenery for the store windows. That was the first time I ever painted anything for money. It was the start of my career as a painter." Edgar opened the Boston Store in Brockton in 1878. Later, the establishment became known as Edgar's. Hi LE WAS A showman of sorts. and he loved to dress up in costumes to delight his children at the annual Fourth of July picnics. One year, he came dressed up as Uncle Sam. Another time, he appeared as George Washington. He also appeared as an Army general, in an Indian costume and in a Scottish outfit complete with kilts. Naturally, he appeared in a clown's costume. In fact, his appearance as a clown brought such a great response he decided to wear the costume in his store the following Christmas. Every day, he wandered through the store dressed as the clown, and selected the girl with the prettiest ribbon in her hair. She received a Christmas doll. This went on for three or four years. Then, in 1890, Edgar decided to try a new costume at Christmas. He rode up to Boston on the train, and had a Santa costume tailored at a costume shop there. The following week the roly-poly gentleman made his first appearance in a department store. The rest is history. "I can still remember seeing Santa Claus for the first time," declared Edward Pearson, who was there that first day. "As long as I live, and I've lived quite a few years, I'll never forget that experience." Pearson, who is in his 90s, resides on Cape Cod now. But he still has warm memories of James Edgar and that day his parents brought him to the department store to purchase a gift for an aunt. "Nowadays, Santa Claus is everywhere," said Pearson. "Back in 1890, we saw drawings of him in the newspapers and magazines. But you never thought you'd ever have a chance to see him in person, unless you sat up all night on Christmas Eve beside the fireplace at home. "You just can't imagine what it was like. My parents had taken me over to the Boston Store on Main Street. I remember walking down an aisle and, all of a sudden, right in front of me, I saw Santa Claus. I couldn't believe my eyes. And then Santa came up and started talking to me. It was a dream come true." The next day, the department store was crowded with children. And their parents too. They had never enjoyed the pleasure of a face-to-face encounter with the merry old soul either. A week after Santa made his debut, there were long lines outside the store every day after school got out.

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