Creative Commons License
Victorians Institute Journal Annex content in NINES is protected by a Creative Commons License.
Peer Reviewed

Sleigh Bells and Factory Elves: The Spectacular Economy of Santa Claus by Josh Poklad (2015 Award for Best Graduate Conference Paper)

Victorians Institute Journal Digital Annex


1  See Neil Armstrong, Christmas in nineteenth-century England, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2010).

2  See Christine Lalumia, “Scrooge and Albert,” History Today 51, no.12 (December 2001), 23-30.

3  See John Pimlott, The Englishman’s Christmas: A Social History, (London: The Harvester Press, 1978), 111-119.

4  Karl Marx, Capital, Vol.I, (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1970), 72.

5  ‘In 1647, the British Parliament abolished religious festival celebrations, including Christmas, and the ban persisted for the duration of the Puritan Oliver Cromwell’s reign.’ – Russell W. Belk, “Materialism and the making of the Modern American Christmas,” in Unwrapping Christmas, ed. Daniel Miller, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 76.

6  See Armstrong, Christmas, 45, and Lalumia, “Scrooge and Albert,” 23-30.

7  Hervey’s The Book of Christmas (1836), in which he advocates the restoration of the festivities of “merry England”, did much to propagate the value system of the new Christmas amongst the reading public.

8  Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Books, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

9  Ibid. p.79.

10  Lalumia also observes this mid-century orientation towards food consumption, in “Scrooge and Albert,” 28.

11  Of course, the Victorian middle classes were keen to write his truly subversive elements out, as is betrayed by the author of an article in The Huddersfield Chronicle in 1850, who keenly qualifies the character’s indulgence in revelry as “wholesome” and “unlicentious” - “A Garland for Christmas,” The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser , December 21, 1850, 4.

12  Featured in Sarah A. Tooley, “The Life Story of Father Christmas,” The English Illustrated Magazine, 33, December 1905, 205-215, 206.

13  “The Streets at Christmas Time,” Illustrated London News, December 23, 1848, n.p.

14  “Christmas,” Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser, December 27, 1849, n.p.

15  “The Coming of Santa Claus,” Illustrated London News, December 28, 1901.

16  Clarke Moore’s poem “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” (1823) depicted Santa (in the guise of St Nicholas) as a magical present-delivering figure.

17  See Thomas Nast, “Merry Old Santa Claus,” Harper’s Weekly, January 1, 1881, for an emblematic example of Nast’s Santa.

18  See Belk, “Materialism,” 83.

19  For instance, William Heighway’s “A Visit from Santa Claus,” featured in Kind Words for Young People, on December 1, 1878.

20  Claude Levi-Strauss, “Father Christmas Executed,” in Unwrapping Christmas ed. Daniel Miller, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 41.

21  Peter N. Stearns, Consumerism in World History: The Global Transformation of Desire, (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 47.

22 See Lori Anne Loeb, Consuming Angels, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 8.

23  Recent research into late-century consumer culture has demonstrated that the middle class were inclined towards a more extravagant consumerism than their mid-century predecessors. For instance, Lori Anne Loeb argues for a “surprisingly…hedonistic emphasis” in late-century consumerism. – Ibid., vii (preface).

24  Stearns, Consumerism, 44.

25  “The Purveyors of Christmas Cards and New-Year Greetings Have This Year…,” Illustrated London News, September 14, 1878.

26  Eric Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire, (Pelican: London, 1969), 129.

27  The “match girls” of Bryant and May in 1888 and the following spring gas workers’ trade unionists took successful industrial action - John, Crossland, “The Dockers Who Won,” History Today 39.10, (1989), 9.

28  “Hyde-park was yesterday the scene of a demonstration which was in many respects almost unique in its character…,” The Morning Post, August 26, 1889, 4.

29  Thomas Carlyle, Signs of the Times, an online edition digitized from The Collected Works of Thomas Carlyle, Vol. III, (Chapman and Hall: London, 1858), accessed November 2013, n.p., 8th paragraph.

30  “Not the external and physical alone is now managed by machinery”, Carlyle argued, “but the internal and spiritual also”. – Ibid., 10th paragraph.

31  Charles Dickens, Hard Times, (Penguin: London, 1994), 2.

32  Jenny Kingsley, “William Morris – the social conscience of arts and crafts,” Art Book, November 2010, Vol. 17 Issue 4, 19.

33  Ibid.

34  H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, (London: Everyman, 1995).

35  ‘there is no security’, notes the writer of the ‘Book of Machines’, a document which apparently incited the Erewhonian’s anti-machine war 500 years previous to the narrator’s arrival, ‘against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness.’ It is for this reason that the Erewhonians eradicate machines. See Samuel Butler, Erewhon or Over the Range, (Auckland: Golden Press, 1973), 190.

36  The names will be used interchangeably from here on in, as they were in the late-nineteenth century, and remain today.

37  In “How I Spend Christmas,” The Bookman, December, 1909, 137.

38  “Santa Claus the Toyman,” Illustrated London News, November 25, 1895.

39  Many Victorian commentators, such as Harriet Martineau, believed that, through increased production and technological development, capitalism would eventually furnish all with the material benefits of the consumer society.

40  Nicola Bown, Fairies in Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 45

41  Ibid., 84

42  “The Story of Santa Claus,” The Glasgow Herald, January 2, 1879

43  “Father Christmas with the Classes and the Masses,” Fun, December 24, 1895, 252.

44  Annual articles in the Cardiff Western Mail were dedicated to triumphant descriptions of this charity, with the piece issued to report on the first such event in 1894 revealing that ‘as each child left the building he or she received a large bag containing several useful articles of clothing, ... [a] tin mug … [and] 3d to spend.’ – “Santa Claus,” Western Mail, December 20, 1894.

45  “‘Father Christmas’ at the Children’s Hospital,” Birmingham Daily Post, January 1, 1894

46  See “Mr Labouchere, M.P., as Santa Claus,” The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, December 24, 1887, 408.

47  Most notably Patrick Joyce, who argues that “industrial paternalism was both pervasive and successful” in late-century Northern England – see Patrick Joyce, Work, Society & Politics: The culture of the factory in later Victorian England, (London: The Harvester Press Ltd, 1980), 136.

48  “The Lucky Thousand: Santa Claus and his more Favoured Followers,” Illustrated London News, December 31, 1910.

49  “The Bad Boy and Santa Claus,” Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, December 22, 1894.

50  “Santa Claus in the Mines,” Leeds Mercury, December 19, 1885.

51  Anna Bartlett Warner and Susan Warner, Carl Krinken: His Christmas Stocking, (New York: G. P. Putnam & Co., 1853), 13.

52  “Looking Ahead,” Penny Illustrated Paper, November 25, 1911, 694.


Page 1