Victorian Store-Bought Christmas Presents

Victorian Store-Bought Christmas Presents
The heart of the shopping district a few days before Christmas, 1903

‘It was the afternoon of Christmas eve. The weather was delightfully mild for the season, and the sky was without a cloud. The streets of Philadelphia were unusually crowded, and the whole appearance of the city was gay and animated. The fancy stores were resplendent with elegant ribbons, laces, scarfs, and reticules, and the shops for artificial flowers, made a display which rivalled nature in their most blooming season. It was a pleasing spectacle to see so many parents leading their children, all with happy faces; some full of hope and others replete with satisfaction; some going to buy Christmas gifts, others carrying home those already purchased.’ (The Pearl, 1830, p. 106)



Christmas Gifts For Husband, Wife, Child & Servants

‘These gifts for men are always perplexing to everybody. Those with full purses have as much trouble as others. Men have fewer needs – in small ways than women have. Many of the articles that Phyllis and Dorothy have labored over or hoarded for are relegated to back shelves. This is because girls will insist on giving presents for ornament and not for use and a man hates what he calls “claptrap” unless it has a reason for being. So try to make your present with a purpose, and, no matter how simple, it will remain in sight far longer and become far dearer than the merely pretty gift.

The paperknife is always a gift that is worth while. Every man like a knife that really cuts when he opens a fresh magazine. […] A calendar is another useful gift’ (San Francisco Call, 1902) ‘Men enjoy having embroidered and cross-stitched slippers given them, as well as neatly embroidered handkerchiefs’. (Los Angeles Herald, 1904)

‘Most gentlemen are possessed of many photographs of various sizes and shapes which would be much improved by framing, and so framed adorn their apartments. Now here is a wide field for the exercise of ingenuity in elaborating designs artistic and useful.’ (Hints for Painting Christmas Gifts, 1888)

Jewelry - Victorian Christmas Presents
Inexpensive jewelry (Merry Christmas Wanamaker’s, 1908)

‘For the young girls there is nothing prettier than lavelliers or tiny enamel watches. For mother buy some table appointment, eiter in silver or cut glass. Father would certainly be pleased with a black opal scarf pin. For your sweetheart let’s suggest an exquisite diamond. […] Can you think of anything more suitable in the way of a gift for a woman than Italian silk underwear or hosiery? Perhaps a beautiful satin corset.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1909)

‘In Germany, where the exchange of Christmas presents is general, their value is regarded as tenfold increased when they are made by the donor. In this country also Santa Claus gifts often scatter a more personal sentiment when they represent home work and thought. It is especially regarded as good form for young girls to present to older women only such things us they have made themselves.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1904) Spectacle wipers ‘are easy gifts for little fingers to make, and they will please a grandmother or grandfather very much.’ (The American Girl’s Home Book of Work And Play, 1890)

‘Too costly gifts should be avoided; children are only spoiled by being accustomed to expensive presents, which, moreover, form a heavy tax on the hostess’s purse. A good plan is to have every article of the same value. This prevents all jealousy among the young folk. Any toy-shop proprietor will furnish a supply of pretty articles at sixpence or a shilling in great variety. If home-made gifts are preferred, dolls, pin-cushions, muslin bags of sweets and nuts, give unfailing pleasure to the little recipients’. (The Book Of The Home, 1900, p. 313)

Victorian Christmas Toys
-> More about Victorian Christmas Toys

The ‘servant-girls, when they opened their bundles, and saw divers nice sashes, slippers, and head-dresses, cried out, “Ach, wie schön! Ach, lieber Gott! wie schön!” and retired to weep over them in silence, but presently came back laughing through their tears, and thanking every body’. On christmas night, the servants ‘wished for the honor of our company in the kitchen. […] In the kitchen, on the wash-table, were all the odds and ends of candles that could be raked together for the occasion; some stuck in potatoes, others in old bottles, for want of better candlesticks.

Here were the Mädchen from all parts of the house – the cooks, the chambermaids, the nurses – all in high glee. Each one had a present for the other. […] All the trivial blickerings of the household were forgotten, and these poor girls were bound together in smiles, and tears, and expressions of love. There were the tokens of affection tastefully ranged on the table – little needleboxes, scarfs, belts, gloves, and knick-knacks – from Katrina to Löchin, and from Löchin to Bobbit, and from Bobbit to Marie, and from Marie to Kerchin; and from all the servants to all the children – little horses, dogs, cats, pigeons, soldiers – two or three for every youngster in the family.’ (An American Family in Germany, 1866, p. 185 ff.)

‘Sometimes Christmas gifts are a drain on slim pocketbooks, and the question of meeting the demands of the season in this line causes much worry to many whose hearts are large, but whose means are small. […] Such people should bring their artistic faculty to the fore and select simple things that are perfect of their kind. These are desk furnishings – penholders, stamp boxes, paper cutters, pen extractors, calendars, mucilage bottles, penwipers, etc. – that, if they perfectly fulfill the purpose for which they were intended, and have some little added grace of appearance, will recall the giver pleasantly to mind nearly every time they are used – and that is the end and aim of a gift. “Presents endear absents.”‘ (Los Angeles Herald, 1904)



Jewelry, Leather Goods & Umbrellas

Leather Goods - Victorian Christmas Presents
Leather goods (Merry Christmas Wanamaker’s, 1908)

‘Only eighteen more days in which to buy your Christmas presents. The Whitley Jewelry company is better prepared – if such is possible – this year with all kinds of novelties than ever before. Seems to me there is nothing you can call for in the jewelry line but they have it. […] They have an unusual stock of leather goods. Their travelling bags are beautiful. Come in Marocco, seal, pigskin and seacow.’ (Los Angeles Herald, 1909)

An ‘umbrella – oh, that’s always a nice present, considering how often one loses umbrellas’. (Los Angeles Herald, 1903) ‘Umbrella handles are greatly in vogue as presents, and some of the newest are exquisite works of art in crystal, jade and enamel, with circlets of tiny rubies and diamonds cutting the center of the ball. The charming idea of inclosing the miniature or a photograph of the “beloved one” in the flat circular case forming the top of the umbrella stick or cane is truly Parisian. This is certainly a graceful fashion, especially as a present for a fiance.’ (Marin Journal, 1905)



Toiles Articles - Victorian Christmas Presents
Many pretty & useful gifts in sterling silver (Merry Christmas Wanamaker’s, 1908)

‘For this coming holiday toilet articles seem to outdo themselves. We have low, round-cut glass receptacles for cold cream, with a superb top of heavy make in gold on solid silver, set with precious stones, in starlike effects of turquoises, carbuncles, amethysts. […] As an adornment for dressing-glasses there is a comb and hair-brush, a clothes-brush of  excellent size, a very small one for hats, together with a hand-mirror, which can be hung. […] Added to these artistic toilet accessories are jewel-boxes which, for splendor of appearance, nothing can exceed. Many are elaborate with precious stones, many rich in chase designs, but many are in plain gold, finely finished with jewels in rows – in octagon shapes – and yet some have only one stone of value for a centre ornamentation.’ (Some Good Christmas Gifts, 1896)



Autos As Christmas Presents

Autos As Christmas Presents
Automobiles as Christmas presents (San Francisco Call, 1908)

‘An interesting sign of the prosperity of the times is to be seen along automobile row. Automobiles are being bought for Christmas presents. Several of the dealers report that they have sold cars to persons who stipulate that vehicle must be delivered Christmas morning in perfect running order. Most of these cars have been bought for sons. It has been realized that a motor car is a good thing to give a youth when it can be afforded, for it keeps him out in the open air and occupies his mid and time and keeps him out of mischief. It also gives him a certain amount of self-reliance. It has been found that the first cost is a little high for a Christmas present, but in the long run it pays.’ (San Francisco Call, 1908)

8 thoughts on “Victorian Store-Bought Christmas Presents

  1. This was all so terribly interesting. I certainly loved the part about those ‘things made by your hand’…lovely. Perhaps we should start this all over again. Lovely posting, thank you so much.

  2. It’s so interesting to see how things have changed just in the last 100 years. Can you imagine giving a handkerchief or umbrella as a gift now?

    Thank you for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop.

  3. Thank you so much for linking up this post to Thursday Favorite Things! I will be featuring you on my blog for the party. I love all things Victorian as you will see if you check out my last two home tour posts. Happy New Year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *