Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus: Topics in Chronicling America
In 1897, a child asks a trusted newspaper about the existence of Santa Claus and an anonymous editor answers. This guide provides access to materials related to "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" in the Chronicling America digital collection.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
Were her classmates right? Is there really no Santa Claus? When eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon sent a letter to the New York Sun asking, “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus,” the newspaper’s editor handed it to Francis Pharcellus Church, a sardonic Columbia College graduate and veteran Sun writer for reply. Church reportedly “bristled and pooh-poohed,” yet produced a masterpiece, under deadline, and in fewer than 500 words. Appearing in the Sun on September 21, 1897, “Is There a Santa Claus” is perhaps the most famous editorial ever written, translated into some 20 languages and even set to music. The press tracked Virginia until her retirement as a 70-year-old school teacher, while Church remained anonymous as the author until his 1906 death. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
Virginia O’Hanlon writes to the New-York Sun with a simple question: Is there a Santa Claus?
September 21, 1897
Francis Pharcellus Church, the newspaper’s editor, responds to Virginia's question with an editorial that has been printed and reprinted in newspapers all over the United States.