Letters to Santa first began regularly appearing in newspapers around the 1880s. Every December since then, newspapers across the nation have published children’s requests for the gifts they want most.
Below are a few letters to Santa from 1916—one hundred Christmases ago. Although the items requested of Santa have changed somewhat since then (not too many kids request fruit and nuts these days), the belief that St. Nick can bring worthy petitioners anything their hearts desire, big or small, remains the same.
“Dear Santa Claus: My little friend Jeff is writing to you and I will write too. I want a cow but be sure she ain’t got no ticks on her because I can’t keep her. Also some fruit and lots and lots of nuts.” –M.C. Goowin
“Dear Santa Claus. Please bring me a Maltese kitten. I would rather have that than anything.” –Helen Slavens
“Hon. Mr. Santa Claus: As Christmas is again coming with all its glory and my heart being wild with anticipation of great pleasure, I earnestly ask you to bring me a pistol such as cowboys handle, plenty of firecrackers, roman candles, and a cracker jack bicycle, as I have lost all childhood foolishness for toys. Goodbye old friend. I wish you a merry and happy Christmas.” –Charles Scott Greaves
“Dear Santa: I want you to come Christmas. We haven’t any mother and you know what we need most. Maybe Santa will send our mamma to us Christmas. If he would, we would be tickled to death to see her. Now don’t forget to come see my papa for he wants to see you.” –Elmer Fryman
“My dear Santa Claus, I wasn’t going to ask you for a doll this year but Charles killed my favorite child the other day—just threw her down and broke her head all to pieces. I cried about it till mother said ask you for another one. I want a big one, Santa Claus, and pretty too. Then I want a stove that I can sure enough cook on and a set of doll furniture for my dining room and a tea set. This is all for my dolls. I want a tricycle and a rocking chair for myself, and a fur set and some gloves and a rain coat. And I want some fruit and nuts and a few little firecrackers that shoot easy.” –Elizabeth Heitman