Victorian Yuletide: A New York State Christmas
Celebrate the holiday season with a visit to the Museum of Art’s annual Victorian Yuletide, opening Friday, November 23, in Fountain Elms. This year’s exhibition is a showcase for A New York State Christmas. New York legalized the celebration of Christmas in 1848 and the state led the way in the adoption and promotion of holiday traditions that are still observed today.
The bedroom is the backdrop for A Visit from Saint Nicholas, which was published anonymously in 1823. Once attributed to Clement Moore (1779-1863), this holiday favorite is now thought to have been written by Henry Livingston (1748-1828), a Poughkeepsie veteran of the Revolutionary War. The installation features sugar plums, stockings hung with care, and toys that were once owned by the original children of the house, Rachel and Maria Williams.
Then, as now, Macy’s in New York City was a retail leader for holiday shopping. In 1867 the department store remained open until midnight on Christmas Eve, setting a shocking single-day sales record of $6,000. In 1874, Macy’s featured its first Christmas-themed window display of dolls. The Fountain Elms parlor is outfitted with tables boasting gift suggestions for men, women, and children of the era.
In an exciting, unprecedented turn, a Christmas tree strung with electric lights is the showpiece of the library. In 1882, inventor Edward H. Johnson, Vice-President of Edison Electric Light Company (forerunner of ConEd), had 80 red, white, and blue light bulbs about the size of walnuts strung together and wrapped on his Christmas tree in New York City. The colorful palette is carried throughout the room.
The flurry of the season includes visiting, so the dining room will be set with an appropriately show-stopping centerpiece and the charming holly-patterned tea set owned by the Proctors.
Enjoy a festive holiday season, 19th-century style, through Sunday, December 30.