The Irreplaceable James Edgar

A mother embarrased. Jim Edgar beams.
He is the first Santa and he’s happy with that.
He hoped history would forget–the frightened cries.
On his lap. Unexpected. A joyous warmth, even though.

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Written for Trifecta’s Week Ninety-eight challenge:

Charles Dickens, in A Christmas Carol, wrote “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” We are giving you exactly 33 words to make us laugh out loud and spread some festive cheer. Visit Trifecta at their site….

This isn’t so much a laugh, but I hope it does bring a smile.

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James Edgar

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In a world of forgotten people, James Edgar deserves to be remembered especially today.

An immigrant from Scotland, he arrived in Brockton, MA in 1878. He established his dry goods store and by 1890 was running a flourishing business. He was known to stand on the roof of his building tossing pennies to the children below, and hired unemployed youth for his department store despite not needing any new employees. Every summer, he would hire every available trolley to bring children to a park for a massive picnic; Mr. Edgar paid for everything and would often dress in costume for their amusement. One year, he came dressed as Uncle Sam.

As the first store Santa, “Big Jim” took his cue from the 1860s Thomas Nast cartoons of the Jolly Old Elf. Instead of sitting like a king awaiting the children, he wandered the store greeting eager faces. Soon, families from as far as Boston would make a day of visiting Santa. In 1890, the trip to Brockton would require a lengthy train ride. Jim greeted every child with a friendly smile, and a hearty laugh. There have been hundreds, probably thousands, of store Santa’s since, but Big James Edgar deserves his place in history beside all our other beloved legends.

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11 thoughts on “The Irreplaceable James Edgar

    • Thank you. One thing I try to teach in my classes is that history isn’t always war, pestilence, and greed. There are good stories out there, but for some reason we, as a society, seem to fester on the darker side of our lives. Maybe if we look for the good, not the bad, and not just in December, we’d have a better functioning government, nicer commutes, and friendlier time in the stores.

    • I’ve always wondered if he did, too. I imagine a lively old man wanting to spread Christmas cheer around his store, and finding a child completely petrified at the sight of St. Nick in person.

    • Thank you. I, personally, think if there was a pantheon of the “forgotten” (or lesser known) America, Big Jim would sit atop the heap looking down like Zeus at Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bonyenne.

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