Aeronaut Santa postcards arrive behind schedule… cheery nonetheless

1909 Clapsaddle designed Christmas postcard
1909 Clapsaddle designed Christmas postcard

Five weeks ago I invited readers of this column to return in one week for another vintage Yuletide season postcard. However, life intervened and my attention was diverted to other matters.

Santa in a hot-air balloon
Santa in a hot-air balloon

Apologies for the lapse, but with only a week left before Christmas Eve, the Society catches up on lost time and offers these charming early 20th century holiday greeting postcards with an aeronautical theme for your enjoyment.


Above, Santa delivers toys suspended from a basket attached to a zeppelin, or  airship, while at right he dangles beneath a hot-air balloon.

Santa in a bi-plane
Santa in a bi-plane


At left, St. Nick drops presents from what is ostensibly a Wright Brothers era aircraft.

Perhaps the artist did not fully understand the principles of powered air flight since Santa might not complete his rounds without an engine and propeller. No doubt, some sort of secret from Santa’s Workshop kept the craft aloft.

Santa in a bi-plane, John Winsch 1913
Santa in a bi-plane, John Winsch 1913

Ten years after the famous first flight of the Wright Brothers this 1913 design by John Winsch, at right, still has Santa buzzing snow-covered rooftops and dropping presents to children from an unpowered glider. Better not question Santa’s propulsion system too closely, kids.

The penned message found on the other side of this card reads:   “Little niece,  Hope he spills his pack over your house like this, don’t you?  Love, Aunt Blanche”  Mailed from Canastota (sic), NY and addressed to Baby Margurite Flick, RD No. 2, Box 59, in Pawnee Rock, Kansas.

Up to Date X'mas Greetings, 1909 E.H. Conwell
Up to Date X’mas Greetings, 1909 E.H. Conwell

Even if the artists did not depict quite accurately what was then the cutting-edge science of the day, their intention was clear — to show that St. Nick was a thoroughly modern guy and to capture some of the public’s enthusiasm for such emerging technology and have it translate to greater postcard sales.


Apparently, it worked, for according to US Post Office figures, in 1913, the number of postcards sent in the US alone was 968,000,000, more than 7 per person.*

Santa in an airship, 1915
Santa in an airship, 1915


We close with this 1915 holiday greeting which reads: “Now I use my airship / On my annual Xmas trip / It’s full of Toys and Candy too / And I’m flying straight to you.”

What does a modern 21st century Santa use for transportation in 2012?  Does he travel by space shuttle, airbus, or will he subcontract the job out to a common carrier?

The Historical Society of Riverton wishes you the Warmest Greetings of the Season and Best Wishes for Happiness in the New Year.  – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor


P.S. The next edition of the Gaslight News, expected out shortly after the first of the year, will have a dues renewal form in it for the convenience of members as well as details of the next meeting scheduled for January 24th.

Thank you, Mr. Daly.

Stiles Drug Store c.1916 606 Main Street
The building housing Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers’ New Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shop at 606 Main marked its 100th anniversary in 2010.  

Previous uses of the structure include a meat market for Ezra Perkins, a drug store, and a furniture store before Phyllis turned it into the highly regarded tea room that it is today. Seen below, the day after Christmas, the store looked like an icy confection, and the beribboned gaslight completed a picture which just as well might have been taken a several decades ago.  

Butcher Ezra Perkins had his shop at 606 Main Street
Probably few people realize that it is HSR member Paul Daly who has so faithfully hung the red bows on Riverton’s gas streetlights for so many years. 

I emailed him to tell him how much I appreciate it. I also asked how it was that he started to decorate the posts. He wrote back: 


I think it was …when I started (with the HSR) in 1988. Betty Hahle was our president and the Christmas (House) Tour was being held. She suggested that it would be nice if all of the gas lights were decorated. Somewhere along the way my hand went up and I said I would do my side of the tracks. …I got Harry Richman to help me… since he is tall he volunteered to put up the bows. 

The New Leaf Tea Room 12/26/2010
You should also know that Paul is our HSR treasurer and has been the go-to guy for so many essential tasks over the years. Despite setbacks caused by a serious operation in 2004, or a wrestling match with a ladder in which the ladder won, Paul has always returned to see that this tradition continues. A number of helpers over time have included Cathy, his wife, and various other persons whom could be persuaded to help. For the past several years, Paul’s neighbor, Grant Cole has shared the task. Paul continues: 

This year I asked for a dozen new bows to replace ones that were ripped off the posts and others that are worn. This did not happen and we were short six bows. Apparently, the other side of the tracks was not done at all. Is this one of the traditions that is going by the wayside? Thanks for asking.—PAUL 

A sincere Thank You to Paul and to all who have helped preserve this uniquely Riverton holiday tradition. – John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor 

P.S. There are more vintage images of 606 Main as well as many other places in and around Riverton. Click on the IMAGES tab near the top of the HOMEPAGE.