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Early Christmas Shopping Has Its Advocates

Early Christmas advertising in Southern Oregon and Northern California is nothing new; it has been around since the late 1800s when some ads popped up even before Halloween. It got a boost in 1903 when the socialist co-founder of the NAACP, Florence Kelley, wrote a widely published essay advocating early shopping in support of her crusade for child labor laws and an eight-hour workday.

Kelley’s essay, titled “The Travesty of Christmas,” contended that late shopping resulted in “a bitter inversion of the order of holiday cheer” for poor clerks and delivery boys.  The essay inspired the National Consumers League to implore citizens to halt what it called “the inhuman nature of the eleventh-hour rush” on bedraggled sales clerks.

The Ashland (Oregon) Tidings echoed Kelley’s sentiments nine years later, declaring it was “very poor policy to delay Christmas shopping until the last minute.”  The newspaper warned that late shoppers could face low and picked-over stocks, as well as poor customer service from clerks “worn out and apt to be nervous if not inattentive.”
The Tidings advised city folk to stay home Saturdays, the day farmers preferred coming to town to shop.

Sources: "Do Shopping Early: Holiday Shoppers Advised to Do Their Shopping Early in a Day and a Week." Ashland Tidings 9 Dec. 1912: 1.  Collins, Paul. Christmas Season Starts Earlier Every Year!. Slate.com, 9 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. 

Christopher Shockey has been a long-time JPR listener and contributor. He lives on a 40-acre hillside homestead in the Applegate Valley with his wife, Kristen. He enjoys supporting both the Southern Oregon Historical Society and JPR by digging up regional stories for As It Was.