December 19, 2021

1921: A Christmas Season Bright

Christmas 1921 in Prescott would see several dances, children’s events, charitable acts, and a new set of street lights for downtown. It would prove a season bright in every way.

Christmas was becoming increasingly electrified. There were electric toys, trains, and lights for the tree. The downtown store windows vied for attention with displays that incorporated lights and electric movements.

Sam Hill had a display encouraging people to “Boost Arizona” and “Buy Something Made of Copper.” These slogans were spelled out on a sheet of copper with copper rivets creating the letters. Then, everything that was made with copper in the hardware store’s inventory was placed in display in front of it. The Journal-Miner crowed that it was “one of the first and best copper exhibits in the country.” The Christmas display at OW Bruchman Clothier received special mention in the paper as well.

However, it wasn’t just the scenes on the streets that was drawing everyone’s attention, but a spectacle in the sky as well. One day in mid-December, Prescottonians were treated to an impromptu aerial daredevil display. 

“Swooping down almost to the level of the treetops in the Plaza, circling over the courthouse to rise and then drop and turn breathlessly in a spiral; indulging in feats of gliding, [and] looping,” the paper detailed, “Rex Smith, Salt Lake City aviator…treated crowds of spectators downtown…to a thrilling series of stunts in an impromptu half-hour of exhibition flying.”

Planes were rare in 1921 and the mere sound of one would bring people outside to witness it. “The hum of the motor [brought] out bareheaded throngs to view [the] stunts,” the paper reported. The Plaza was completely encircled with “interested people,” while workers on the top floor of the courthouse “jammed themselves at the barred windows” to see the action.

Smith provided the entertainment just for the thrill of it. Grace Sparkes, Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, described the aerial show as being “better than a previous exhibition for which the chamber…paid out $1500” (over $24,000 today!)

1921 globe street light is seen
One gift for the city itself that literally added to the brightness of the season was brand new street lighting. Work began in November. The county was responsible for the lights around the Plaza, while the city was responsible for the lights on the streets. The paper described the Plaza lights as “single large Novalux globes on ornamental cast-iron standards. The county contract call[ed] for 16 posts around the Plaza.” 

The city’s illumination would circle around the Plaza with lights on Gurley extending from the Granite Creek bridge to Mt. Vernon St.  Lights on Cortez would extend north to the depot. “There will be 160 lights installed by the city,” the paper reported, “on an average of nine or ten to a block.”

However, the centerpiece of the city’s festivities was the municipal tree in the Courthouse Plaza. The municipal tree service was scheduled at 6:45pm “in order to avoid conflicting with [several] other Christmas Eve services.” The tree was picked-out and provided by the Prescott National Forest. It was decorated and lighted electrically.

Beside the actual lighting of the tree, the service also included the mass distribution of food stuffs and other necessities to those families who were in need. The municipal tree committee put the call out for people to discreetly submit the names of such families. “The committee plans to supply each family with a box of substantial food and Christmas cheer.” 

The committee was a bit surprised when they found that 110 families needed help that year. Although “the merchants of Prescott [came] forward splendidly,…the bulk of this should not rest upon their shoulders,” the paper pronounced. In response, a Good Fellows organization was created. Anyone and everyone was encouraged to join. Their purpose was to “back up the municipal Christmas tree fund and its work.” Heavy solicitations for subscriptions ultimately guaranteed that no family would be left out.

The story of Christmas 1918 in Prescott, AZ. World War 1 was over, but Spanish influenza caused people to stay close to home.

As was the custom back then, in a portion of the forest that needed thinning, (in this case, on Spruce Mountain,) Christmas trees were marked for harvesting. A short time period was allowed and a ranger was on hand to make sure the right trees were felled, but as long as people were willing to do the cutting, they got one tree for free.

Christmas dances were many that year. They were hosted by the VFW, the American Legion, the Yavapai Club and other organizations.

For the convalescing veterans at Whipple, the Red Cross provided Christmas dinner “at which goodies of every description [were] on the menu,” the paper declared. “No set program [of entertainment was] given, but exceptional music and other diversions [were] arranged.”

The main recipients of Christmas cheer were the children. There were Christmas tree celebrations and accompanying goodies at public school, Sunday school, and the central tree in the Plaza. Additionally, many organizations made appointments with Santa Claus to pass out even more Christmas candy, nuts and fruits. 

The Monday Club hosted a Christmas party for 385 children “who overflowed the club house.”  It was seen that “the children would not only be given Christmas cheer, but be warm and well fed for the winter as well. There was not one refusal.”

Such was the spirit of Christmas 1921.


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Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/9/1921; Pg. 2, Cols. 4-5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/14/1921; Pg. 3, Col. 6.

IBID; Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/9/1921; Pg. 2, Col. 6.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/28/1921; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/21/1921; Pg. 3, Col. 4.

IBID; Pg. 2, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/28/1921; Pg. 5, Col. 2.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/21/1921; Pg. 2, Col. 4.

IBID; Pg. 3, Col. 5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/21/1921; Pg. 2, Col. 5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/28/1921; Pg. 2, Col. 7.

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