Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blog Tour: Excerpt from The Santa Claus Man by Alex Palmer

Today we are pleased to be a part of Alex Palmer's blog Tour as he promotes his book, The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York  For our stop, we have excerpt #4 to share with you.  For other excerpts and content, make sure to check out the tour stops below!

Special blog tour Christmas gift: Get a free Santa bookplate signed by the author, plus two vintage Santa Claus Association holiday seals. Just email proof once you buy The Santa Claus Man (online receipt, photo of bookstore receipt, etc.) along with the mailing address where you'd like the gift sent to santaclausmanbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Email before 12/21 to guarantee delivery by Christmas. 

Publisher: Lyons Press
Date of publication: October 2015

Miracle on 34th Street meets The Wolf of Wall Street in this true crime adventure, set in New York City in the Roaring Twenties.

Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office Department. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa’s mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era’s movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan — until Gotham’s crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa’s workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It’s also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa’s early beginnings in New York to the country’s first citywide tree lighting to Macy’s first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

Other holiday highlights found in The Santa Clause Man:
  •        The secret history of Santa letters, including a trove of original Santa letters and previously unpublished correspondences between the post office and charity groups arguing whether Santa’s mail should be answered.
  •        The surprising origins of Christmas as we celebrate it today. From “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the image of Santa Claus popularized by Coca-Cola, this book outlines how modern Christmas came to be, and includes a standalone timeline of holiday milestones.
  •        The rise of modern-day charity— and charity fraud. Unchecked giving exploded after the First World War and this book follows this growth, as well as some of the most egregious exploiters of the country’s goodwill (including the Santa Claus Man himself), and how they were finally exposed.
  •        Dozens of original vintage holiday photos, including a sculpture of Santa Claus made of 5,000 pulped letters to Santa, and a detailed sketch of a proposed Santa Claus Building, planned but never built in midtown Manhattan.

It was Christmas Eve in Madison Square Park, just minutes before 5:30 p.m. and a boy was pulled from the thousands who had congregated in the park over the previous few hours, ushered to a special area, and instructed to press a button when he got the signal.
The onlookers, staying warm thanks to their coats and close quarters to one another (and sips of hot, earthy coffee supplied by the Salvation Army), turned their attention to the clock on the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, which rose over the park. Since 1909, the structure had been the tallest building in the world, until the opening of the Woolworth eight months earlier reduced it to second best. Yet it remained the heart of New York City and had been the obvious choice the year before when city officials devised the idea of a citywide public celebration of Christmas. It had been the first time any city held a formal Christmas gathering of this type—inviting citizens to get together around a large tree to sing songs and enjoy entertainment. This year, the city officials arranged for a seventy-foot-tall “Tree of Light” in Madison Square Park as the hub of the Christmas Eve celebration, accompanied by a seven-hour concert of carolers, folk musicians, and brass bands. Five hundred boy scouts stood at the ready to assist with crowd control.
As the giant clock struck 5:30, the boy got the signal and pressed the button. A large light burst on top of the pine tree as the Star of Bethlehem ignited. The crowd let out a collective gasp as the rest of the tree—a gift of Isaac Homestead of Westbury, New York, that had taken two teams of horses to pull from Long Island—sparkled as thousands of tiny lights illuminated the clear night. The bells in the nearby churches and Metropolitan Tower chimed. As a squad of trumpeters stood and initiated the program of music in the park, the wide-eyed boy stepped away from the button and returned to his place in the crowd. No reporters caught his name.
At 6:30 the singers of the Oratorio Society performed “Holy Night” and the carol “The Christ Child’s Christmas Tree,” specially written for the event. Its lyrics described a civic celebration of the holiday, where everyone was welcome.

Come, gather. Rich and poor are one,
Parent and child, and the strange lone,
For the heart of the city goes out tonight
In a burst of music, a flood of light;
And the Christ-Child spirit, divinely fair,
That illumined the manger cold and bare
Is born again in the City square!

As attendees drank coffee and snacked on free sausages, the celebration and twinkling lights continued until midnight, when the hundred-member Negro Choral Society closed out the proceedings. “So were lighted the Christmas trees for all those in New York who had no trees of their own,” the Times reported. The celebration was “for all the homeless, the lonely, the folk of the hall bedrooms, the strangers in New York at Christmas time.” Every man, woman, and child in the city could enjoy a glowing Christmas tree, whatever their station in life.
But this type of celebration did not appeal only to those without a tree or a home of their own. Since its launch the year before, the gathering seemed to fill a need for community and connection that many New Yorkers had not been aware they were missing. The Times noted in 1912 that “Many people in the city have given up house parties to go to see the big tree and help swell the choruses.” No matter how many decorations and gifts were piled at home, the excitement of the city beckoned.
Nor was it just New Yorkers who felt this attraction. This civic celebration of Christmas spread throughout the country in 1913. “That the public out of doors Christmas tree is a success was shown again tonight,” the Chicago Tribune commented about New York’s Tree of Light. No wonder Chicago was hailing New York’s Christmas tree—its success led the Second City to erect its own for the first time in 1913. It was a commanding seventy-five footer, lit to the chorus of Chicago’s Grand Opera Company as some of its stars sang Christmas songs through megaphones.
Cincinnati introduced a forty-five-foot-high tree—a first for the city. It was accompanied by ringing chimes, carols from choirboys, and a full flourish of trumpets. Just across the water from Gotham, Jersey City introduced its first public Christmas tree—rising thirty-five feet high and towering over the southeast corner of City Hall. Its lights, which could be seen from blocks away, were lit every night from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. Detroit, Baltimore, and numerous other cities lit up their first municipal Christmas trees in 1913, all following New York’s successful example from the year before. “In all, fifty cities have this year followed New York’s community tree example,” wrote the Tribune. More than any other, this was the year that Christmas went public.
And it stayed that way. The community Christmas celebration that originated in New York would spread not only through newspapers but also pamphlets and instruction books that offered detailed descriptions for a city of any size to introduce its own civic gathering. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge would light up the United States’ first National Christmas Tree in President’s Park. But as the grand tree-lighting tradition proliferated, the city that did it first continued to do it biggest. The Tree of Light remained for two more decades in Madison Square Park before moving to Rockefeller Center in 1933, where it reigns today as the highest-profile Christmas tree lighting in the country. 

About the author:

Author Alex Palmer has written for Slate, Vulture, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Daily News and many other outlets. The author of previous nonfiction books Weird-o-Pedia and Literary Miscellany, he is also the great-grandnephew of John Duval Gluck, Jr.
Connect with Alex

Purchase Links

Alex Palmer’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, November 30th: A Chick Who Reads – Excerpt 1
Tuesday, December 1st: Time 2 Read – Excerpt 2
Wednesday, December 2nd: Life by Kristen – review
Thursday, December 3rd: Bibliotica – spotlight
Friday, December 4th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen – Excerpt 3
Monday, December 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller – author guest post
Tuesday, December 8th: BookBub – “7 True Holiday Tales to Put You in the Christmas Spirit”
Wednesday, December 9th: From the TBR Pile – Excerpt 4
Wednesday, December 9th: Buried Under Books – author guest post
Thursday, December 10th: Books on the Table – review and guest post
Thursday, December 10th: Broken Teepee – spotlight
Friday, December 11th: A Literary Vacation – author Q&A
Monday, December 14th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty – review
Tuesday, December 15th: Mom in Love with Fiction – Excerpt 5
Thursday, December 17th: Open Book Society – review
Thursday, December 17th: BookNAround – review
Friday, December 18th: Dreams, Etc. – review
Thursday, December 24th: FictionZeal – spotlight

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for being a part of the excerpt tour!