The Uncertain Business of Christmas Tree Peddling

Tree (with coffee cup ornament) in Morningside Heights; button ornament in Brooklyn. Ruthie Kornblatt-Stier

Two hundred years ago, anyone who wanted a Christmas tree in New York City would have had to go out of town, fell their own fir, and tow it back via horse and wagon. In fact, 200 years ago Christmas was not even a national holiday (it was declared one in 1870), nor were Christmas trees commonplace, except in the homes of immigrants from Germany, where the custom began. 

However, according to an 1878 article in the New York Tribune, in 1851 a “jolly woodman named

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