By Coulter Fussell
It’s a Wagner Week and below is the driest Christmas letter ever written. D.R. Wagner has not much to say about Christmas, that’s for sure. I wonder about Daniel Wagner’s relationship with the holiday. He was a first generation American, the first of eight siblings actually born in the United States. His entire family came from Germany. I have no doubt that D.R. probably had a German accent. When the big estate sale at their house happened about eight years ago, my mom and dad found in the attic (and purchased) a very, very old family menorah. So, maybe Daniel’s not a big fan of Christmas or his own son. But mince meat pie? Now, that excites him.
I’ve also included a few excerpts from Christmas letters from other Wagners to John Henry who is off at Bingham School. I like seeing what their fancy selves got for Christmas. And it’s too bad I didn’t run across Jessie’s “pocket-toilet” until today as I surely could have used that for last week’s column.
Yocona Cotton Mills
Water Valley, Miss,
Dec 21, 1886
My Dear Son,
Inclosed find check for $32.50 for your suit – sent you a box by Express Prepaid last night, I hope it will arrive in due time and that you will enjoy the contents. We are all well and I am as busy as I can be. My dear son I hope you will have a Merry Christmas and not run it to excess, be moderate and get to your studies as soon as Xmas is over. We all send you much love, write soon, your affectionate father,
From Jessie: “Aunt Ella gave me this paper, isn’t it pretty? Mamma gave me a nice pair of earrings. Papa, a lovely autograph album, Aunt Sis a nice school companion for pencils and things, Emma, a beautiful school bag…It is a double bag and has J. embroidered on one side and W. on the other with nice nickel plated rings and chain. Carrie gave me a nice string of white beads. Gertie, a fan with a bottle of perfume on it, Corrine, a bottle of perfume, Calista, a little autograph album. Sallie gave me a Xmas card & a little basket full of artificial flowers. You ought to have seen the present Florence gave Papa. It is a smoking stand. It has on it a stand for the candle, a stand for the matches, & a stand for the ashes. Then all of those things are brass and on a brass stand. We popped fire crackers all day yesterday and had lots of fun. I jumped rope so much yesterday that I can’t hardly sit down down, because my legs are sore when I bend them.
I hope you will have a good time especially with that box Mamma sent you….for Mamma tried awful hard to please you in fixing them and Emma iced the coconut-cake and part of the chocolate-cake…Be sure and write and tell me how you like the present I sent. It is a pocket-toilet and you must carry it in your vest-pocket and when you wish to see how you look before you go into a room, all you have to do is to take out your mirror and look at yourself.”
Maria (mother of J.H., wife of D.R.): “Your father gave me a new style watch chain with a lovely charm on it and Clara got it for him so you know it was the latest. Has 3 diamonds & a ruby & a sapphire across the chain which is in the shape of a little perfume bottle or flask, round & flat. It is beautiful & just what I would have wanted in the jewelry line for I have everything else handsome … I wish I could send you some mince pie in this letter, some of my own homemade mince meat. Daniel brags on it so it must be good.”