Letter to Santa from 1911, found in a Dublin chimney

This letter to Santa was written in 1911, and stashed in the chimney of a house in Dublin, from which it was recovered in 1992 by the house's current occupant, John Byrne. The letter, written by "A or H Howard" (a brother-sister team) survived remarkably well, and is very lovely.

“I want a baby doll and a waterproof with a hood and a pair of gloves and a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee.”

Dear Santa Letter sent 100 years ago found up chimney

(Photo: Eric Luke)



  1. Impossible! Santa Claus was invented in 1964 by Rankin Bass for their “Rudolph” Christmas Special, a show sponsored by a conglomerate of profit-hungry toy manufacturers.

    Before then, children spent Christmas huddling under their beds in terror of being dragged off by Krampus.

  2. I love this story :)

    Did you see that the Irish Times found her family?  Or rather, her family found the Irish Times.  Hannah’s son, Victor, recognised his mother when the story went viral…
    ‘Mr Bartlem said his mother had been extremely creative, excelling at various forms of needlework and later at woodwork. She was also an expert baker of cakes and other confectionery, which may go some way to explaining her toffee-themed letter to Mr Claus’ http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/1222/1224309380171.html

    1. nice find – thanks! it also mentions that it’s just a letter from her, and that she added the “A or H” because she went by “Annie” and also “Hannah”, so NOT a brother-sister team letter.

  3. “a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee”

    Absolutely charming.  Best Christmas post so far, Mr Doctorow!

    It seems a trip to the Toffee Shop is in order, maybe a brief stopover at the candlestick maker’s. To paraphrase Stephen Merchant to Karl Pilkington: “Do these kids live in Narnia?”

      1. Thanks.  You know, opportunities like these can and should be seized!
        However, in my haste I forgot to include the cobbler in the errands.

  4. Presumably Santa wasn’t being careful enough, and this fell out of his pocket on his way out?  Not like him to be careless like that.  Perhaps the lumbago was acting up and he was a little distracted.

  5. My 4 year-old has placed a large wrapped box of his toys under the tree … because apparently Santa accepts trade-ins. I will have to wait until late Saturday night to read any letter contained within.

  6. What a terrific find!  I especially like the “Good Luck” and the additional artistic details she added.  Also, just bookmarked the Irish Times.

  7. We put my daughters letters to santa up the chimney just like my parents did, but we don’t stash them oh no because farther christmas is magic. You just throw them on the fire and the up draft takes them up the chimney or they just burn, it doesn’t matter either way (its that magic bit) I should think this went up on an up draft and lodged rather than being placed in the chimney for santa to find. 

    1. “It doesn’t matter”! It was of vital importance in my childhood that the letter flew up the “lum” (Scottish for chimney) rather than just sat on the coals and burned up. I’m surprised you ever got any presents.

  8. My daughter places her letter in the grate (real fireplace but no fire…) and I have to remember to retrieve and hide it before she checks.
    She found her letter in my dressing gown pocket once so we now have an additional component to the mythology: Santa returns the letter to your parents so they know what Santas getting you and don’t double up on presents…

  9. Once at a friend’s house while cleaning out the vents in the fireplace we found an elementary school field trip Permission Slip from 1950, perfectly preserved.  We gave it to Ma and she immediately got on the horn to chew out her 50 year old son for not turning it in.  Ma was like that.

  10. There’s an update to the story. Her son has come forward:  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/1222/1224309380171.html?via=mr 

  11. Congratulations to Mr. Byrne for finding this in his chimney. I loved his work on the Fantastic Four back in the day. Ahem.

  12. Crap, we put all our kids’ Santa letters on the graves of our ancestors to be delivered by the night dragon, or devoured by death if they were bad. This though is a much sweeter tradition. And with toffee too!

  13. Note that the letter is padded with a frecquency: it has the waves of a carrier-signal written all the way through :D

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