Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

The Eisenlohr Family and Dallas’ First Christmas Tree — 1874

eisenlohr_1885_ebayThe Eisenlohr Market Drug Store, 1885 (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

According to the memories of Dallas artist E. G. Eisenlohr (1872-1961), his German-born parents brought the first decorated Christmas tree to Dallas in 1874 (or, according to a version of the story published a few years later, 1876). There had been Christmas trees in Dallas before this, but the Eisenlohrs’ tree may have been the first tree — or one of the first — to be brought inside and decorated with tinsel and ornaments.

According to E. G. Eisenlohr’s Christmas memories which appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 1, 1935:

The candles, holders and tinsel for that first Christmas tree in the village of Dallas in 1874 was ordered from the East. For days my mother baked cookies in the shapes of stars, ships, [and] boots [using] hand-carved molds, some more than 100 years old, that illustrated folk tales…. For days before Christmas Eve the children had been locked out of the room where Kris Kringle was decorating the tree and permitted to enter only after our parents played their Christmas concert and appeared at the window in answer to the cheers from the crowd in the streets. There may have been other trees in the village before we had ours but I have not heard of any and many persons said ours was the first here. I believe we had the first tinsel and glass decorations, for many persons told me later that their parents had told them of the decorated trees back in their old homes before they came to Texas.

eisenlohr-store_degolyer-lib_SMUThe store, ca. 1875-1880 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

But what kind of tree was it? According to Kenneth Foree’s 1946 News article about the Eisenlohr tree, it was “a beautiful cedar tree (cut from an Akard and Young thicket by moonlight when the children were asleep” (DMN, Dec. 24, 1946).

Eisenlohr’s father, Rudolph F. Eisenlohr, owned the Market Drug Store (seen above), which was at the southwest corner of Main and Field (the current view of that corner can be seen here, via Google Street View, and the 1885 Sanborn map of that block can be found here.) The family lived upstairs. Imagine that first decorated tree — actually inside someone’s home! — lit with candles in one of those upper windows, attracting a crowd of people below who had never before seen such a sight in the little village of Dallas.

eisenlohr_photoR. F. Eisenlohr (1846-1933)

eisenlohr_market-drug-store_dallas-herald_021877
The Dallas Herald, Feb. 18, 1877

eisenlohr_dallas-directory_1878
Dallas city directory, 1878

eisenlohr_nortons-union-intelligencer_102383
Norton’s Union Intelligencer, Oct. 23, 1883

***

Sources & Notes

More on this tree can be found in these three Dallas Morning News articles:

  • “Christmas of ’74 Featured by First Yule Tree in City — Intended for Eisenlohr Children, but Served for All of Youngsters ” (DMN, Oct. 1, 1935)
  • “Happy Citizens of the Little Town of Dallas Saw Their First Glass and Tinsel Ornaments in 1876 on a Tree Which Glittered Through the Eisenlohrs’ Window Upstairs Over Their Drug Store” (…that is one crazy-long headline…) by Mattie Lou Frye (DMN, Dec. 18, 1932)
  • “First Tree” (crazy-short headline…) by Kenneth Foree (DMN, Dec. 24, 1946)

Photo of the Eisenlohr store found on eBay.

More on artist E. G. Eisenlohr here and here.

*

Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

Celebrate the Pecan Tree’s 150th Christmas!

pecan-tree_bigOur beautiful Pecan Tree! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Ever since I realized that 2015 was the sesquicentennial for what may the world’s most famous pecan tree, I’d planned to do a nice post worthy of such an occasion. Except that, as usual, time seems to be slipping away from me, and I have time today to post only a few photos of one of my very favorite local landmarks.

The pecan tree — or, the Pecan Tree (it deserves to be capitalized) — is in Highland Park on Armstrong Parkway at Preston Road, and if you grew up in the Dallas area, driving past the huge tree decorated with lights is an annual Christmas ritual. I remember when I was going through my sullen teen years how I always rolled my eyes when my parents said we were going to go see the Pecan Tree — but when we got to the tree and saw it … it was just wonderful.

The tree began life in 1865 (!) as a sprout in the middle of a cornfield owned by the Coles, one of Dallas’ pioneer families. In October of that year, young Joe Cole, just returned from the Civil War, was working the field and discovered the little plant in a furrow, crushed under the wheels of his wagon. The story goes that Joe, still overwhelmed from the horrors of war, got out of his wagon and replanted the sprig, taking pains over the years to make sure it grew into a large healthy tree. And it did.

I discovered recently that the very first house I lived in was Joe’s old farmhouse, part of which, somehow, was still standing across from North Dallas High School into the 1980s. I’ve always felt a kinship with that tree, and it’s nice to know that my very first home was the home of the man responsible for the tree that has given so much pleasure to so many people. Thank you, Joe!

Below, a short, six-and-a-half-minute film about the history of the tree, produced by KERA: “Million Dollar Monarch,” directed by Rob Tranchin.

*
pecan-tree_small

pecan-tree_degolyer-lib_c1909
1909 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

pecan-tree_lee-hite
Photo by Lee Hite

***

Sources & Notes

First two photos were reproduced as promotional postcards by the Park Cities Bank in the 1970s; thanks to the Lone Star Library Annex for allowing me to use these images. Source of other photos as noted.

Read about the tree on the Highland Park website, here.

More about the history of the tree can be found in a 1933 article from The Dallas Morning News, with memories from the then-92-year-old Joseph Cole: “Million-Dollar Tree of Dallas, Big Pecan Centering Parkway, Set Up by Hand of Man Now 92” (DMN, March 5, 1933).

A 2012 report on the aging tree can be found in a Dallas Morning News article by Melissa Repko, here.

This famed Pecan Tree was planted in the fall of 1865, which would make this its 150th anniversary. I haven’t seen any mention of this. I know the tree has been in bad shape at times throughout the years, but I’m pretty sure it’s still standing. I haven’t seen the tree this year, but it was still looking pretty impressive last year. Happy 150th, Pecan Tree!

Click photos for larger images.

*

Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

“A Haven From the Usual Turmoil of Holiday Shopping”

ABS_xmas_haven_nd“A superlative selection…”

by Paula Bosse

Remember the quiet joy of shopping in bookstores? Remember bookstores? In celebration of the completion of this year’s Christmas shopping, I give you two ads from The Aldredge Book Store, where there’s “plenty of parking  space […] and a pleasant Christmas spirit.”

ABS_xmas_19631963

No one is in a hurry. And we all try to see that you still have your Christmas spirit when you leave.

I practically grew up in this store, and I miss it.

***

Sources & Notes

Both ads from the early 1960s. They appeared in the Sunday book sections of The Dallas Morning News and The Dallas Times Herald. (Remember when we had two newspapers? Remember when we had Sunday book sections?)

Previous posts on The Aldredge Book Store can be found here.

*

Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

%d bloggers like this: