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.
The 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.
Dallas city directory, 1878
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.
Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.