The Eisenlohr Family and Dallas’ First Christmas Tree — 1874

by Paula Bosse

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

by Paula Bosse

Below, a transcribed article from The Dallas Morning News — rather laboriously titled “Christmas of ’74 Featured by First Yule Tree in City, Intended for Eisenlohr Children, but Served for All of Youngsters” — about how the German immigrant father of famed Dallas artist E. G. Eisenlohr brought the first Christmas tree to the village of Dallas in 1874. (Rudolph F. Eisenlohr owned the drugstore 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).

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E. G. Eisenlohr has long been associated with art circles in Dallas but one of the landscape artist’s favorite stories of the early days in the town is of the first Christmas tree with tinsel and glass decorations. The Christmas tree was intended for a couple of youngsters but the impromptu violin and piano concert and the singing of “Stille Nacht” by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. S. Eisenlohr, brought a cheering but reverent crowd to the streets below the Christmas-lighted second-story window.

“My father and mother came to the United States from Emmendingen near the Black Forest in Southern Germany,” Mr. Eisenlohr said, in tracing the family history. “I was 4 when the family moved to Dallas from Ohio, opening the Market Drug Store at the corner of Main and Field. We made our home on the second floor of the building.

“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. The toys in those days were not mechanical but were of the construction type, story books and sewing materials. The first mechanical toy I ever saw was a jumping jack in the window of Kahn’s Bakery down the street from my father’s store.

“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.”

Not far from the Eisenlohr drugstore was Orr’s Livery Stable, a site now occupied by Neiman-Marcus Company.

“All of the houses on the street were on stilts,” Mr. Eisenlohr said, “because of a creek that ran along there. Behind our home on Commerce was a steep embankment. Later an Episcopal Church was built and Bishop Alexander Garrett preached there a number of times. A synagogue was also built near there and it was in that building that I first went to school. I was still in that school when word of the death of Henry W. Longfellow reached the village.”

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This Dallas Morning News article from October 1, 1935, can be read here.

Photo of the Eisenlohr store found on eBay.

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

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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