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  • 1 year ago
#262: Santa Claus, Rifle Toting Boy Scouts, and a Jazz Age Con Man

#262: Santa Claus, Rifle Toting Boy Scouts, and a Jazz Age Con Man

While many Christmas traditions have ancient roots, Christmas culture as we know it today is a modern creation and most of that genesis happened in New York City a century ago.

My guest today on the show wrote a book that explores the development of Christmas in New York City by looking at a 1920s con man who used the story of Santa Claus to swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars from generous New Yorkers. His name is Alex Palmer and his book is "The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York."

Today on the podcast Alex and I discuss what Christmas was like before the 19th century and the famous New Yorkers who helped turned Christmas into what it is today. Against that backdrop we discuss the life and times of John Gluck, a PR man who started an organization that answered letters written to Santa Claus but in the process lined his pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s also a story that involves a bitter rivalry