Tag Archives: Christmas gifts

The Misfit Christmas Present Exchange: 1894

lavender men's slippers lily of the valley remember scrolls 1860s


What this country needs more than anything else, just once a year, is a Misfit Christmas Present Exchange.

An enterprising gentleman has already started an establishment where one can dispose of duplicate wedding presents, but a person gets married once only in his life, whereas he or she, as the case or sex may be, endures many Christmases.

How sweet and pleasant would it be, for instance, if a young and pretty clergyman who has been remembered by seventeen or two dozen of the ewe lambs of his congregation with a pair of slippers from each, could trade off most of them for, say, a meerschaum pipe or some perpendicular linen collars! Until such an exchange begins to fill a long felt want, the daily papers could help on the good work by permitting their patrons to insert free such advertisements as the following, at holiday time:

“A boy of twelve wishes to exchange a new copy of ‘Josephus,’ handsomely bound, for a second hand copy of ‘Beelzebub Dick, the Terror of Gory Gulch’; or ‘ Deadhead Dan, the Young Detective of Mulberry Avenue.'”

“Young lady would part with seven (7) Christmas cards (four of them hand painted) in return for a diamond engagement ring.”

“Married man desires to exchange a pair of ice cream colored wristers for a glass of beer.”

“Young clergyman will dispose of an assorted lot of slippers, some of which are embroidered with blue dogs with scarlet eyes, for a serviceable pair of winter gloves, fur lined preferred. Must be mates.”

“Boston young lady, temporarily residing in New York, would like to exchange eight copies of Browning’s complete works, all new and unused, for a pair of gold rimmed spectacles, No. 5, near sighted.”

“Young married man will trade a box of cigars (handsome work of art on inside of lid) for a ten cent plug of chewing tobacco.”

“Gentleman desires to part with a pair of large red mittens. Will accept a two ply ham sandwich or three Frankfurter sausages in exchange.”

“Youth will give a copy of Lamb’s Poems of Childhood (leaves uncut), for a baseball bat or a cheap pistol with a box of cartridges.”

“A musically inclined girl will exchange her brother’s irresponsible cornet for an upright piano.”

“A young gentleman of eleven, in long pantaloons, will give a fancy cap, labeled ‘For a Good Boy,’ for a ticket to any accessible dime museum.”

“Young lady of fourteen wishes to exchange a wax doll, with real hair, for a copy of ‘The Quick or the Dead’; also a rubber cry doll for twenty five cents’ worth of chewing gum, vanilla or strawberry.”

“The father of a seven year old boy wishes to dispose of a new bass drum, warranted sound (too sound, in fact). No reasonable offer refused.”

Munsey’s Magazine, Volume 10, 1894: pp. 318-319

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  What a brilliant idea!  Still, Mrs Daffodil fears that consumers would fight shy of those cigars, which young brides were proverbially dreadful at choosing, not to mention uncut volumes of Browning and Lamb. The Quick or the Dead, which readers may examine for themselves here, is a sensational novel about a woman torn between her love for her dead husband and a living suitor. It was notorious in its day and has been described as “morbid,” “hysterical,” and “immature.” The author was particularly fond of adjectives:  “A rich purple-blue dusk had sunk down over the land, and the gleam of the frozen ice-pond in the far field shone desolately forth from tangled patches of orange-colored wild grass.” “She threw herself into a drift of crimson pillows … brooding upon the broken fire, whose lilac flames palpitated over a bed of gold-veined coals.” Obviously the perfect gift for a young lady of fourteen.

Mrs Daffodil hopes that all of you had a Happy Christmas and did not receive any of the presents above, especially that irresponsible cornet.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

What Shall I Give: Christmas Suggestions for the Seven Ages of Man: 1913

18ct gold dressing table set Tiffany 1930s

18-ct gold Tiffany gentleman’s dressing table set, 1930s https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24252/lot/357/


CHRISTMAS SUGGESTIONS. (By Imogen in the “Dominion.”) The most distracting thing in the world is to know what to give at Christmas time, and the difficulty is still more accentuated when the recipient is a man, and since there are so many men there must be an equal number of. sorely-perplexed women ransacking their brains for ideas that may materialise into new, useful, or ornamental gifts for members of their family, friends, or those of any other standing in their regard.

In desperation the question was hurled at a modest, unsuspecting, hard-working man the other day.

“What would you like for a Christmas Present?

The pen fell out of his hand and he subsided into his chair. “This is awfully sudden,” he murmured in subdued, tones. “Have you come in for unlimited wealth?”

“No! I’m, merely wanting to know what men like for presents.” was the crushing reply.

“Oh Is that all!”

A pause.

“I see what you’re after,” he broke out. with a sudden rush of discernment. “You shall have my little lot.”

After a few seconds’ laboured thinking, he handed in triumph a small sheet of paper. “Quite simple, don’t you think?”

The paper read as follows:

“One new pipe, costing 2s 6d; one new cricket bat, weighing only 21b 4oz, with sliding cane in the handle; one pair feather-weight shoes, weighing .0005 of an oz. so that I could field at cricket.”

The suggestions found an encouraging reception, especially the featherweight shoes. Another occupant of the room was asked his preferences. His cup of happiness was so full, however, that all he could think of was a new pipe (evidently an insatiable and everlasting need among men) and, as an afterthought, a pair of bath slippers, and not even after a few minutes devoted to hard thinking could he think of any other need. He was not a millionaire either, or if he was he kept the fact a deep, dark, horrible secret, possibly, a necessary thing in these Socialistic, Red Federation days. A newcomer into the room was asked ingratiatingly what he would like given, to him. Delightedly he smiled. “It’s very kind of you. There are a few trifles I would like, especially as I may be going to England shortly. Shall I begin?” He began!!!

“A safe money-belt; a fitted suitcase; a. dressing-case; a shaving outfit; pair of prism binoculars; Thermos flask; monogramed pocketbook; walking-stick medicine case; military brushes; opera glasses; silver shoehorn collar-case; silver soap cup; safety razor; fountain–!!!

“Why, what is the matter I can still go on, you know.”

It was an undoubted fact. He was prepared to go on for quite a long time, but a telephone call being made upon him, he had to vanish.

A comprehensive addition to the little list of possible gifts enumerated above might be found in the appended suggestions, which are taken from the Christmas number of the “Ladies’ Home Journal.” It is quite suited to the seven ages of man:

rabbit rattle

German velvet rabbit rattle, c. 1906 http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1122524/soft-toy/

For the Baby Boy.

Hanger for his wardrobe, trimmed baby basket, celluloid, rubber, and stuffed toys, hand-made dresses and skirts, celluloid toilet sets, rompers, worsted cap, silk bonnet, corduroy coat, stuffed animals, silver cup, low table and chairs, eiderdown bath robe, rattle, ring, and dell, pillow-cover, bootees, worsted sacque, sweater, leggings, carriage cosy, rag doll, silver spoon, table tray, bath thermometer.

For Little and Big Boys.

House slippers, building blocks, indoor-outdoor games, balance toys, moving toys, mechanical toys, soldier’s suit, fireman’s suit, books, dog, kitten, rabbit, bird, dog-collar, folding desk, roller skates, comb and brush set, kindergarten gifts, reflecting lantern, camera, bicycle, athletic game books, clothes-brush, penknife, boxing gloves, pedometer, pocket compass, inexpensive watch, Indian clubs, blackboard, electric train, painting book, bow and. arrow, scout equipment, shooting game with cork ammunition, cowboy suit, vocational toys, filled school case, tool chest, stilts, boy’s suitcase, camping tent, microscope, gauntlet gloves, tool-chest, stationary engine, referee’s whistle, school pennant, megaphone, developing film.


The Young Man, Father, and Grandfather.

Gloves, silk hosiery, slumber slippers, blanket robe, housecoat, sectional bookcase, lawyer’s brief case, wing chair, footstool, pictures, desk, carving set, handy box, week-end trunk, Malacca walking-stick, evening slippers, rain-coat, silk shirt, hip pocket book (monogrammed), spring grip dumbbells, bill fold and wallet, medicine cupboard, leather key case numbered for 10-1 dozen keys, barometer, thermometer, flexible top cloth brush, silk or knitted muffler, umbrella, coin purse, magazine subscription, sweater, football, starter’s golf clubs, tennis racket, silk or flannel pyjamas, manicure set, triplicate mirrors, brush and comb set, toilet water.

travelling rug hermes 1930s

A leather and woollen travelling rug by Hermes, c. 1930s https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15398/lot/286/

If He Travels.

Leather sewing box, rubber-lined tourist cases, soft leather, necktie case’ with stickpin and collar button pockets, travelling rug and strap, leather shirt case with collar, cuff, glove, and tie compartments, suitcase, umbrella, travelling medicine chest, commutation ticket case, fitted toilet case, traveller’s slippers in case, fitted leather correspondence case, leather jewellery box.


If He Motors.

Fitted emergency case with instruction book, lunch basket, gloves, clock, pennant, automobile match safe, foot muff or warmer, motor roll for coats, etc., leather air cushions, motor rugs, goggles, muffler, leather shell coat.

cartier chinoiserie letter opener watch

Cartier chinoiserie letter opener/paper knife with clock. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22466/lot/1147/

For His Desk and Den.

Large calendar, newspaper rack, clock, desk set, letter clip, postage scales, assorted stationery, expanding hook shelves, large scrap basket, desk scissors, reading lamp, cushions, ivory paper knife.

gentleman's gold pocket watch chain and seal 1929

Gentleman’s gold pocket watch, chain, and fob, c. 1929 https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/17233/lot/188/

In Gold and Silver.

Eyeglass case, scarf pin, shirt studs, key chain, signet ring, charm, cuff links, gold pencil, fob, lapel chain, watch, gold buckle with leather belt, gold vest-pocket fountain pen, platinum chain for evening wear, silver photo frame.

1920s shetland golf jumper

A 1920s Shetland golf jumper, useful for any out-of-doors sport. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O368372/golf-jumper-unknown/

For Outdoor Life.

Leather leggings, folding pocket camera, driving gloves, raincoat, blazer, stop watch, athletic jersey, harness, saddle.

Timaru [NZ] Herald,  20 December 1913: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would note that although slippers do appear  on the list, gentlemen rightly recoil from those beaded, Berlin-wool-work horrors young ladies inflict upon them.

Let us hear from a candid gentleman who enumerates the many useless gifts he has received over the years and frankly states what he wants:

A Christmas Letter.

From the Christmas Peck.

Dearest Phyllis:

Pray remember when you’re making up the list of your presents for December (unless I am to be missed) that I’ve slippers, picture brackets, smoking sets of various types, half a dozen smoking jackets, thirty-seven meerschaum pipes, twenty patent “kid glove menders,” collar boxes by the score, of embroidered silk suspenders forty-eleven pairs or more! That each year since I was twenty I’ve received a paper weight, have penwipers, ink stand plenty, paper cutters—twenty-eight. That I’ve Browning and Longfellow by the hundreds—every kind; Shakespeare—black and blue and yellow; Milton till I’m nearly blind!

So there’s just one present only that I’m wanting in this year of my bachelorship so lonely—that’s yourself, my Phyllis dear.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 25 December 1897: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Autobiography of A Christmas Gift: 1908

Autobiography of A Christmas Gift.

I am a Christmas gift. In fact, I have always been one. My age is now nineteen, though I may look older. I was made by the dainty hands of Miss Susanna Silkes, who at that time was just the age I am now. Guess her age at present? She is still Miss Susanna, and she still owns me.

Oh, yes. Miss Susanna gave me away. Perhaps I should explain that I am twins, being a pair of knit slippers. Miss Susanna, it was understood, had benevolent designs upon the young pastor of her church, so she knit me and sent me to the reverend youth.

Next Christmas, the preacher, who had received five other pairs, sent me to his sister. You see, knit slippers are guaranteed to fit any feet as well as any other feet. So the preacher’s sister was not at all offended.

The next Christmas she sent me to her old college chum, Mrs. De Brown, who was a member of her brother’s congregation. Next Christmas Mrs. De B. sent me to her pastor. The pastor grinned when he saw me again and remarked something like “Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you after many days.”

The next Christmas the pastor sent me to his old college chum, who was sweet on Miss Susanna. There was every prospect of a match, since Miss Susanna had despaired of winning the preacher, who was known to be engaged to another lady. But—the very next Christmas the preacher’s college chum sent me to Miss Susanna with a perfumed note praising her dainty little feet. This broke off the match, of course.

Well, next Christmas Miss Susanna mailed me to a friend of hers clear across the continent. Miss Susanna’s address on the corner of the box in which I was mailed got rubbed off en route, and her friend didn’t know who sent me.

So the very next Christmas I returned to Miss Susanna. Oh, I was hard to lose! I was not made to wear; I was made to circulate. I am a good thing and so everybody passes me along.

Oh, so you recognize me now? Yes, I spent a year with you. Well, time slips, and I must be going. This is Christmas eve, you know.

T. Sapp, Jr.

Daily Herald [Biloxi, MS] 21 December 1908: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The making of slippers was a well-worn Christmas ritual for the ladies of the parish. Slippers in daintily designed or even beaded Berlin wool-work were perhaps the more usual format, but no matter the method of production, they were all equally despised by their beleaguered recipients.

Some might think it a pity that Miss Susanna did not swallow her pride–after all, the old college chum did not have an inkling about the slippers’ origins and did, after all, praise her dainty feet, although she seems to have taken it in the spirit of mockery. How much human happiness turns on these miscommunications! Miss Susanna did not consider that she could have spent a useful life knitting slippers for the Deserving Poor of the parish, kept comfortably in yarn by her devoted clerical husband.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Bertie’s Christmas Fairy: 1878

Illustration from The Mary Frances Sewing Book.

Illustration from The Mary Frances Sewing Book.


By Fantasia

Bertie was sitting alone in her room, with the oddest little puckers upon her face that had ever clouded its sunny beauty. She was a pretty, fair-haired little girl, not quite ten years old, and she was thinking very deeply. In about a month it would be Christmas, and Daisy Nichols, who lived very near, had been telling Bertie of all the presents she intended to buy for her friends. “I have four dollars and sixty-nine cents in my bank,” Daisy had said, “and seven presents to buy. We are going up to the city soon, and mamma says I may go shopping with her. It is splendid to go shopping for Christmas presents.” Bertie was quite willing to admit that it was splendid, but, after Daisy had gone, a little pang of envy had crept into her heart.

She lived in the country, in a large, old-fashioned house, that was well filled, for Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle John and Aunt Sue, Cousin Will and Cousin Lizzie, all had a home there, besides Bertie’s own papa and mamma, Charlie, who was her oldest brother and past twelve, Maggie and Fannie, her twin sisters, seven years old, and wee, toddling Freddie, who was not quite two. These, with the two servants, Bridget and Jane, were all so dear to Bertie, that really the question of present giving assumed very large proportions. Bertie counted them all on her fingers, and sighed. For Mrs. Hallway, Bertie’s mamma, did not approve of giving children money. She gave her children games, toys, books, some candies, and many pleasures, but she did not like them to have money, and Bertie had never owned a bank, much less four dollars and sixty-nine cents to put into one.

“But I should dearly like to make some Christmas presents!” sighed little Bertie, aloud.

“Would you, my dear?” said a soft little voice very near to her, and the little girl saw standing upon a table beside her, a little woman, who looked very much like the china shepherdess upon the mantlepiece. She had on a blue petticoat, and scarlet slippers, a straw hat, and white waist, and really, on the whole, was so very like the shepherdess that Bertie stole a glance at the mantlepiece. The china shepherdess was gone.

“Yes, my dear; that is me!” said the little woman, following her glance. “My name is Ingenuity. I am very fond of you because you are so neat and so industrious. You always keep me sweet and clean, and you have so many pretty notions about your work, that I really felt as if I must give you a helping hand in your trouble.”

“But I don’t see how you can help me,” said Bertie; “you can’t have any money, you know, and mamma would not let me take it if you had.”

“Very true. But I thought you only wanted the money to buy presents!”

“That is all I do want of it,” said Bertie, wondering how the little shepherdess could know her thoughts so well.

“But you can have the presents without any money,” said Ingenuity. “You need not open your blue eyes so very wide. Clear this table, and let me show you what a little Ingenuity can do to help you.” But Bertie’s eyes would open wider and wider, as she watched this wonderful little fairy. First she darted over to the closet, and turned out in a heap upon the floor all Bertie’s girl treasures, that she kept in nice order. Her work-basket with the pieces of chintz for patchwork, her box of pictures, most of them chromo cards papa had brought home from the city, her box of fancy work materials, scraps of silk, zephyrs, beads, sewing silk, not a very large assortment, but mostly the odds and ends left from the larger pieces of fancy work her mamma, aunt, or Cousin Lizzie had given her.

While Bertie was secretly hoping the fairy would help to put the closet in order again, Ingenuity had flown over to the bureau, and found an old pomatum pot quite empty. With the swiftest of motion, she washed it clean, and then took from the heap of pictures a few with butterflies and flowers on them. She laid these flat, face down, upon the table, and moistened the back, and the paper curled off in layers, till only one thin layer with the picture upon it was left. With a pair of tiny scissors, she cut out the butterflies and flowers, gummed them on the pomatum pot, and then with a wee brush varnished them all over.

“There, my dear!” she said; “that is a jewel-case to put rings and brooches in at night. I am sure Aunt Sue will think it lovely on her dressing table. You can get the varnish, you know, down in Charlie’s workshop, he has some for his carpenter play.” Then she darted off again, and tugged a cigar-box up to the table. “While we are daubing,” she said, “we will make another kind of jewel-box for mamma. First, I line this, as you see, with some of this old flannel petticoat, the one mamma gave you to make over for your dollies. This we cut nicely to fit the box, gum it down on the inside, bottom, sides, and cover. Now we cover that again with this piece of shiny calico, that won’t do very well for patchwork, because it does not wash nicely. The flannel, you see, does not come quite to the edge, so we turn the edge of the chintz in, and gum it down neatly. There! Is not that a soft, pretty bed for jewels?”

“But it is so ugly outside,” said Bertie.

“It is now, but see what I am going to do! This yellow paper you had wrapped around your bundle of school-books last week, and folded away, like a neat little girl as you are, is envelope paper, and quite stiff. We gum that this way, all over the box outside, sides and cover, making it perfectly smooth. Now on the very edge, we put a little narrow slip of this blue paper you have for paper doll dresses. Isn’t that pretty? Now we will cut out some more of the picture cards. This bird for the top, this bunch of cherries for the front, and here are two pretty bouquets for the sides. Now is it ugly outside?”

But before Bertie could half say how pretty she thought it, the little shepherdess was down on the heap again, tugging at a piece of calico, from the patchwork basket. “Isn’t this lovely?” she said, spreading it on the table. “You just cut it into a perfect circle, this way, about twenty-one inches in diameter, and hem the edge.” “I wish I could hem as fast as that,” thought Bertie; for the tiny needle fairly flew round the edge. “Now you put on a facing of tape, about three inches from the edge, all round, on the wrong side. Leave a tiny space open, run in a cord, draw it up a little, and there, my dear, is a Lady Washington sweeping cap for Jane!”

“Oh!” said Bertie; “I did hate to cut up that piece of chintz for patchwork; I am glad I saved it.”

“Now for Bridget,” said the little fairy; “we will take some more of this old flannel, ever so many layers, cut square; whip the edges together strongly, and cover it all with this piece of blue delaine in your doll-baby box. We quilt this nicely, bind it with a little strip of red silk, and here is the most gorgeous iron-holder you ever saw.”

Putting the iron-holder beside the other treasures, Ingenuity opened a box of tiny beads, and with a threaded needle began to pick them out. Upon two threads she made a necklace, by putting three white beads upon each string, then one red one upon both threads together, joining them; then three more on each string, till the whole was long enough for a doll. She joined the ends with one big gold bead for a locket, and then made two wee bracelets to match.

“These are for Maggie’s doll,” she said, sewing them down upon a piece of card; “and we will make Fannie’s a set of furs.”

“Oh, you can’t!” said Bertie.

But Ingenuity took up a piece of new Canton flannel, and cut a tippet, and a straight piece for a muff. She lined them with some tiny pieces of pink silk in the fancy work pile, and sewed the ends of the straight piece together. The ends now formed of the muff, she trimmed with a cord and tassels of pink sewing silk, and put the same on the tippet to tie it at the doll’s neck. From the zephyr she selected some very short pieces of black zephyr [a very fine wool], and separated the threads with a coarse needle. The little fluffy tails thus made she sewed to the Canton flannel with yellow silk, and there was a lovely set of ermine furs for Fannie’s doll. “You know, my dear,” she said, “you can make some doll’s aprons or sacques that would delight Fannie and Maggie, but you know all about those. I dare say you could get some white stuff and make a ruffled apron for Bridget and Jane, if your mamma helped you a little, too.

For grandpa, I’ll tell you something splendid. Run down stairs and get me two adamantine candles. Ask mamma for them. Oh, here are two in the wash-stand drawer! Now get your box of decalcomanie pictures. Here are some tiny vines and birds put them on the candles very carefully, as you do any decalcomanie work. There! You have a pair of painted candles, all in the fashion, for that pair of silver candlesticks on grandpa’s mantlepiece. Be sure he will like them!

For grandma, let me see! Here is a square of coarse linen. If you fringe the edge, this way, about an inch, and then, each way, draw out three threads, and leave three threads, till it is all cross bars of open work, then catch each square with a cross stitch of cotton, sewed and fastened neatly, there is a cake basket cover for grandma, such as she used to make when she was a little girl.”

“Now,” thought Bertie, “what can she be going to do with my old knit scarf? It is all full of holes, and mamma said I must not wear it any more. Why, she is ravelling it all out.”

Like lightning flew the fairy fingers, till the scarf was all a heap of crimson and brown wool upon the floor. Then Ingenuity selected from the pile of articles a pill-box, and into that she put some little pieces of tin, and two broken buttons. Over it she wound the ravelling of the scarf, tightly, smoothly, till she had a ball about the size of an orange. Then she took Bertie’s crochet needle and crochetted a cover, slipping it on when half done, having widened every row to the middle, then narrowing till the ball was covered. Fastening the end carefully, she made a chain with the zephyr about four feet long.

“There,” she said, “is Freddie’s present! A beautiful, soft ball that rattles, and that you can tie to his waist, so he can pull it back when it rolls away.”

Then she darted off to the window sill, and tugged to the table a lovely, red apple Charlie had given Bertie. One slash of a knife, and it was split in two. Ingenuity took out all the seeds, and wiped them very dry. Then she threaded a very fine cambric needle with brown sewing silk. On the pointed end of the seed, she made two tiny ears by passing the thread through, and snipping it off. Whiskers were made in the same way, the silk being separated by the needle into fluffy, fine threads. A long tail was made at the round end by running the needle through the seed lenghtwise, and snipping it off.

”Apple-seed mice!” cried Bertie. “We saw some at the fair.”

When about a dozen mice were made, Ingenuity made a little white cotton bag stuffed full of cotton wool, upon which she wrote “flour,” and sewed it down to a card. Then the mice had some feet given them, by stitches of silk through the card, and through the seeds crossways, fastening them down to the card. They were running over the bag by stitches taken through that and through the mice in the same way.

“Oh, that is for Charlie!” cried Bertie; “he was so pleased with those at the fair, and Mrs. Watson showed me how to make them.”

“Now for papa,” said Ingenuity, “we will make a pen-wiper of some pieces of this scarlet flannel and black silk, cut into circles, each one a little smaller than the one under it. So, first black, then scarlet, and here is a big steel button to finish it off. I think for Uncle John I will make a pocket pincushion. Take these two pieces of card, cut them into circles exactly alike. Cover one with this piece of brown ribbon, the other with this piece of gay plaid silk. Sew them neatly together at the edges, and there is your pincushion. You can embroider the sides if you have time. For Cousin Will, make a book mark of perforated card and ribbon. And for Cousin Lizzie, I would work a “scratch my back.” Just embroider those three words on some perforated card in bright silk, line it with sand paper, and bind it with ribbon, leaving a little loop to hang it up by. Or you can make her a match-box by covering an old tin mustard-box with a perforated card cover, with “matches” worked on it, and cord and tassels of zephyr at each side. Why, my dear Bertie, there are lots of pretty things an industrious little girl like you can make with just what every little girl has in her own treasures. And you may be sure such presents are worth much more to those who love you, than what you buy in the stores.”

“Bertie! Bertie! the tea-bell has rung twice,” called Maggie. Bertie started to her feet, rubbing her eyes. All the pretty things were gone, the closet was in perfect order, the china shepherdess stood smiling on the mantlepiece. Was it all a dream? Mamma thought so. But what was not a dream was the real collection of treasures Bertie did make, just as Ingenuity had taught her, and which she distributed to each and every one on Christmas morning. Mamma helped a little, and papa gave a few new ribbons and pictures, but Bertie made fourteen presents, the cost of all being twenty cents.

Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] December 1878

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil wonders if Cousin Lizzie was rather “fast,” since the two gifts contemplated were a match-box and a match-striker. One fancies one can picture her: shapeless Dress Reform garments of Jaeger wool, a mannish tie, and a straw boater, lighting a gasper in the street while other ladies draw their skirts and their children away in horror.

Although the miniature set of furs do sound charming, Mrs Daffodil is well aware that home-made gifts are not always a success. Young ladies are particularly prone to giving unnecessary fancy-work articles to young men. Mrs Daffodil can do no better than to quote a squib from a 1904 journal:

An exchange for Christmas gifts, where you might unload your celluloid tokens of affection and where harassed young men could swap off the nameless embroidered mysteries that their feminine friends send them for an honest garment, would meet a long-felt want.

Twentieth Century Home, 1904

Surprising Ways to Wrap Presents: 1906



Suppose instead of doing up your Christmas parcels in the regulation white tissue paper and red ribbon this year, you have a little fun with your friends and get up a series of surprise packages.

The exterior of the package must give no hint of the interior. Last year a jolly little lady who is devoted to the family Christmas tree received a book she had been longing for during the past six months, but so dainty and pretty was the package in which it was enclosed that she uttered a cry of delight when it was given to her, tho she had no idea it contained her wished-for book. The package consisted of an oblong box, just the length of the book, and about twice as high. This was nearly covered with bright holly, red crepe paper, put on with photograph paste, and the cover was treated in exactly the same way.

But the beauty of the box consisted of a little Christmas tree mounted on the top of the cover. This was made of a tiny branch of spruce (any evergreen could be used instead) pushed thru a little hole in the center of the cover, the end then split with a pen-knife and the two portions fastened securely with a needle and stout thread.

The little tree was then decorated with stars, crescents and diamonds cut out of tissue paper. These Christmas tree boxes can be easily made to contain any kind of presents and give great delight both to children and grown people.

An amusing Christmas package is three or four handkerchiefs done up in the mottled brown paper that comes from hardware stores and some butcher shops, and made to resemble a string of link sausages. 

Handkerchiefs can also be wrapped to look like the snapping crackers that are used at children’s parties by rolling them in oblong bits of tissue paper fringed at both ends. 

Of a man’s four-in-hand tie you can make a doll-baby by giving it a face drawn on note paper, putting on a bonnet of white tissue or crepe paper and making a dress of the same convenient material. 

A walking stick will make the most comical paper doggy the eye of man ever chanced to light upon. First, twist some heavy wire around the stick near each end, and turn the extremities up for paws. Put another piece of wire on the bottom of the cane for the tail, and cover the whole with brown crepe paper, using the handle for the head and supply eyes of white pins stuck in the paper and long dropping ears, and behold, you have a veritable German dachshund. 

Small articles can be done up to look like snowballs in cotton batting, with just a sprinkling of silver dust, or they can be concealed beneath the leaves of paper roses, put in paper pies or hidden in tiny boxes. Inclosed in half a dozen others; put in papier mache apples, oranges, Christmas turkeys, etc., of which the shops are full. 

Dozens of other ways in which presents can be disguised are sure to suggest themselves to any one who gives the subject a few moments’ thought.

Do not be afraid that the parcels will look silly.  Remember that Christmas, above all other times of the year, should be a season of merriment and if your little gift causes the recipient to laugh it has fulfilled its object.

Novel Ways to Give Money.

There are occasions when it is best to give money instead of articles; even then there may be a pleasant mystery about receiving it. One son who always remembers his mother by the coin of the realm, has very original methods of doing it. Once the greenbacks were folded in narrow strips, sewed on a fan, which, when opened, disclosed the peculiar manner of construction. A bow of gay holly ribbon was tied to the handle and a little note accompanying the fan box “hoped that she would enjoy a few weeks in southern lands wafted there by the fan.” Last year he wove his banknotes into a pretty conventional pattern, bordering it with red and green ribbon, thereby making a small mat. He sent it with the tag of a well-known rug dealer’s attached and “hoped that the design on the inclosed rug would soften the pathway of life.”

A father who was obliged to be away from home on Christmas sent word to his wife to hide twelve silver dollars throughout the house, and every time the clock struck beginning at 8 in the morning until 8 at night his little 10-year-old daughter was to hunt for another gift from father. He could not buy the presents, but she was to make her own selections. In this way the mother said the interest in the day was keen until  bedtime and the father was by no means forgotten. Putting money in small coins in pill boxes is a good stunt, with a physician’s prescription blank filled out to “take one daily until gone.”

The Minneapolis [MN] Journal 16 December 1906: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The most delightfully novel method of presenting a Christmas gift that has ever come to Mrs Daffodil’s notice was created by the manager of a large American department store for a gentleman who wanted a special present for his mistress. The manager selected a large Waterford crystal vase and in it arranged several cashmere sweaters, in delicious shades of caramel and chocolate, topping the “sundae” with a confection in creamy white to represent whipped cream. He then added a ruby brooch in the form of a cherry. The final bill was a lavish one, but the recipient was most appreciative.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, holiday tips, and historical anecdotes.