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Xmas Bags: 1924

Xmas Bags: 1924

December 24, 1924. "Mrs. Coolidge giving out first Xmas bag for Salvation Army." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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In addition to Dave's on-the-money clarification, some historians believe many crucifixions were not done with the traditional tee-shaped cross but with ones shaped like an X. Much easier to build and to erect. While it is believed that Christ died on a tee-shaped cross, the X version also is associated with that era of Christianity.

Alternate Take

Showing a slightly different degree of mortification. Click to embiggen.

Helping Others

I believe the three youngish looking ladies/girls with the tan coats and hats wearing kerchiefs are Girl Scouts earning a merit badge. You can see the GS insignia on the collar of the girl to the right of Jemima Durante.

Beam me up Scotty

I believe that the person in the funny hat with the umbrella is really Captain Kirk impatiently waiting for Scotty to beam him up off this dreadful little planet and to get back on the bridge and pour himself a stiff drink!

Holiday Confusion

I don't wish to get into the "X-mas" vs "Christmas" line of debate, but one question puzzles me.

Why does the tag line say "Halloween"?

Just call me curious.

[Oops! - Dave]

In my opinion

There is way too much gaiety and fun going on in this room. Settle down, people!

Yuletide Charity

Washington Post, December 25, 1924.

Mrs. Coolidge Takes Part in City's Yuletide Charity

With Mrs. Calvin Coolidge taking a prominent part, Washington yesterday turned wholeheartedly to the spreading of Christmas cheer among its unfortunates. …

Yesterday morning Mrs. Coolidge acted the part of Santa Claus for a few moments at the entertainment given to approximately 1,200 children at Keith's theater under the auspices of the Central Union Mission. In the afternoon she assisted in the distribution at the Salvation Army auditorium at 606 E street northwest. More than 650 bags of food, each with dinner enough for five persons, were given away. …

The givers, the humbled and the shabby

It is not difficult to see who are the "haves" and who are the "have-nots" in this picture. Everyone left of the Jimmy Durante lady (in the used velvet coat with one button) works with the S.A. and Mrs. Coolidge. The recipients of the food are embarrassed and sheepish about receiving charity. The young boy with the dirty hands received a gift which looks like a kite or balsawood plane while his sister, with a hole in her stocking and worn-out clothes, seems empty-handed but hopeful. The closed-eyes lady seems humiliated but needs the groceries. As for the food bags, unwrapped raw poultry flung into a paper bag on top of bread and other items would not meet health standards today. Unfortunately, the world will always have the affluent and the poor and life will never be fair.

Xmas Bags?

Xmas has nothing to do with it.

Now we know....

Why President Coolidge was a man of few words.


I boycott all stores that substitute X for Christ and those bags CLEARLY say "Christmas" on them. I hope that I don't have to stop viewing Shorpy also.

[You're laboring under a common misconception. Below, an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for "Xmas." - Dave]

The X comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of Χριστός (Christ).

There is a common misconception that the word Xmas is a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas by taking the "Christ" out of "Christmas."

Yes that is true long ago BUT we all know that X is meant to eliminate Christ in today's world. Centuries ago the X was used to mean Christ but NOT in today's world. God bless all the Shorpy fans this Christmas season!!!

[Actually no, "we" do not "all know that," for the simple reason that it's not true. In this particular instance, the caption is written in longhand on a tiny paper label affixed to the negative, and "Xmas" is a convenient abbreviation, employed for the usual reasons one uses an abbreviation: It fits where the longer word does not, or it's easier to write. If people want to secularize Christmas, they call it "the holidays." They don't use "Xmas," which begins with a literal representation of the cross and goes back to the very beginnings of Christianity. The idea that the word is meant to "eliminate Christ" is an erroneous notion rooted in ignorance. -Dave]

No re-shoots here

With so few truly odd/interesting shots around these days (probably due to the fact that 21st century photograpy allows editing, deleting and/or making one's pictures just so-even in the camera) these shots are truly fascinating for what they reveal. You have the rather supercilious looking Mrs. Coolidge, the sad looking first recepient in all black, the rather horrible looking offerings (the turkey/chicken legs hanging out don't add to the holiday appeal) and then there are faces being grabbed or squinched up or looking rather dismayed. Oh, what I would give to step into this shot and ask these folks what was on their minds just at the moment this picture was taken.

A wonderful mix of characters in this picture

There is a lot of see in this photo. The two in their Salvation Army outfits to the left could be from any classic photo or painting I've seen. But on their right, it almost looks like the lady is taking off a mask of -- herself, with a different hair color. I realized after looking closer, it is a shorter lady in front of her wearing the same hat and coat that makes it so odd.

Everyone else seems to be waiting for the flash open-eyed, but the lady below the hanging lamp on the right -- what a face she is making! I wonder how long she held that look.

The Not-So-Roaring '20s

This is the side of the Roaring Twenties, with its jazz, high living and extravagant escapades that we don't often see. If this is the lot of some people at the height of a booming economy, what is life going to be like for these same individuals if they are still alive in ten years at the depth of the Great Depression?

Talk about "frumpy"

Looks like the life force of the room was just sucked out.

Strike a pose

Possibilities for the look on the face of the 3rd person from the right:
1. wishing this bad dream would all go away
2. in pain from foot being stabbed by umbrella
3. about to sneeze
4. constipated

Other than that I find no earthly reason for the look on someone's face like this in a pose with the first lady. Also, the two to the right of Mrs. Coolidge qualify for 2nd and 3rd prizes.

Those two on the left with the glasses

The epitome of chastity, but somehow I see them as a couple that go nuts behind closed doors.

Ah cha-cha

It appears Mrs. Coolidge was escorted to the event by a cross-dressing Jimmy Durante.

Mr. Magoo's mom

Is that her on the right?


I'm guessing that the lady on the right with the umbrella thinks that the camera will steal her spirit away if she opens her eyes.

Either that or she's stifling a sneeze.

[It think it probably has to do with the cloud of flash powder illuminating the proceeedings. - Dave]

A real Scream

The young lady left of center looks like she's getting ready to try out for the Edvard Munch holiday diorama.


The young lady to the left of the bag on the table looks like she just remembered something she forgot to put into the bag. And the SA member just to her right looks as in the bag is about to explode. Not everyone was comfortable with getting their picture taken.

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