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A Dickey Christmas: 1923

One Hundred Years of Yuletude: "Dickey Christmas tree, 1923." The family of Washington, D.C.,  lawyer Raymond Dickey, whose off-kilter portraits (and non-triangular trees) are a beloved yuletide tradition here at Shorpy. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

One Hundred Years of Yuletude: "Dickey Christmas tree, 1923." The family of Washington, D.C., lawyer Raymond Dickey, whose off-kilter portraits (and non-triangular trees) are a beloved yuletide tradition here at Shorpy. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

The Meaning of Christmas

Sigh.. I love Christmas time.. when Shorpyites from all walks of life put aside their differences and unite to ...

critique the Dickeys. LOL.

I myself relish hunting for clues to their social/economic means. On one hand you have the annual very very large Christmas bush which seems very lavishly decorated. Rose and Alice's dresses look like they might be silk and velvet.

But previously, Shorpyite "Doug Floor Plan" revealed that the Dickeys took 4 boarders into their 5 bedroom home around this time (1920). This would seem an economic drop from 8 years previous ( 1915 ) when there were 4 of them living in a 4 bedroom house with 2 servants.

Maybe that would account for Rose's "slow descent into madness"??

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Shorpy!


Poor Mrs. Dickey has some swelling in her right foot/leg ... as evidenced by the flesh pushing doughily through the cutouts at the top of her shoes, which appear a tad bit too small to begin with. And then there's the fact that she had to hold that branch down with two fingers lest it thwack her in the face.

Dickey-ish tree

This is Christmas in Brooklyn circa 1954, a few years after I came along. Left to right are my Dad in his chunkier days, my Uncle Gerard (currently a spry and gregarious 97 years young), and my Grandfather Manuel. I don't have any specific memories of the Christmas trees my grandparents put up but from the few pics I've come across it appears they, like the Dickeys, favored the 'wide as it is tall' variety.

My Wish

As always, my hope is that every Shorpy-ite has a merrier Christmas than the Dickeys. Thanks to all who contribute to the community here.


I just went through all of the pictures (Yuletide Tradition) and it looks as though the Dickeys redecorated with new wallpaper every 2 - 3 years. This confirms why house renovators often find layers upon layers of wallpaper!

The flip side of a Dickey Christmas

Thirty years after this Dickey family Christmas photo was taken, my mother's family celebrated Christmas in New Mexico, where she was from, and her family still ranches. I wouldn't be born for another two years. Still, this photograph is a sweet reminder of the Christmas chaos of my childhood. If only the Dickey children had been given a chance at it.

Better than Beauty

We have noted that daughter Alice Dickey (later Alice Thompson, then Alice Beaton) became a power in the women's magazine world, as editor of Glamour and of Seventeen.

She also co-authored 'Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm', which was reprinted as recently as 2007 and is available as an ebook today. Did Alice's conception of charm derive from her family?

Maybe --

it'll be different next year.

The old girl

The old girl kinda reminds me of Grandmama of the Addams Family.

Pursed lips

hide many secrets:

(And for those w/o access: it's the 19Mar13 front page coverage of the escapades of the eldest son [then ten year old] Granville, who had run away from another state !)

It's All In the Composition

As a semi professional (meaning I've sold a handful) photographer,
who doesn't always get it right himself, I must say this is just about the
the most poorly composed family portrait I've ever seen ... and I love it!
I do have some concern for Mrs. Dickey as well, but I'm 98 years too late.

RE: Tracks

I'm a Lionel collector, and can say that those tracks are for a non-electric train set, probably wind-up.



Names and Ages

Just to put some names and ages to our annual Dickey Christmas family, they are:

Raymond B Dickey, 45
Rose M Dickey, 43
Granville E Dickey, 20
Alice E Dickey, 17
John M Dickey, 11
Raymond R Dickey, 5

The ages may or may not be precisely exact, but accurate within a few months.

Alice Smiles!

So I went back and looked at all the Dickey Christmas photos on Shorpy, and was reminded of grown-up Alice's job as publisher of Seventeen Magazine. A quick Google search produced this:

Nice to see a smile after all those gloomy Christmas photos.

It's complicated

I am struck -- make that dumbstruck -- once again by Mrs. Dickey's "hairstyle", by the size, shape, and ornamentation of that tree, and by the sleeves on that velvet dress. You can't make this stuff up, folks. Merry Christmas anyway. And if you'll forgive me the segue from Dickey to Dickens ... God bless us every one.

Merry Christmas ???

I don’t see much merriment here. This conclusion is encouraged by the “noir” lighting for the photography. Sad, very sad.

Christmas just isn't Christmas...

...without once again witnessing Rose Dickey's slow descent into madness.


Don't think I've ever seen a wallpapered ceiling before.

Christmas traditions

Having been born a Chanukah person, but linked to a Christmas person, I have celebrated Christmas for two thirds of my 60 years. My wife's family is Central European, so they gather for the main event on Christmas Eve. Over the years, their trees have run the gamut from huge misshapen Dickey trees to scraggly Charlie Brown Ion Dept. trees to the current style of "perfect" suburban mall-lot trees. My idea of a gentle Christmas is good company and family, a glass of eggnog and rum, fading afternoon light, with Bing Crosby or Burl Ives playing softly in the background. I wish the very best of the holiday season to my fellow Shorpsters, with special thanks to Dave and tterrace for creating and maintaining this marvellous photographic treasure house and community.

Charlie Brown

carries on the Dickey Christmas tree tradition today.

It's a Well Known Fact

Smiles were not invented until 1933.

That Tree!

Why do I feel like I'm looking at the same one in all these pictures?

ETA: I wrote this comment in 2014 and it's still true in 2021.

1915, 1923

If nothing else it shows those two boys are definitely brothers. The younger boy in 1923 looks just like his brother did in 1915!

The Dickeys

The fellow with his arm around the young woman is obviously her husband.. Note wedding ring. Also she appears to be with child.

[Nope. He's her brother. - Dave]


Has anyone noticed that the middle child (oldest son) is not the same kid in both pictures? Rather odd, I thought.

[The oldest boy is standing on the right in this photo. Still confused? - Dave]


My family owns ornaments exactly identical to about a third of the ones on the tree. My mother always said they were old, but I didn't think they could be that old!


Just noticed what appears to be a model train track on the floor to the right. Wonder if a wee little Christmas choo-choo was part of the decorations, or a gift done opened and set up. Remember a very simple Lionel train set my brother and I got for one Christmas. No idea where it ended up.

Jingle Bells

Poor Mom. It sure looks like the photog positioned her just a little too up close and snuggly with that tree. Her expression does not reflect a comfort zone with it. More like fending it off.


Every member of this family wears the exact same expression. From my own middle class perspective it seems to be a pleasant tolerance of all things beneath them . . . which are many and include the photographer and all of us some 85 years later.

So much to take in.

When viewed full size, there was just so much to take in...the crazy tree, the intricate sleeves on Sister's dress, the odd pose of poor Mother--practically stuck into the boughs (not to mention her too-tight shoes!), a hint of model railroad track, the wallpaper & border--just SO much!

But the number one thing I could not stop thinking...why are everyone's eyes so sad? Don't they know it's Christmas? (Maybe this the custom of the day, to look somber in a holiday photo? Whatever the reason, their melancholy expressions are in contrast to the joyful occasion.)


The mother looks so different from the previous photo. Poor gal.

It's in the details...

I find in very interesting that people who live in older homes today panic about even the smallest scratch in their hardwood floors when its very obvious that this middle-class Washington family clearly had no such worry.

Also, is anyone able to identify the toy train track in the background? It looks like wind-up track, perhaps O-scale?

Times and tastes change

At first glance, it made me think of a huge spider web. Strangely, most of the ornaments don't look much different from what we might have on our trees today. I notice the lack of lights, though.

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