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Bygone gifts: What Dayton wanted for Christmas a century ago

Player pianos, velocipedes and fireless cook stoves coveted gifts

Have you ever wondered what Daytonians hoped to find under their trees on Christmas morning 100 years ago?

The advertising in the pages of the Dayton Daily News leading up to Christmas in 1916 gives us some idea.

The gift of music was popular for the entire family. Priced at $15, the Victor Co.’s “Victrola” was a popular form of entertainment.

“Nothing else will bring so much pleasure to every member of the family,” read an ad for the early music machine.

» PHOTOS: What Dayton wanted for Christmas in 1916

Player pianos could be purchased at the music department at May & Co. in downtown for just $365 or a weekly payment of $2.50. The company would even deliver on Christmas morning.


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An added perk to the purchase was a “lifetime membership to our Player Roll Exchange Library…the most complete and largest in the state.”

Bicycles from the W.F. Meyers shop at 46 N. Jefferson St. were a helpful Christmas suggestion a century ago. Davis Van Cleves, Columbia and National were among the brands that were sold, as well as accessories like bells, baskets, coasters, mud guards and “everything pertaining to bicycles.”

“For Christmas Give Your Boy a Y.M.C.A. Membership,” read another promotion. “He is Worth it.”

The downtown Traxler’s store touted itself as having “Dayton’s Biggest Display of Holiday Goods.” Parents were enticed to leave their children in a playground with a “maid in attendance” while they shopped for the popular toys of the season.

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Dolls, steering sleds, rocking horses and toy pianos were at the top of the list of toys children wished for 100 years ago, followed by toy sweepers, wheel barrows and velocipedes, if you believe the advertising.

“The most useful present on the tree” was a Davis sewing machine. For $34, the new Davis Rotary could “sew running forward or backward without breaking the thread.” Below that was an ad for a “Fireless Cook Stove” that could save hours in the kitchen.

Books would make a “happy and lasting Christmas” in 1916. Volumes of works by Dickens, Tennyson and Balzac could be purchased wrapped in leather or cloth.

The gift of footwear was always appreciated. A pair of ladies button up “8-inch high-cut boots” were available in white, ivory and tan tops while children’s boots were available in “patent and gun metal.”

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Thousands of pairs of Christmas slippers were for sale at Reed’s at Main and Fourth streets. The perfect Christmas morning gift came trimmed in fur, ribbon or braids and with lamb’s wool insoles

Pocket watches and Kodak Brownie cameras were gifts directed toward men, while elegant hats were perfect for women to wear during the holiday season. Displays of Christmas handkerchiefs in pure linen and crepe silk were a fashionable gift for both.

The gift all could agree on during that era was evident on the front page of the newspaper on Christmas Day.

Just the week before President Woodrow Wilson had begun negotiating an end to the world war and hoped to keep America in a neutral role.

Under a headline “A Merry Christmas to All” was an illustration entitled “Just What I Wanted.”

The gift being removed from a stars and striped designed stocking hanging from a mantle was a dove wielding the sentiment, “Continued Peace.”

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