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The Red Cross Christmas in 1918

by Lynne Belluscio

History always intrigues me.  Every time I start reading I discover something new.  In preparation for our candlelight tours, I was looking at Christmas in1918.

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. Many American factories were converted to the production of weapons and munitions.  This included toy companies and in 1918, the Council of National Defense suggested a ban on toys in an effort to encourage people to spend their money to buy war bonds instead of Christmas presents.  Before the war, Germany produced toys and Christmas ornaments that were shipped to the United States. (The War also affected the production of gelatin for Jell-O.  Holland produced most of the gelatin for Jell-O and it was almost impossible to ship gelatin across the Atlantic during the War. And gelatin was used in the manufacture of some explosives.  As a result, Jell-O encouraged the start of the Atlantic Gelatin Company in Woburn, Massachusetts, where the gelatin was manufactured until recently.)  The Committee on Public Information created a campaign to encourage people to buy bonds, not toys.  The Toy Manufacturers of the U.S.A. asked a successful toy manufacturer, A.C. Gilbert to go to Washington to speak before the Council to convince them to change their decision.  The story is told that he took some of his toys with him and the Council members were so enthralled that they ended the meeting, playing with the toys and they decided not to go forward with the planned ban on toy production. Gilbert is known for the introduction of the Erector set.  The story of his trip to Washington and diverting the decision to end toy production was made into a movie a few years ago, “The Man Who Saved Christmas.”  (It is generally agreed that the premise of the movie took a lot of liberty with the true story.)




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