This week in history we’ll take a look at moments in our nation’s past that have helped develop the distinct and complex American culture.
On Sept. 21, 1897, 123 years ago, New York’s “The Sun” published the famous editorial titled “Is There a Santa Claus?”
Just a few days earlier, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of “The Sun,” one of most widely read newspapers in 19th century New York. Her letter stated quite simply:
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”
The editorial, written anonymously, replied back with the famous words, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
The writer, who we now know to be Francis Pharcellus Church, assured Virginia that Santa Claus lives now and forever as a source of hope for all children and children at heart worldwide. Today, this article remains the most reprinted editorial in history, bringing joy every holiday season by reminding us of the magic you can find when you believe.
On Sept. 22, 1862, 158 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
With the Civil War raging rampant for the past year, Lincoln had long maintained the position that the Civil War was about restoring the Union and not about abolishing slavery. As time went on, Lincoln understood that the United States could no longer proclaim itself the “Land of the Free” when more than three million Black Americans lived their lives as another human’s property.
This decision was announced following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam but did not officially go into effect until Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation freed all slaves within the Confederacy but allowed for the system’s continuation in the slave-holding states loyal to the Union: Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri.
While it would not be until 1865 that slavery would officially be eliminated by the 13th Amendment, the Emancipation Proclamation marks a pivotal moment in the Civil War as the point in which the North offically took an anti-slavery position. Britain and France, which had both continued to trade with the South, ended their support as the Confederate States of America stood solely for the preservation of slavery.
Also on Sept. 22, but in 1994, 26 years ago, “Friends” made its television debut on NBC.
“Friends” premiered featuring six practically unknown actors and told the story of a group of twenty-somethings navigating life in downtown Manhattan. The show would go on for 10 more seasons and make Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer all household names. The series finale, which aired on May 6, 2004, was watched by more than 50 million people around the world, a record for television history.
Today, “Friends” has seen a second life and continues to live on as a popular bidding chip for streaming services. The show has had an undeniable effect on popular culture as practically every American can sing (and clap) along to its theme song, “I’ll Be There For You.” Even 26 years later, it is clear that our love for “Friends” will never go on a break.