From the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Battle for Christmas, here is the story of America’s first reported Christmas tree: a tale of antislavery and radical German philosophy, a popular British travel writer and Boston Brahmin elites, the education of nineteenth-century children and candles blowing in the wind.
Now-forgotten chronicler Harriet Martineau immortalized what became known as the first American Christmas tree, set up in the house of her friend Charles Follen. But she neglected to explain what brought the two of them together in the first place: a passion for abolition. Martineau also failed to mention Follen’s convoluted path to America, from banished German radical to Harvard professor and U.S. citizen. Stephen Nissenbaum explains all in this amusing and somewhat astonishing expose of the Christmas tree, taken from his definitive and award-winning history of Christmas in America.
Stephen Nissenbaum received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1961, his M.A. from Columbia University in 1963, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1968. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst since 1968, and is… More about Stephen Nissenbaum