Fearing Burr’s Christmas

Fearing Burr of Hingham kept a journal from 1840, when he was 25 years old, until his death in 1897. We are fortunate to have all fifteen volumes in our archives.  Burr recorded his day-to-day observations about the weather; town and church affairs; his mercantile pursuits, which included the shop in Centre Hingham which he ran with his brother ; and the horticultural interests for which he is remembered.

In an entry penned on Christmas Eve, 1872, this life-long bachelor wrote about Christmas gift-giving, noting how customs had changed since he was young.  Indeed, these were the years when the Christmas holiday began to take the shape we know today!

Burr wrote:

Was very busy in the sale of gifts for the holidays – it’s an illustration of the great change that has gradually taken place since Peter and I first began to sell goods. We are satisfied that the sale of confectionaries for one week of 1872 was very largely in excess of the gross sales of this article for one year from 1825 to 1830 and after. My brother affirms that some of his young patrons in this line expend one dollar per week. The change in the quantity and costly character of gifts of other descriptions is scarcely less noticeable.  I recall the days of my early boyhood when my holiday gifts were summed up in three or four copper cents – presents which so far from creating any feelings of dissatisfaction were regarded as truly munificent. Today it is by no means rare that a parent who is wholly dependent on his daily labor invests in toys or articles for amusement, from one dollar upwards, for each of the little ones comprising his family.  The change in the general distribution and enjoyment of the more important articles of human comfort and luxury is almost equally great.

3 thoughts on “Fearing Burr’s Christmas

  1. Joan Brancale says:

    Hi Paula, Good and timely blog–I look forward to your entries. While I was at archives Jen ran across another F Burr journal gem which amused me, so crochety! I’ll send you when I find. I’d love to see a photo of him, if his face matches his “literary voice.”

    Sent from my iPad


    • pbagger says:

      Hi Joan. Funny thing; I did some sleuthing for a photo of Fearing Burr and came up dry (other than him standing in one of the back rows of a group shot of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society). The absence of photos somehow seems in character, too. Consider this a challenge to the “photo team”: finding a portrait of our friend Fearing!

  2. Steven Richmond says:

    So glad that we can look back at the lives of others from the same town as ourselves. These archives are priceless….. thanks for posting sric

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