Santa's Whiskers

The Elves

Santa’s elves, instrumental in getting all the toys made each year, were first mentioned by Louisa May Alcott in her book “Christmas Elves” finished in 1855. From her journal of 1855: “Finished fairy book in September.” “October. May illustrated my book, and tales called “Christmas Elves.” Better than “Flower Fables.” Now I must try to sell it.”

In addition to May doing the illustrations, Bronson Alcott helped in the preparation of the manuscript, but to no avail. A publisher was never found.,+louisa+may+alcott&source=bl&ots=N3lswf_ubr&sig=PAYIhddQvKiCwlXPkR2imUgDqdE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=KiFTU8WSBsmOyAS5zIKYCQ&ved=0CIsBEOgBMA4#v=onepage&q=christmas%20elves%2C%20louisa%20may%20alcott&f=false

​Two short years later, in 1857, Harper’s Weekly published a poem called “The Wonders of Santa Claus” which tells how Santa “keeps a great
many elves at work/ All working with all their
might/ To make a million of pretty things/ Cakes,
sugar-plums, and toys/ To fill the stockings, hung
up you know/ By the little girls and boys.”

Beyond the ocean many a mile,
And many a year ago,
There lived a wonderful queer old men
In a wonderful house of snow;
And every little boy and girl,
As Christmas Eves arrive,
No doubt will be very glad to hear,
The old man is still alive.

In his house upon the top of a hill,
And almost out of sight,
He keeps a great many elves at work,
All working with all their might,
To make a million of pretty things,
Cakes, sugar-plums, and toys,
To fill the stockings, hung up you know
By the little girls and boys.

It would be a capital treat be sure,
A glimpse of his wondrous ‘shop;
But the queer old man when a stranger comes,
Orders every elf to stop;
And the house, and work, and workmen all
Instantly take a twist,
And just you may think you are there,
They are off in a frosty mist.

In 1876 Louisa May Alcott returned to the subject of Santa’s elves in a poem entitled “Merry Christmas:”

In the rush of early morning,
When the red burns through the gray,
And the wintry world lies waiting
For the glory of the day,
Then we hear a fitful rustling
Just without upon the stair,
See two small white phantoms coming,
​Catch the gleam of sunny hair.

Are they Christmas fairies stealing
Rows of little socks to fill?
Are they angels floating hither
With their message of good-will?
What sweet spell are these elves weaving
As like larks they chirp and sing?
Are these palms of peace from heaven
​That these lovely spirits bring?

Rosy feet upon the threshold,
Eager faces peeping through,
With the first red ray of sunshine,
Chanting cherubs come in view:
Mistletoe and gleaming holly,
Symbols of a blessed day,
In their chubby hands they carry,
​Streaming all along the way.

Well we know them, never weary
Of this innocent surprise;
Waiting, watching, listening always
With full hearts and tender eyes,
While our little household angels,
White and golden in the sun,
Greet us with the sweet old welcome, -
“Merry Christmas, every one!”

Published from 1830 to 1878, Godey’s Lady’s Book was the most widely circulated magazine in the years before the Civil War. It published the first
widely circulated picture of a decorated Christmas tree
and in 1873 it published a front cover engraving
showing Santa Claus surrounded by elves at work.
Called “The Workshop of Santa Claus”, “Santa is shown
directing his elves in the making of toys. We see dolls,
sports equipment, animals, musical instruments and
the like. Little birds sit on the numbers of the 1873
date.” The caption was “Here we have an idea of the
preparations that are made to supply the young folks
with toys at Christmas time.”

Additional recognition was given in Austin Thompson's
1876 work "The House of Santa Claus, a Christmas Fairy
​Show for Sunday Schools".