Perhaps you are like me. As you approach the season of giving, the cold hard fact dawns that you have done nothing to prepare. No tree adorns your living room, no lights brighten your window, your child's only presents were sent by family members more thoughtful than you, and it is too late now to mix a Christmas cake with a sixpence in it for luck--even if you had a sixpence, which you don't. So now that all is pretty much lost, why not procrastinate a few moments more--or, if you prefer, consider it a creative form of gift research, inspired by items available a century ago--by perusing some advertisements in the Brooklyn Life magazine of December 14, 1912. Yes, even a hundred years ago at this time, Brooklynites--in particular the well-heeled readers of this magazine--were also waiting for the perfect gift idea to come and strike them on the head with no more effort than it takes to turn a page.
The disappearance of the handkerchief as an item of daily use is a sad thing for the holiday gift exchange. What baby boomer does not remember as a child receiving a box of handkerchiefs marked for every day of the week? Or initialed ones in linen or fine lawn, perhaps lace edged? Yet the generation of 1912 had us beat on the handkerchief front. You could cross over to Manhattan and, at the linen store of James McCutcheon, be sure to find handkerchiefs at anything from 12 1/2 cents a piece, to $100 (or upwards of $2000 in today's money.) That high end item must have been the spun gold handkerchief dropped by Marie Antoinette as she mounted the scaffold--or something similar. This year instead I'd suggest a couple of boxes of tissues, or pehaps a crocheted tissue box holder for those who prefer their paper goods to be used with discretion.
Here's a suitable gift for the gentleman in your life. Who wouldn't want a handsome set of bodkin-clutch studs and vest buttons? A lot of people, you say? Humbug!
Well then how about this little chap?
Actually, sorry, that particular doggy in the window isn't for sale, but I bet that second prize in the Long Island College Hospital Guild dog show made "Nikon" a prized progenitor of Samoyed pups. So let's all remember that giving a puppy for Christmas is not a good idea unless you have really thought it through. A harp is a much better idea.
Can't you just see your significant other in flowing robes, hands wafting over the strings with deft touch, producing waves of evocative sound? No again? Well, Brooklyn Life has an alternative for you:
but I am certainly not going to be the one to suggest it for this year. Instead, I think a trip to Bermuda for two--on the updated version of the a twin screw steamship--would be a wonderful gift.
And if your salary like mine doesn't run to such jaunts, how about this?
You know that weird old trick--you take a bath with some of these bath salts and come out ten pounds lighter, avoiding that drawn and haggard look? So now you can tell your friends not to worry--just eat as much pie and pudding as you want, then go take a bath! What a gift!