I recently saw that one of the cable channels is going to show “Yes Virginia…” and, having heard the story several times growing up, I decided to do some research on the matter.
The original letter was written by Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897. When her father
found himself unable to answer her question about the existence of Santa Claus, he told her to write the Sun (a prominent New York paper), because if they said there was a Santa Claus there really must be one. An editor for the Sun, Francis Church, who had been a war correspondent during the Civil War saw this as an opportunity to restore the faith and hope that the conflict had stripped from society. Despite the unobtrusive seventh place position on the editorial page the letter and response went on to be the reprinted editorial in any English speaking newspaper.
Virginia was born July 20,1889 in Manhattan. After a brief marriage to Edward Douglas, he deserted her just before the birth of their daughter Laura, she went on to obtain several degrees from prominent universities and become an educator in the New York school system and retired in 1959. Throughout her life she received a constant flow of mail about her letter and quoted the editorial in all responses. On Christmas Eve 1969 Virginia finally got to meet Santa Claus.
After Virginia’s death in 1971 her friends wrote a children’s book “Yes Virginia”, a brief history of the editorial and the main characters, and brought it to Warner Brothers who made it into an Emmy award winning TV show. In 1998 one of Virginia’s grand daughters had the original letter authenticated and appraised at $20,000-$30,000 on Antiques Roadshow. Continue reading