Monday, December 18, 2017

'Yes, Virginia. There Is A Santa Claus': Is The Most Famous Editorial In American Journalism. But What Happened To The Eight-Year-Old Virginia?

W. Joseph Campbell at Media Myth Alert offers a piece on what happened to the eight-year-old girl who wrote to her newspaper and asked the editor if there were a Santa Claus. The newspaper's response, written by Francis Pharcellus Church, is iconic. 

Virginia O’Hanlon was 8-years-old when she gained a measure of fame that would last her lifetime.

Shortly after her birthday in July 1897, young Virginia wrote to the New York Sun, posing the timeless question: “Is there a Santa Claus?”

It took several weeks, but her innocent letter gave rise to the most famous editorial in American journalism. The Sun answered Virginia’s query on September 21, 1897, in an essay destined to become a classic.

The essay was assigned an inconspicuous place in the Sun, appearing in the third of three columns of editorials beneath the headline, “Is There A Santa Claus?”

Its most memorable passage sought to reassure Virginia–and, as it turned out, generations of youngsters since then.

“Yes, Virginia,” it declared, “there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch Virginia O’Hanlon on TV with Perry Como via the below link:

You can also read about the letter and the editorial at the Newsmuseum via the below link:

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