It was a wonderful suggestion from a big-hearted reader, and the newspaper jumped on it with enthusiasm: Find children in need of Christmas cheer and match them with generous citizens who want to play Santa Claus. The program appears to have worked splendidly, showering thousands of needy children with presents over the next five years. Then, in 1915, the Good Fellows program was gone, with no explanation given.
Here is an excerpt of the reader letter that started it all:
To the “Good Fellows” of Minneapolis
Last Christmas and New Year’s eve you and I went out for a good time and spent from $10 to $200. Last Christmas morning over 1,000 children awoke to an empty stocking, the bitter pain of disappointment that Santa Claus had forgotten them. Perhaps it wasn’t our fault. We had provided for our own; we had also reflected in a passing way on those less fortunate than our own, but they seemed far off and we didn’t know where to find them. Perhaps in the hundred and one things we had to do some of us didn’t think of that heart sorrow of the child over the empty stocking.
Now, old man, here is a chance. I have tried it for several years and ask you to consider it. Just send your name and address to The Tribune — address Santa Claus — state about how many children you are willing to protect against grief over that empty stocking, inclose a two-cent stamp and you will be furnished with the names, addresses, sex, and age of that many children. It is then up to you, you do the rest. You gain neither notoriety nor advertising; you deal with no organization; no record will be kept. The whole plan is just as anonymous as old Santa Claus himself.
This is not a newspaper scheme. The Tribune was asked to aid in reaching the good fellows by publishing this suggestion. The identity of the writer of this appeal will not be disclosed.
Neither you nor I get anything out of this, except the feeling that you have saved some child from sorrow on Christmas morning.
• A Good Fellow
The Tribune has investigated the “good fellow” who wrote the above, has looked him in the eye and put its O.K. on the plan. The writer is not a professional philanthropist. He has taken care of from fifteen to twenty children a year in Minneapolis.
The Worthy Grand Master of the lodge of Good Fellows has laid his plans for securing names through school teachers, investigators of various organizations who work in poverty stricken districts and others who come in contact with those whom we always have with us. Lists of worthy cases will be welcomed from such organizations as the Visiting Nurses’ association, the Associated Charities, Humane society, and churches of all denominations. These lists should be verified and certified by the officers of the organizations submitting them and should be arranged by wards and divisions of the city.
This is how you can join the lodge of Good Fellows. Write a letter to “Santa Claus,” care of The Tribune, something like this:
I live at N. — street. I will be Santa Claus to six children. — John Jones.
The letter will go to Santa Claus. He will indorse on your letter the names and addresses of six children. This letter will be remailed to you. Then you get busy. That’s all. Come in, good fellows.