Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sharing Christmas in Cooperstown

By: Michelle Murdock, Curator of Exhibitons
Christmas is for children, after all, isn’t it? One of my greatest pleasures at Christmas time is participating in Secret Santa events for disadvantaged families in my community.

In late 1912, the Otsego Farmer, a Cooperstown newspaper, proclaimed, “Santa Claus didn’t forget the orphans” at the Christmas party at the Village Hall. Besides gifts and treats for all, the enormous tree came to life with lights “with a wave of Santa’s hand.”

The Village Hall was located on the second floor of the Fire Hall, built in 1889 on Chestnut Street. It was an auditorium with a stage and hosted large community meetings and performances, including the Cooperstown Youth Center in the 1950s and 60s. It was demolished in 1972 to make way for the present Fire Department headquarters, still a center of community activity from voting to spaghetti dinners.

Cooperstown photographers ‘Wash” Smith and “Putt” Telfer compiled an exceptional record of the Village’s people and places for almost a century. The Smith and Telfer Photograph Collection, donated to the museum in 1951, numbers nearly 55,000 glass plate negatives. Their familiarity with Cooperstown’s people and places gave their images a natural, un-posed quality, which captures the spirit and sensibility of small town life. Through their lens Cooperstown is remembered as the classic American rural village.

Orphan’s Christmas at the Town Hall, 1912
Smith & Telfer Collection, 8-445

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