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NDE are the national educational radio network presents special of the week for Christmas 1968 on 260 acres of American soil in the city of Dearborn Michigan. It stands a living and vital tribute to the heritage of our great nation. They're the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village vividly bring to life 300 years of America's past. Within the museum the home arts and industrial arts of earlier generations give a progressive view of the development of our country. In the village the homes of many famous Americans stand as though their owners had merely stepped out for a moment and the era in which they lived remains captured forever for you to enjoy together. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village offer an exciting panorama of our nation's progress toward today. And now in cooperation with this station and Mary Ford Museum and Greenfield Village present the
heritage of Christmas. Over the glistening cold fresh snow the sounds of a chapel bell ringing out urging the youthful congregation to assemble to sing out the glad news of Christmas time. In the snow or the footprints of children leading to the chapel door and beyond the door the old organ is playing the joyous notes of the season. This is a lovely New England style chapel of Martha and Mary one of nearly 100 historic buildings in beautiful Greenfield Village buildings that bring to light of three centuries of the history of our wonderful country. Join us now as we explore those centuries. To hear the stories of the Christmases they knew and to hear the second through sixth grade children of the Greenfield Village school's choir sing the carols our forefathers sang in love.
Part of the southeast down that narrow village road above the snow capped limbs of many stately trees. We see a broad arm of the Cape Cod when male. And ARM first set in motion on the northern side of Cape got about 16 33. It stands now is the oldest known windmill in America. During its long life it ground the grain for many a delicious Christmas feast. But during the 17th century English Puritans often condemned the celebration of Christmas as a secular celebration and a wild wind filled feet used. Other groups however followed their traditional Christmas observances carefully. The Dutch and the Germans were among those who enjoyed observing Christmas. They brought with them to the new world a rich heritage of music of the season.
Yeah. Yeah.
By the time that old one will add rotated in the breeze for half a century a Puritan law that punished those who kept Christmas had been passed and repealed but still in 16 85 a Puritan judge saw fit to state some somehow observe the day but are vexed I believe that the body of the people profane it and bless it be God. There is no authority yet to compel them to keep it. But for those who did keep Christmas there came a carol that has remained a favorite until this day. We hear it now is sung by the student members of the Greenfield Village schools choir under the direction of Mrs Dorothy Needham.
Over toward the windmill there stands a house that was built in the very middle of the 18th century in Greenfield Village it's known as secretary House in honor of one of its earliest residents. The first secretary of the state of New Hampshire. It stood first on the Exeter river 10 miles west of the Atlantic in the then colony of New Hampshire. When that house was built the controversy over whether or not to celebrate christmas was still raging in some quarters and it continued for more than 25 years longer through the Revolutionary War. English and Hessians soldiers celebrated Christmas during the war for independence and at least one writers says that George Washington defeated the Hessians at Trenton New Jersey by crossing the Delaware on the night of December 25th 1776. Because the Hessians were following their usual Christmas customs and didn't maintain their normal lookouts the fact that the Tory troops did celebrate Christmas may have stirred the Patriots to turn against such a celebration. During this century. A new form of musical harmony
evolved known as the RA and its roots were in England but the styles soon became known in America. Even in Christmas music.
As a last quarter of the 18th century slipped by a new form of government was about to be put to the test of time by a nation. The United States was born a country in which every man would be free free to call his land his own and free to worship as he saw fit. The document that gave birth to those freedoms stated there should henceforth be a separation between church and state. And because the religious and political domination of the Church of England was no longer symbolized in the celebration of Christmas the Puritans may have felt less inclined to oppose at least the secular aspect of Christmas so slowly most of the people of the new nation became willing to take part in the festivities and to join in singing carols old and new even one that had gained the title of Westminster.
Over to the north there beyond the general store is a rough hewn log cabin that was built about 18 20. It stood not too far from where Greenfield Village is today near the Rouge River in Dearborn Michigan. It was a pioneer's cabin in a territory where life was hard but simple. There were few stores from which to get the essentials for existence let alone special presents such gifts would often be made by hand at home. But in the growing business Mike of New York City a newspaper of 18 20 carried advertisements for Christmas gifts. A few years before in an Austrian village. An assistant priest hurriedly wrote the words to a poem which he requested is organised to add a melody for two solo voices chorus and guitar since the organ in the church had broken down a day or two before Christmas. Years later the organist Franz Gruber recalled that on that very same evening he handed to the pastor his simple composition which was immediately performed on that holy night of Christmas Eve and received with all
acclaim. This simple composition and its inspiring words soon found their way around much of the world and by mid-century were included in American church song books and may well have been sung at this time of year within the dark walls of the Pioneer log cabin. The song was untitled silent night and here again to sing it are the children of the Greenfield Village schools choir.
Yeah. Yeah.
That was a community named after one of the most prominent lawyers to practice his profession in that courthouse. By this time had become a legal Alabama legalized it in 1836 and before the end of the century all of the existing states in the union followed suit. Christmas was becoming an exciting day for children as they enjoyed the intermingling traditions of many countries. And 1840 to editorial in a New York publication stated on Christmas. Tomorrow will be Christmas. Christmas with her children. A little long for the advent of this day. Generous friend Santa Claus with his sleigh like the purse of Fortunatus overflowing with treasured. Other traditions now included decorating homes and buildings with holly and mistletoe. Trees hung with
apples strings of popcorn and brightly colored paper and some families even added lighted candles to their trees. Music of course was a highlight of the season and during this period a translator took a century old Carol that had been written in Latin and gave it English words.
Through. The roof.
Who would. Down that road to the west of our chapel is a Sara Jordan boarding house transplanted to Greenfield Village from Menlo Park New Jersey. Thomas Edison's bachelor assistant stayed in that house in Menlo Park when they were busily engaged in one of Edison's experiments in the Menlo Park laboratory across the road Edison said he spent his ten golden years working in that laboratory from 1876 through 1886.
That was about the time that Christmas cards first started appearing in America. Cards were known in England about 1860 and came to the United States about a dozen years later. And this was just after the United States Congress established December 21st as a special day for the District of Columbia indicating the national popularity of the holiday. So from its early an unsettled beginning on the eastern seaboard two centuries before Christmas in America it emerged as a day to be observed from coast to coast. And in churches large and small across the land. Oregon's piped out carols old and new. Let's listen to a carol played on the organ of the Martha Mary chapel by Mrs. arm a baker.
Snow naturally had long been associated with the holiday season and lack of snow bothered a travelling botanist William age or delayed in December 1862 reported from California. I was at church this morning. A church all decorated with evergreens and this afternoon it seems as if all the city was in the streets. The customs of Europe and the east are transplanted here. The churches are decked with evergreens Christmas trees are the fashion but there is no snow visible even on distant mountains. Christmas here to me represents a date a festival but not a season. Food also became an item associated with Christmas. Thomas Edison's man affectionately called their landlady and Sally Jordan always said she's such a good day. They truly enjoyed her excellent pies especially around Christmas time. But during the Christmas season of 1879 the men were busy stringing wires to her house from the Menlo Park laboratory. The wires were red and green but they did not indicate a
holiday spirit. Rather positive and negative as those wires enabled the Sarah Jordan's boarding house to become the first electrically lighted house in the world on New Year's Eve 1879. About five years before that event the publication in titled The church porch printed the words of a carol that had been inspired by a Philadelphia minister's visit to the Holy Land during the Christmas season. But for some reason the song was then seemingly lost to the world for nearly 20 years until it turned up in a church. Today we know the words by heart.
And so as we stand at this peaceful chapel we can see around us more than 300 years of America's heritage returning to life through these historic in-memory crowded buildings of Greenfield Village and through the traditions that we observe been handed down to us through the centuries. The time honored customs of some distant land but they have now been adopted by all of us into a pattern that's truly American. It's been a pleasure being with you for this half hour exploring the heritage of our American Christmas. And now this is Roy Barnes joining with everyone at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan. And this expression of our feeling as stated in song by the children of the Greenfield Village schools choir under the direction of Mrs. Dorothy needed.
Special of the week
Issue 52A-1968
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 69-SPWK-402 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:32
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Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 52A-1968,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 9, 2022,
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APA: Special of the week; Issue 52A-1968. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from