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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yes, Virginia (Redux)

In honor of Christmas Day, we are re-runinng a post (below) that we ran back in September about the famous "Yes, Virginia," letter from the old New York Sun.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

* * * * *


New York Sun has been in the news a lot recently; editor Seth Lipsky announced at the beginning of the month that the paper would cease operations at the end of September unless new investors could be found.*

However, Lipsky's current incarnation of the Sun has only been published since 2002. The original sun, which published from 1833 to 1950, was famous for many things, but none more than the editorial that ran 111 years ago this week under the headline: "Is There a Santa Claus?"

The editorial was prompted by a letter from eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon, who wrote:
DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in THE SUN it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
The unsigned response (written by the Sun's Francis Pharcellus Church), has become the mostreprinted newspaper editorial of all time. It is almost universally known by the opening of its second paragraph, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." (And, thus, is perhaps wisely not known by its opening sentence: "Virginia, your little friends are wrong.")

In it, Church admonished Virginia's little friends and urges her to not to fall into the trap of being a skeptic in a skeptical world. On the editorial's centennial in 1997, the New York Times printed a nice summary of its influence over the years and its importance when it was first printed.

(The former home of the Sun, on Broadway and Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan, was originally built to be a department store run by mogul A.T. Stewart. Stewart's rise--and the bizarre circumstances surrounding his burial--are covered in our book, Inside the Apple.)

Alas, when we first posted, Seth Lipsky's revamp of the Sun was struggling but still in business. Today, it is no more.

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