Tag Archives: Christmas

Exhibit: Famous Barr and Christmas in St. Louis

We hope you will join the Camp­bell House Muse­um in the month of Decem­ber for a spe­cial exhib­it hon­or­ing the mem­o­ry of Samuel B. Clark (1927–2014), who for years designed the win­dow dis­plays for Christ­mas at the Famous Barr depart­ment stores. He was known to have said, “you can’t over­do Christmas.”

The exhib­it will open on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 30 at 5 p.m. and will fea­ture exhibits not only Famous Barr mem­o­ra­bil­ia, but also Christ­mas relat­ed items that could be viewed at the stores. The exhib­it will be up until Mid-January.

Charges for the exhib­it will be forthcoming.

Lecture: Famous Bar St. Louis Shopping at its Finest

Join the Camp­bell House Muse­um on Sun­day, Decem­ber 10 to hear a lec­ture about the old Famous Barr Depart­ment store. Edna Graven­horst will be lec­tur­ing about the his­to­ry of the depart­ment store as well as pro­mot­ing her book on the subject.

May Com­pa­ny pur­chased the Famous Cloth­ing Com­pa­ny in 1892 and acquired the William Barr Dry Goods Com­pa­ny nine­teen years lat­er. In 1914, Famous-Barr opened the doors of its icon­ic down­town loca­tion, treat­ing folks across Mis­souri and Illi­nois to almost a cen­tu­ry of spec­tac­u­lar win­dow dis­plays and note­wor­thy luncheons.

The event is free and open to the pub­lic. There is lim­it­ed free park­ing in the lot adja­cent to the house and street park­ing is free on Sundays.

Christmas at the Campbell House


Part of what makes Camp­bell House so unique is that the vast major­i­ty of every­thing you see when you go through the House is com­plete­ly orig­i­nal.  No fakes, MSGs or fillers.  What you’re see­ing belonged to the Camp­bells, was used by them on a dai­ly basis, and is still call­ing CHM home more than 160 years lat­er.  But when it comes to Christ­mas­time at the Camp­bell House, we’ve had to be a lit­tle bit creative.

2929787835_xmas_tree_question_mark_M_answer_103_xlargeYou see, though we would like to say that all of the beau­ti­ful orna­men­ta­tion, lus­cious green­ery, and Vic­to­ri­an frills found through­out the build­ing is spot-on orig­i­nal as well… it’s not.  In fact, we only have TWO orig­i­nal Camp­bell Christ­mas pieces in our col­lec­tion.  That’s not two sets of dec­o­ra­tions or two box­es… it’s two.  And there’s a pret­ty easy expla­na­tion for why this is.

The Camp­bells, as we’re well aware, knew how to throw a par­ty.  Folks like Pres­i­dent U.S. Grant, Gen­er­al William Tecum­seh Sher­man, James Eads, and Hen­ry Shaw reg­u­lar­ly supped here at the House, and Vir­ginia even had the for­mal par­lor dou­bled in size to accom­mo­date the elab­o­rate get-togeth­ers.  As you can imag­ine, their Christ­mas par­ties (and lat­er, their son Hugh’s Christ­mas par­ties) would have been a grand affair, and the Camp­bells made sure their guests went home with gifts to remind them of the evening.  But these weren’t spe­cial­ty gift bags or neon t‑shirts with “Camp­bell Xmas Par­ty 1854” embla­zoned across the front.  When you came to a Camp­bell Christ­mas par­ty, you were allowed to take with you an orna­ment from their tree.  And, as many guests came and went through the halls of this grand home, so too did the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions.  Kind of a neat tra­di­tion, right?  Great for the guests, not so great for us here at CHM who would love to get our mitts on some of those orna­ments in the present day.

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Par­lor tree, mid-construction.

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Com­plet­ed par­lor tree.

So, when you come through Camp­bell House this hol­i­day sea­son (and we HIGHLY encour­age you to do so), know that you’re look­ing at our best guess of what a Camp­bell Christ­mas might have looked like.  Is it spot-on orig­i­nal?  No.  But it is quite the sight to behold.  Hol­i­day dec­o­rat­ing takes the bet­ter part of a month to com­plete.  It’s worth the effort.

Check out pic­tures below of the two remain­ing Camp­bell Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions in our col­lec­tion.  Also some pic­tures of how we deck our halls dur­ing the hol­i­day season!

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The only Camp­bell orna­ment remain­ing in the CHM col­lec­tion. A small, cel­lu­loid (thin plas­tic-like mate­r­i­al) piece depict­ing a young girl with a bas­ket of apples. The orna­ment was tak­en off the Camp­bell Christ­mas tree and giv­en to a young vis­i­tor in 1922. 

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The only oth­er Camp­bell Christ­mas piece still in our col­lec­tion today, is this rein­deer. Orig­i­nal­ly part of a full set of San­ta’s eight rein­deer that sat on the Camp­bells’ din­ing room table (see below), Vix­en end­ed up with a dif­fer­ent St. Louis fam­i­ly for more than 90 years before he was returned to Camp­bell House.

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Ster­ling sil­ver harp name­plate on the crit­ter’s back iden­ti­fy­ing him as Vix­en. Please dis­re­gard the neon green iPhone case.


The orig­i­nal full set of rein­deer on the Camp­bell fam­i­ly din­ing table,  cir­ca 1895.













Campbell House has a very special Christmas story
that comes with an unusual decoration.

Camp­bell Christ­mas table, cir­ca 1895.

About 1895 the Camp­bell fam­i­ly host­ed a small Christ­mas par­ty for their close friends. In true Gild­ed Age style the din­ing room table was set spec­tac­u­lar­ly for the event. The table itself was com­plete­ly wrapped in fresh flowers–red and white car­na­tions with greens.  The cen­ter­piece of the table was a fig­ure of San­ta Claus com­plete with his sleigh hold­ing toys and a dec­o­rat­ed Christ­mas tree all pulled by 8 rein­deer. This unusu­al table dec­o­ra­tion was also the par­ty favor. Every fam­i­ly in atten­dance was invit­ed to take part of the dis­play home.

The rein­deer Vix­en was tak­en home by the Hugh Scott fam­i­ly of St. Louis. Vix­en dec­o­rat­ed their din­ing room Christ­mas table for almost 80 years. About 25 years ago the Scott fam­i­ly was per­suad­ed by Camp­bell House sup­port­er Zoe Desloge Lipp­man to donate Vix­en to the Camp­bell House Muse­um for all our Christ­mas callers to enjoy.

Come and vis­it Vix­en and expe­ri­ence the splen­dor of Christ­mases past. Camp­bell House is open Wednes­day to Sat­ur­day 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sun­day, noon to 4 p.m. through Decem­ber 30. Dur­ing Jan­u­ary we are open most days by appoint­ment. Call us to make and appoint­ment, 314–421-0325.

Vixen adorns the Morning Room mantle today.

Vix­en adorns the Morn­ing Room man­tle today.