Christmas “Shipping”

Hurrah! Hurrah for the Christmas Ship
As it starts across the sea
With its load of gifts and its greater load
Of loving sympathy.

–“Hurrah! Hurrah for the Christmas Ship,” song written and composed by Henry S. Sawyer

Even prior to America’s entry into the First World War, U.S. Navy vessels were pressed into special holiday service to ensure children abroad and at home would receive Christmas presents. Below, in this first of three Bain News Service photographs, people are packing gifts for the first “Christmas Ship” in 1914. The U.S.S. Jason sailed from New York bound for Europe carrying some 6 million gifts for refugee children and their mothers:

Photograph shows people packing Christmas gifts for the U.S.S. Jason which sailed from New York on November 14, 1914 carrying about 6 million gifts for the children of Europe who were affected by World War I. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2011)

Packing for Christmas Ship. Photo by Bain News Service, 1914. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.17744

This second photo captures a “Christmas ship” effort on the homefront. Captain Charles Frederick Hughes, commander of the battleship New York, helps Santa Claus distribute toys to orphaned children visiting the ship in port in New York on Christmas Day, 1916. The children were also treated to a Christmas party and dinner during the event:

shows Captain Charles Frederick Hughes (1866-1934), commander of the U.S. battleship "New York" with two of the children visiting the ship on Christmas Day, 1916.

Capt. C.F. Hughes on NEW YORK, 12/25/16. Photo by Bain News Service, 1916. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.23481

After the U.S. joined the Allies in April 1917, American Expeditionary Forces were sent gifts too. As part of “Christmas Ship” packing and loading, Army officers established a “Christmas box hospital” for the repair of damaged boxes. Below, a group of officers gather around a pile of such smashed or burst boxes awaiting inspection and repair. Some 11,000 packages were “treated” in the makeshift “infirmary”:

Committee on Public Information: "At port of embarkation Army officers established a "Christmas box hospital" for the repair of Christmas boxed received in bad condition. This photograph shows a pile of such damaged boxes awaiting inspection and repair.

Xmas Boxes for U.S. Soldiers. Photo by Bain News Service, December 1917. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.26072

Sparked by the Christmas spirit, these humanitarian efforts helped brighten the spirits of children and soldiers in the season of light.

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