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:
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:
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”:
Sparked by the Christmas spirit, these humanitarian efforts helped brighten the spirits of children and soldiers in the season of light.
- We’re grateful to Flickr members who traced the story of these photographs when we added them to our “News in the 1910s” Flickr album. View in Flickr additional photos of the Jason and its use as 1914’s Christmas ship, along with the comments and the historical detective work they reflect.
- Read the entry “The Santa Claus Ship” in The World Almanac & Book of Facts for 1914 available digitally.
- Sing and play “Hurrah! Hurrah for the Christmas Ship” from the digitized sheet music within YorkSpace from York University Libraries in Toronto.
- Enjoy holiday-themed posts from Christmases past: