Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter thirty-six years after it was printed:
"It was a habit in our family that whenever any
"Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find
"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will
Francis P. Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and worked for 20 years at The New York Sun , more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. The son of a Baptist minister he usually received the more controversial subjects on the editorial page, in particular those dealing with theology. A sardonic man, Church had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant."
"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church said he knew that there was no avoiding the question. He had to answer, and it was imperative that he answer truthfully. And so he turned to the task and began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history. Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.
Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" originally appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until the paper went out of business 1949.
Virginia O'Hanlon grew up to become a teacher and principal for the New York City school system retiring after 47 years. Whenever she received mail about her Santa Claus letter she penned a reply and attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.