Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting 2013: 100 Year Celebration

Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting 2013: 100 Year Celebration
Chicago's First Municipal Christmas Tree in Grant Park in 1913

2013 is an extra special year as the City of Chicago is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Tuesday, November 26 at Daley Plaza.

The free event begins with Live Performances headlined by Darlene Love at 5 p.m., and the official Tree Lighting at 6 p.m., followed by fireworks.

The annual tradition was started 100 years ago when Chicago’s first municipal Christmas tree lighting ceremony was held on December 24, 1913 in Grant Park.

Chicago’s “First Municipal Christmas Tree” was a big story in 1913. The rough and tough newspapermen of the day were blown away when they reported on the sight of hundreds of “electric lamps lighting the tree and flashing from the tree and the arches back of it.” (Chicago Tribune, page 13, December 20, 1913).

The 1913 Lighting Ceremony featured two choirs, music from the “Chicago Band” and holiday songs by stars of the grand opera.  Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison II, pressed the button to illuminate the 35-foot “big granddaddy of all Christmas trees in Country” as described by Chicago Tribune reporters.

The tree was a gift from P. J. Jordan, a former partner of Captain Herman E. Schuenemann–aka, Captain Santa, who went down with the Christmas Tree Ship the previous year.

Group of people admiring Chicago's municipal Christmas tree

A number of small trees were put together to form this 70 foot “tree” in 1959. Chicago Tribune photo, January 1, 1960

Staring in 1956, the city changed from using a single tree to combine many small trees to create the illusion of one 70-foot tall tree. The tree was decked out with about 4,400 lights and more than 2,000 ornaments.

In 2009, the city returned to the old/new tradition of using a single tree.  Since then, the Chicago’s Christmas tree has been donated by a Chicago-area family. During the summer and early fall of this year, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events received more than 90 submissions from Chicagoland residents who hoped that their tree would be selected to shine on Daley Plaza during the holidays. The winning tree was announced the week of November 4 and the family will join Mayor Emanuel on stage at the ceremony to light the tree. Chicago’s Christmas tree will be on display at Daley Plaza through January 9, 2014.

Fun Facts about 1913

  • The first packaged cigarettes, Camels, is introduced in the United States.
  • 1st US paved coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway is dedicated.
  • Women’s right to vote was still a distant dream to finally be realized seven years later in 1920.
  • The Sixteenth Amendment, income tax, became law.
  • The Ford Motor Company introduced the first moving assembly line, reducing chassis assembly time from 12½ hours to 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Cost of Living

  • Average Income $1,296.00.
  • Loaf of Bread $.06.
  • Gallon of Gas $.12.
  • A pound of potatoes, less than $.02
  • Gallon of milk $.36
  • New Car $490.00
  • New House $3,395.00

In Chicago

  • The Cubs Finished 3rd in National League (out of eight teams).
  • The White Sox Finished 5th in American League (out of eight teams).
  • Between March 24 and April 16, 1913, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted the International Exposition of Modern Art—the famous “Armory Show” that shocked the city with its daring works of art including Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” and Matisse’s “Blue Nude”–which proved to be particularly disturbing to the populist.

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