The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York

The Santa Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York

by Alex Palmer


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Before the charismatic John Duval Gluck, Jr. came along, letters from New York City children to Santa Claus were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association. The effort delighted the public, and for 15 years money and gifts flowed to the only group authorized to answer Santa's mail. Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity, rubbing shoulders with the era's movie stars and politicians, and even planned to erect a vast Santa Claus monument in the center of Manhattan - until Gotham's crusading charity commissioner discovered some dark secrets in Santa's workshop.

The rise and fall of the Santa Claus Association is a caper both heartwarming and hardboiled, involving stolen art, phony Boy Scouts, a kidnapping, pursuit by the FBI, a Coney Island bullfight, and above all, the thrills and dangers of a wild imagination. It's also the larger story of how Christmas became the extravagant holiday we celebrate today, from Santa's early beginnings in New York to the country's first citywide Christmas tree and Macy's first grand holiday parade. The Santa Claus Man is a holiday tale with a dark underbelly, and an essential read for lovers of Christmas stories, true crime, and New York City history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781493008445
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Alex Palmer is a journalist and author living in New York City. His work has appeared in Slate, Rhapsody, Vulture, the New York Daily News, Publishers Weekly, the Rumpus, and many other publications. Visit him at

AudioFile Earphones Award winner Eric Michael Summerer is a voice actor and producer who has narrated numerous audiobooks as well as countless instructional recordings and video games. He earned an Audie Award nomination for Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke.

Table of Contents

Author's Note v

Prologue: An Arrest in Coney Island viii

Part I

1 The Adventurers' Club 2

2 Appointed Rounds 27

3 To All a Good Night 38

4 The Most Photographed Man in the World 57

5 "Enemy, Death, and a Christmas Tree" 72

6 Cathedrals of Commerce 90

7 Child Wonderland 108

Part II

8 Doors to Deception 126

9 Naughty List 139

10 German Intrigue 159

11 Poor Boy Gets Nothing 170

Part III

12 "Santa Claus as a Business Man and Advertiser" 182

13 Order Out of Chaos 203

14 Spectacle on 34th Street 220

15 Dead Letters 232

Epilogue: Operation Santa Claus 247

Acknowledgments 251

Appendix: Timeline of Santa Claus in New York City 253

Endnotes 256

Bibliography 290

Index 296

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