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Published: Thursday, 11/22/2007

Yes, Virginia, Maumee's Wolcott House museum has Santas


Maumee's Wolcott House Museum Complex has adopted a familiar theme for Christmas this year.

The museum's Holiday exhibit is called "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

The reassuring sentence was written in 1897 by Francis Pharcellus Church in an unsigned editorial in the New York Sun as a response to 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's query.

Wolcott's upstairs exhibit room has its own interpretation of the famous line, with mannequins representing a mother sitting in her parlor with her son and little girl, who represents Virginia.

The room also has displays of Santa Claus, and the ways his image has evolved over history, from the early Saint Nicholas to an almost scary pagan Santa to the jolly, rotund figures of Clement Moore and Thomas Nast we know today.

The exhibit also devotes space to Norman Rockwell, who did his first Santa cover for the Saturday Evening Post in 1916 and made him perhaps the most human and humorous Claus - there's another cover from 1929 that has Santa in red long johns.

Also featured is the Santa of Haddon Sundblom, an artist most people wouldn't recognize by name. However, just about everyone has seen his Santa, who was depicted in a series of illustrations for Coca-Cola advertisements starting in 1931.

Also on display is a doll collection from Rita Kern of Perrysburg. Ms. Kern's world-traveling father brought her a doll from each country he visited when she was young, explained Marilyn Wendler, Wolcott's curator.

The dolls are dressed in their native costumes and placed next to a Santa figurine from the same country. So a Dutch doll, for instance, is paired with a Dutch Santa.

"We have a lot of school tours, and the dolls are popular with the children," Mrs. Wendler said.

Downstairs, the Wolcott House is in full Christmas mode as well.

The rooms have been decorated by volunteers and fairly exude holiday spirit.

In the parlor, the tree is up and artful greenery - including pine cones, ornaments, baby's breath, and candles - festoons the mantel, all courtesy of the Maumee Garden Club.

The dining room was decorated by the Questers, a group that studies antiques and is a supporter of the Wolcott House. The greenery on the mantel here includes feathers, and the room includes a whimsical Santa riding a shaggy mountain goat.

Also on display in the dining room is a new acquisition: a reproduction of a portrait of a little girl in a yellow dress. The girl's name was Carrie Jewett.

She was born in 1852 in Maumee and died two years later in Kenton, Ohio, probably of disease.

Carrie was the granddaughter of Judge James Wilkinson, a member of one of Maumee's pioneer families. The original is owned by the Fairfield Heritage Association, in Lancaster, Ohio, where Carrie's mother eventually settled years after the girl's death.

In another Wolcott room, called simply the Judge's Room, for James Wilkinson, there are 19th-century American flags, including a flag throw beneath the Christmas tree.

The finery here was done by Natural Science and Technology Center classes from the Toledo Public Schools.

The next room, called the Memorabilia Room, also has a patriotic Christmas theme. Judy Walrod, Wolcott's special events coordinator, and Sandy Miller, the museum's volunteer coordinator, put up miniature antique versions of the Stars and Stripes.

The Holiday exhibit and tours extend through Dec. 21.

The museum complex, at 1035 River Rd., is open Thursdays through Sundays, with tours at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.

Admission is $3.50 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $1.50 for students.

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