The Christmas lights of 1905

Electricity available during the day for the first time in Jamestown.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

The editor of The Jamestown Alert had a good holiday back 115 years ago.

“Probably there never was as generally a satisfactory Christmas spent in North Dakota as that of 1905,” wrote The Jamestown Alert in its Dec. 28, 1905, edition. “Prosperity reigns over the great state and the people are enjoying the season of rest and recreation as never before.”

While stories of local prosperity and celebration were on the inside pages, the front page was given over to all the bad news world with headlines regarding Caribbean unrest, lynchings in South Carolina and a revolution in Russia.

The second page was dedicated to Christmas poems, art and stories. The featured story was about two newlyweds named Honeyboy and Honeybun celebrating their first Christmas together. The story sounds just too sweet for words.

Christmas Day was on a Monday in 1905. The schools dismissed on Friday with most holding some sort of holiday program on the last day. Classes didn’t reconvene until after the 1st of the year, just as now, but at least some teachers attended the “State Educational Association” conference between the holidays.


The writers of the Alert thought the children of the community were going to do pretty well in 1905.

“No calamity or common misfortune dims the occasion and the children will be remembered by their parents and friends as well,” the paper said. “The sale of holiday goods by the merchants has been large and the toy departments have been heavily drawn upon by good old Santa Claus for the Christmas stockings.”

The weather even cooperated with the perfect 1905 Christmas holiday with above-freezing temperatures.

“A few sleighs were seen but wheels were the most serviceable to get over the ground, bare of snow in spots,” wrote the Alert.

I think we can assume a few people put “sleigh bells” on the horses even if they were pulling a buggy over the mostly dry streets of Jamestown that winter.

The Christmas season of 1905 was notable for another change although the newspaper didn’t report it until January.

During December of 1905, the Jamestown Electric Light Company offered daytime service for the first time. Prior to this, electric power was limited to the evening hours for lighting purposes only.

Now, electricity was available during the day and evening although not the overnight hours.


The Alert noted this would be a bigger deal in the summer when folks around town could run fans to stay cool even during the day.

But it is possible that at least a few folks used some of that scarce and valuable electricity for a few Christmas lights.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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