Dearborn Christmas Artifacts

December 1845. Christmastime at the Petersilea family home had come once again. A young four-year-old boy eagerly receives a Christmas present from his father: an 1844 Loring’s terrestrial globe. His father had inscribed a message in a mixture of script and print on the lower edge of the globe’s surrounding ring: “E.A. Petersilea is born in St. Johns, N.B., July 17th, 1841. He arrived in Boston with his parents in the month of August 1843. Given to Edwin Alexis Petersilea as a Christmas present by his affectionate father, 1845.”

Nearly a century passed before this globe was donated to the Dearborn Historical Society in the summer of 1944 by Lewis Hughes. Originally, the globe was found in poor condition in an attic on Porath Street before being donated to the Dearborn Public Library, and then eventually the Dearborn Historical Society. How the globe wound up in Dearborn in an attic on Porath Street is unclear, but thanks to a thoughtful father, the origin of the globe as a gift to his son is permanently preserved around the outside ring. Another 75 years went by, and in that time the globe had gathered dust in a corner of the Officer’s Bedroom at the Commandant’s Quarters, its story long since forgotten – until one day when professional conservator and friend to the Dearborn Historical Museum, Mark Gervasi eyed it on an extended tour of the building as a piece he would like to work on one day.

After Museum collections staff and volunteers examined the piece and discovered the inscription and history of the globe, Mark returned to bring the piece back to his home workshop. Using grant funds from the Americana Foundation, Mark worked to bring the piece back to its former glory. After two months and 50 hours of time invested in this endeavor, Mark successfully completed the project. When the project was completed, Mark remarked that the Petersilea family globe was “one of my favorite pieces that I’ve worked on.” Mark summarized his approach with the following statement: “If you look at the whole project, it could overwhelm you, but if you work through it incrementally, it’s possible.” With great skill, patience, and determination, Mark Gervasi was able to successfully put the world back together, and in so doing, he restored a long-forgotten present from father to son from a Christmas long ago.

This framed print of an 1866 scene depicts the interior of Detroit Arsenal Chapel in Dearbornville, decorated for Christmas season. This piece is part of an extensive collection of photographic prints donated by James Bradley, Dearborn resident and longtime friend of the Museum.
This 1880s gold pocket watch was also given as a Christmas present. Inside are engraved the following words: “From Robert and Lillian, Christmas, 1889,” given to Mrs. Harriet Sherer, Mrs. Mary Haight’s aunt, by her daughter and son-in-law.

This souvenir booklet from Scotch Settlement School, c. 1904 contains a photo of a student on front, with interior text including lyrics to Christmas carols, a list of pupils, and snowy winter vignettes.
This Red Cross card includes an image of their 1913 Christmas card, promoting the fight against Tuberculosis
This 1918 Red Cross Christmas Roll Call Poster was donated by Paul Zatpko of Dearborn.
These 39 Christmas cards were sent to the Horger family of Dearborn from the 1920s through the 1940s.
This 1935 Christmas Concert poster survived significant water damage and was donated by Margie Summers.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

The Dearborn Historical Museum has hundreds of WWII-era posters, ration books, booklets, and documents in our collection. This 1944 WWII lithographed war bond poster was made for the holiday season, and reads “For Liberty and Peace on Earth.” The image is of Liberty Bell with Christmas trim and war bond in the foreground. The dimensions are 28.5″ x 38″.

This c. 1940s red modled plastic Santa on skis was donated by Dearborn resident and Museum curator Jack Tate.
This c. 1960s light cardstock poster is advertising for a Christmas Carnival at the Dearborn Civic Center Dome Room December 7 – 15.
This large 1962 Christmas Ornament came from the Ford Rotunda before it burned down. This artifact was recently donated to the Museum by Connie and Jeff Vicary.
This 1952 lapel wishes “Merry Christmas” from Ford Motor Company.
This ornament bulb depicts Dearborn City Hall, and is from the 1994 Holiday Festival.
This 1990s ornament depicts the City of Dearborn’s official seal, before the “settled” date was corrected to 1786.
This 2020 Fordson High ornament is the most recent addition to our collection of Christmas artifacts. It was part of the Museum’s holiday fundraising efforts.