Virginia O’Hanlon’s father told her, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” So that was the newspaper she chose in 1897 to ask whether there really was a Santa Claus.
Rather than tell the truth to the 8-year-old girl, Francis Pharcellus Church of The Sun wrote an editorial.
And the rest as they say is history. But the New York Times didn’t celebrate the success of their rival The Sun and didn’t event mention the famous editorial in Mr. Church’s obituary. Instead, it took a piano dealer to bring the famous editorial to the pages of The Times.
The first substantive mention of “Yes, Virginia” in the pages of The Times seems to have been in an advertisement for the Griffith Piano Company in December 1923. Under an illustration of a homey fireplace hung with two stockings, Griffith reprinted the editorial in its entirety as a “classic in the literature of Christmas.” As to what “Yes, Virginia” had to do with Steinways and Sohmers, the ad stated, none too convincingly, “If there were no Santa Claus these warerooms of world-famous pianos, throbbing with the Christmas spirit, would be empty and silent this time of the year.”