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
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a very interesting look at the life of John Duval Gluck, Jr., who happens to be the author's great-granduncle. Gluck lived during the Jazz Age in New York and was founder of The Santa Claus Association, a group dedicated to reading the letters of poor children writing to Santa Claus with their wishes and wants at Christmas time. On the surface, Gluck seemed to be nothing but a kind and generous man whose goal in life was to offer these poor children a chance to believe in Santa and have a wonderful Christmas day. For years, these letters ended up in the Dead Letter Office of the New York Postal Service to be destroyed, along with a child's hope for a Christmas gift. In 1913, John Gluck took on the task of receiving, reading, and investigating these letters and finding donors to fulfill the requests. Under the surface, though, was a man who seemed to stay one step ahead of everyone, and used his position with The Santa Claus Association and his position with a bogus boy scout organization to bilk money out of thousands of people.
I found Gluck to be a fascinating character. He seemed to be a very typical con artist who could capture everyone's heart and be that guy that everyone wants to know, but has you completely snowed. The author has you almost feeling sorry for the guy, but eventually, you realize that he was just a crooked man. This was a well written account of some interesting New York history.
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