New Year’s gifts were popular during the 1870-90 era in Greeley, and some were elaborate or unusual. In 1876, a “lady friend” of Greeley merchant E. T. Nichols gave him a half-grown live elk as a New Year’s gift. Greeley businesses rewarded their customers with calendars, articles in the newspapers encouraged people to give up sinful habits, and various churches launched the new year with a week of evening services and prayers.
In 19th Century Greeley, New Year’s Day was the appropriate time for ladies to receive gentlemen in their homes. Married and single women listed their addresses and “calling hours” in the paper. Refreshments were always served at these ladies’ open houses but never alcohol — well, almost never. On Jan. 7, 1882, the Greeley Sun (a rival newspaper of the Greeley Tribune) reprimanded in its “Home Doings” column a group of women for serving wine. It should be noted that Greeley was established as the third temperance community in the U.S. in 1870.
Here’s what the Sun wrote: “We learn that at one residence in town wine was offered to callers on New Year’s Day. This is to be regretted for several reasons. It was contrary to the sentiment of this community; it was setting a bad example; and worse than all, it was placing a temptation in the way of the young men to whom it was offered. There are well authenticated instances where men date their downfall from the acceptance of a social glass of wine offered by a lady friend on New Year’s Day.
So well-known are these facts, that it has had a discouraging effect upon the practice in the past, and it is hoped that but a few years will elapse before the custom will be obsolete. Of all the places in the world, Greeley should be the last to set the example of social wine drinking. We are glad to note that one of the clergymen at the Tuesday evening meeting had the courage to denounce the act we speak of.”
Written by Peggy Ford Waldo, Curator of Development
Originally published in the Greeley Tribune January 2, 2009