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The 1920s Santa Claus Scam

In the following Podcast, Journalist Alex Palmer tells the story of his great-granduncle, colorful conman John Duval Gluck, who created the Santa Claus Association. Before Gluck started his charity, letters from New York City children to Santa were destroyed, unopened, by the U.S. Post Office. Gluck saw an opportunity, and created the Santa Claus Association in 1913. The organization claimed to use the donations it collected to answer children’s letters to Santa and deliver them Christmas gifts. For a time, the charity did just that. For 15 years money and gifts flowed to the association, and Gluck became a Jazz Age celebrity. But efforts to crack down on corruption in New York ultimately resulted in the uncovering of irregularities that would lead to the charity’s downfall.

 

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