Christmas, Business, Commercialism and Timing

To even have a debate as to whether Christmas is commercial is a fool's errand in the United States. The only questions seem to lie as to when it happened. For many, they would point to their childhood as that simpler, better time, where Christmas was, if not commercial, then, at least, less commercial. If not their childhood, then, perhaps their parents, or their grandparents.

The question, then, becomes one of timing. Recent research (27) suggests that the dividing line between Christmas past and Christmas commercial is false, that the holiday was created almost fully clothed as a commercial holiday in the early 1820's. It is not remarkable, then, that firms were gearing for Christmas sales, at a time when markets were difficult to find, transportation awkward and expensive, and production costs were high.

Carey & Lea was the kind of firm which is honored in American business circles. It changed the paradigm of sales, for a time, and the market. It took the kind of entrepreneurial risks which create new markets, it shouldered the risks, and its principals reaped the profits. It epitomized the kind of capitalism which was becoming the norm in the 1830's. Carey & Lea learned how to make money from the book industry, and, for a time, they did.

More important, however, is their cultural impact. The firm changed what Americans read and enjoyed; it brought them what they wanted, perhaps even before they knew they wanted it.