Rev. Woodworth’s book is a unique and often entertaining source, but it’s always nice to back up personal recollections with additional contemporary documents. So I did a quick search of online Milwaukee area newspapers from the 1840s through about 1870 and found many mentions of Santa Claus and related traditions beginning in the late 1840s. And on page five of the Wednesday, December 25, 1867 edition of the Daily Milwaukee News I found this news item which adds a few piquant details in support of Rev. Woodworth’s diary entry:
SPRING STREET M. E. CHURCH
A concert was given in the Spring street Methodist church last evening, the proceeds of which are to be appropriated to the purchase of an additional library for the Sunday school. It was well attended, and the music was of a good order. The scholars were most of them present, and after the close of the concert Santa Claus fantastically dressed and liberally furnished, made the tour of the room and distributed many minor gifts; in this pleasing duty he was assisted by a female Santa Claus whose introduction seems a new feature.
Santa Claus news items and advertisements from historic Milwaukee newspapers found at GenealogyBank.com (pay site).