‘Tis the season to be saving! Christmas Savings Clubs in NJ Newspapers

Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year” but, regardless of what you celebrate, the holiday season has also been a time of financial burden. In December 1909, lawyer turned banker Merkel Landis, treasurer of the Carlisle Trust Company in Pennsylvania, saw an opportunity to alleviate the potential fiscal hardship. He was approached by three local shoe factory laborers asking to open a joint savings account. With this request, he merged his financial prowess and entrepreneurial spirit to create the Christmas Savings Club (later known as the Christmas Club.)

In Landis’s own words, this is how the this Christmas Savings Club came to be:

“They asked me if they could open an account in their joint names for the purpose of depositing cash each week…they proposed to collect from fellow workers…As a banker, I was interested in their proposition…Their idea was to start with one to five cents a week and increase the deposit by the same amount every week for the next fifty weeks and then distribute the funds just before Christmas.. The account was opened and in the following week the Carlisle Trust Company announced to the public the opening of it’s Christmas Saving Club”

From Hidden History of Cumberland County by Joseph David Cress

The early success of the Christmas Savings Club can be partially attributed to Landis’s insight to advertise this novel savings program in local newspapers. The Christmas Club is said to have generated 350 customers for Carlisle Trust Company.  This new savings program soon overtook the banking industry. 

Below are a few display ads for the Christmas Club program at various banks in central New Jersey.

Ad from page the December 29, 1916 Perth Amboy Evening News.
Ad from December 29, 1916 Perth Amboy Evening News offering customers chances to win cash prizes by joining the First National Banks 1917 Christmas Club.
Display ad from page 12 of the December 21, 1917 issue of the Perth Amboy Evening News.
Full page add from the December 14, 1918 issue of the Perth Amboy Evening News.
Display ad from the December 22, 1920 issue of the Perth Amboy Evening News.

It’s never to early to start saving for next year’s holiday season. Happy Holidays from the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project!

(Contributed by Jacob Paul and Giovanna Ligato-Pugliese)

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