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Kids in Coats Out in the Cold

January 4, 2024

Unpopular opinion, I am not a huge fan of “A Christmas Story.” The movie adaptation is 40 years old now, but the origin of the story is that of Indiana author Jean Shepherd’s 1966 book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. This opinion is probably particularly sacrilegious as I grew up in Northwest Indiana, the setting for the book and film. Despite my lack of enjoyment of the film, one can’t help but recall some of the iconic moments. One of those is Ralphie’s brother, Randy, dressed so warmly he could barely move.

Parents have always wanted to make sure that their children wouldn’t get cold outside as the temperatures dipped. So, I share with you some of the ways Hoosiers have dressed up their cute kids to fight against the cold. One of my favorite images is shown above from our Inbody Glass Plate Collection, ca. 1920. It depicts a young child in a soap box sled, sporting mittens, a hat, and a coat, with a crocheted blanket across their lap.

A young member of the Jose family in Joseville, Marion County, Indiana, ca. 1900. Indiana Historical Society, P0267, cropped.

Another great pair of images are from our Joseville Collection. The Jose family subdivided a large plot of land and lived near each other, hence the naming of that area of Marion County as Joseville at one time. In this pair of images, which are cropped from two larger family photographs taken in the same sitting. You can see the joy in the young child’s face in both photographs, but particularly in the one on the right. (You can also see the parent trying to reign in their rambunctiousness.) It is not common to find photographs of anyone smiling, let alone laughing, in turn-of-the-century imagery. These images make me smile at what appears to be a happy moment for this child with their family.

Children building a snowman, 1984. Indianapolis Recorder Collection, IHS, cropped.

Last, but certainly not least, we have these two children out enjoying the winter weather in 1984. When opting to play in the snow, rather than just walking or sitting in the cold, there are additional factors. It is especially important to wear, not only a warm coat, but gloves or mittens to be able to handle the frozen flakes. These two appeared on the front page of the Indianapolis Recorder on November 11, 1984.

Visit our library at the Indiana Historical Society and see our newest exhibit, Winter Warmth: Outerwear Over Time, between now and early February 2024. As the weather shifts, stay warm out there and make sure the kids are wearing their coats out in the cold.

Amy Vedra

Amy Vedra is the director of reference services. She is currently reading her way through the Great American Reads list.

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