Sunday, December 18, 2011

Monday, December 18, 1933

I rode to school with Nadine. Tomorrow is grade cards. Walked home with Ruth. Stayed with Mrs. Raifert.

Sam Stone with his wife, Minna, and their daughters, from left, Barbara, Virginia and Dorothy (Dotsy).
Sam Stone AKA "The Angel of Canton" Ohio - December 1933
With his wife Minna and daughters Barbara, Virginia and Dorothy

As Christmas approached in 1933, the gloom of the Great Depression spread desperation
in the northeastern Ohio town of Canton, where unemployment stood around 50 percent.

"I am a girl of fourteen. I am writing this because I need clothing. And sometimes we run
out of food," Helen Palm wrote. "My father does not want to ask for charity. But us children
 would like to have some clothing for Christmas."

She sent the letter not to Santa Claus but to "Mr. B. Virdot," who had taken out an ad in the
Canton Repository asking people to tell him what they needed. He offered a monetary
 gift in return. Not surprisingly, hundreds of people responded.

Helen was one of many who received a check. Hers was for $5, the equivalent of $80
to $100 in today's currency value. Out-of-work husbands and fathers, destitute wives
and mothers wrote to Mr. Virdot seeking his help. Many of them received
checks as well.

The gifts made The Repository’s front page on Dec. 18, 1933. The headline read: “Man Who
 Felt Depression’s Sting to Help 75 Unfortunate Families: Anonymous Giver, Known Only
 as ‘B. Virdot,’ Posts $750 to Spread Christmas Cheer.” The story said the faceless donor was
“a Canton man who was toppled from a large fortune to practically nothing” but who had
 returned to prosperity and now wanted to give a Christmas present to “75 deserving fellow
 townsmen.” The gifts were to go to men and women who might otherwise “hesitate to knock at
 charity’s door for aid.”

A Romanian Jewish immigrant, Sam Stone had worked his way out of poverty, owning a
small chain of clothing stores and living in comfort. But his good fortune carried with it a
weight when so many around him had so little. His yuletide gifts to the people of Canton
remained a secret for many years, until 2008, when his daughter, Virginia, gave her son a
suitcase full of letters to Stone and thank-you letters from the gifts' recipients.

"B. Virdot" was Sam Stone; the alias came from the names of his three daughters:
B(arbara) VIR(ginia)DOT(Dorothy).

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