Christmas presents for men in 1896 were abundant, especially if you had money. Here are some suggestions that were given in that year to those who had no idea what would be an appropriate and appreciated present to the men in their lives.
This was published in Harper's Bazaar, December 1896. It has been edited for use on this site.
Everything for men this season in the way of gifts is leather, but
instead of the accompanying prunella, silver takes its place. The
English goods are very attractive, and the leading American
manufacturers have produced copies of these, and thus all the large
shops are filled with the many articles, any of which would delight the
heart of a man.
If one begins in silver, it is necessary to note that repoussé work has gone out of fashion as far as presents for the sterner sex are concerned, and everything must be solid, simple, and handsome. At the same time bulky articles are not popular, and the prettiest conceits are made to fit comfortable in the waistcoat pocket.
A tobacco-box, elliptical in shape, opening with a spring, of plain polished silver, with monogram or crest engraved costs $18. It is quit small, and invaluable to the man who likes an early morning pipe or a quiet smoke after the cares and pleasures of the day are over.
There are silver card-cases and small boxes for cigarettes and for cigars, all of which are to be carried in the waistcoat pocket, and others again lined in gilt, or even in gold. The prices range from $20 up, and the engraving will cost at least $5.
In inkstands there are many elaborate affairs in crystal and cut-glass, with silver stoppers, plain and highly polished and silver trays to be placed underneath them are quite suitable for Christmas presents for men. Many of these are quite high-priced, a very handsome one costing $29, while others again are much less in price. An antique tray with two receptacles for crystal inkpots, and a stamp-box of chased silver, Queen Anne design, is $20, and it would be a gift to be appreciated.
Silver seals, silver mucilage-pots, silver pen-racks, silver penholders, silver pen-tweezers, small silver stamp-boxes for the waistcoat pocket, are among the many little things at prices much more reasonable. There are no designs or embellishments on any of these, and the prices range from $3 to $6. Men never use these at their offices, but on their desks at home. The ad for silver is universal. Calendar-frames can be included among these articles, the calendars themselves being of ivory with white or red lettering.
With the exception of the little tobacco-boxes, there are perhaps but few absolute novelties as Christmas presents for men. Inkstands assume all manner of quaint shapes, and are in a hundred or more odd designs. Some in solid silver are among the actual new things, and they do not range in prices as high as the combinations of silver and crystal.
Paper-weights assume the guise of animals, and those in bronze are actual works of art. Every man is supposed to have more or less a penchant for sports, and dogs and birds, horses and deer, huntsmen and golfers, and all the impedimenta of the field and turf, are brought into service, and a very wide latitude is given.
For the table — and a bachelor would appreciate this, especially if he is keeping bachelor’s hall — there are heavy crystal decanters of the Queen Anne pattern, some of them antique and others imitation. For the real article the shops ask as much as $50, but an excellent modern copy can be acquired for $10 to $15. Al these should have silver labels, with the name of the drinkable to be contained therein.
Silver “coasters” for decanters are also acceptable presents; but one gift always appreciated is a silver cigarette or cigar lamp. These come in highly polished silver, and the lamps are small silver bottles of quaint design, filled with alcohol and balanced like Chinese toys, so that they cannot upset. There are others in golf designs, which are also quite pretty. All these come with little trays, and the prices range from $20 to $30.
For the toilet, one novelty is a flat disk of polished silver with an engraved monogram, at the top of which is placed a large hook of the same metal. This is for shaving paper, and costs, including the marking, $10.
These Christmas presents for men, many of them too costly for the average Victorian lady, are prized possessions today. Although many women would have loved to provide such wonderful gifts to the men in their lives, most found hand-crafted or handmade gifts were more to their pocketbook's liking.