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Historic gifts: A boom, beantown & tradition

December 01, 2015

Historic gifts: A boom, beantown & tradition

The holiday season has inspired us to reflect on some of our favorite gifts throughout history, and we wanted to share with you a few great stories of gifts of yesteryear. Our first story is of the 1918 Christmas tree that Nova Scotia gifted to Boston to thank the city for its disaster relief the previous year (a story  also profiled recently on

On the cold morning of December 6, 1917 the SS Mont-Blanc, a munition ship en route from New York, entered the allied port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Carrying thousands of pounds of explosives, the Mont-Blanc was close to docking when a miscommunication led to a collision with another vessel. The steel-on-steel impact created a curtain of sparks which detonated the contents of the Mont-Blanc . The result was the largest manmade explosion to date, thousands of lives lost, and miles of damage.

Halifax Explosion Archives

News of the tragedy flew across the telegraph wires, and upon hearing of the explosion, Boston Mayor James Michael Curley sent a message to the official U.S. representative in Halifax:

“Kindly wire me immediately how the city of Boston can best serve in the movement of the relief and prevention of suffering...The City of Boston has stood first in every movement of similar character since 1922 and will not be found wanting in this instance.”

Less than 24 hours after the event, Boston authorities had organized and dispatched a relief train carrying food, water, medical supplies, physicians, surgeons, and nurses. The train arrived a few days later, and not a moment too soon.

One year later, Nova Scotia sent a gift of thanks to Boston: a Christmas tree.

The tree giving has become an annual tradition, and if you are in Boston after December 3rd, take a trip to the Commons and reflect in front of the adorned 49-foot white spruce gifted by Nova Scotia.

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