Every December, visitors to Arkansas’s Capitol witness the tradition of elaborate seasonal decorations.
But Christmas decorations in public buildings were uncommon before the 2nd decade of the 20th century.
In Arkansas, there was no recorded official decoration of the State House or the Capitol until 1938, when Arkansas Secretary of State C.G. “Crip” Hall, recently re-elected for a second term, resolved to do something to cheer young patients at the nearby Arkansas Children’s Infirmary, known today as Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
Hall ordered his staff electrician to hang about 1,000 red and blue electric lights, mounted on metal strips, over the Capitol’s dome. In front of the Capitol, a fir tree sprayed silver was set up on a rotating stand, bathed in light.
Inside, Hall collected money and presents for invalid children spending Christmas in the infirmary or in other local hospitals.
A party around the tree for these children was scheduled for December 22 but rain intervened.
Undiscouraged, Secretary of State Hall had another tree set up in the Rotunda and the party went on, hosting 145 children plus many state employees. Letters poured into Hall’s office, thanking him for doing something so simple and charming. One local columnist wrote, “By George, it took “Crip” to come along and “hall” out the Christmas spirit, didn’t it?”
Capitol Snapshots are presented on KUAR by Capitol Historian David Ware and the Secretary of State's office.