A Christmas Carol
A Ball Holiday Greeting
By: Jessica Jenkins, Curator
Each year the Holiday season seems to get busier and busier. Hanukkah and Christmas have now passed us by and New Year’s is fast approaching. Last month it seemed like I had plenty of time ahead of me to bake treats and make plans to see everyone on my list. Now that we’re in the home stretch to turning the calendar I mainly feel tired and frazzled. It is definitely time to pull out a good book and relax. At my house December means it’s time for our yearly reading of A Christmas Carol.
This year when my copy came out and was placed near the Christmas tree, I couldn’t help but think about Ball Brothers Company. This sounds odd? You don’t associate Charles Dickens with Ball Brothers? Let me explain …
A Christmas Carol, designed for Ball Brothers Company by Richard P. Ellis, Minnetrista Heritage Collection
Ball Brothers Company of Muncie was a family oriented business. In keeping with this, the brothers themselves made sure that their employees were well taken care of. They had good benefits and insurance, and in 1925 they each received their very own copy of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.
Under the careful eye of George A. Ball, the company approached Richard P. Ellis, a book designer and publisher working in New York City, about designing an edition of the book for friends, family, and employees of the company. When the holidays arrived each employee was presented with their own copy. Tucked inside the book cover was a note that read,
Dickens’ Christmas Carol has been called the “greatest little book in the world.” We have had this special edition printed and are sending you a copy. You have read it before? Yes? Well, read it again! Read it out loud with all the family around. Read it every year before Christmas.
We wish you a very, very Merry Christmas, and, as Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, every one.”
Ball Brothers Company
The small hardback book also contained a dedication printed inside the book stating, “May this little story pleasantly haunt your home, and no one wish to lay it. With kindest Christmas wishes of, Ball Brothers Company.” In addition to the well wishes of the company, and Dickens’ original text, the book also contained a beautiful black and white plate opposite the title page with John Leech’s illustration of “Marley’s Ghost” that was featured in the original version of the work in 1843. The cover featured line drawings depicting scenes from the book.
Illustration depicting “Marley’s Ghost,” A Christmas Carol, Minnetrista Heritage Collection
The following year the edition of A Christmas Carol that Ellis designed for Ball Brothers received national recognition when it was included in the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Fifty Books Exhibition. Put together annually, the exhibit featured fifty book titles that the institute felt represented the most beautiful books produced at a low cost around the country.
The Ball Brothers edition of A Christmas Carol is indeed a beautiful little book. While its cover and accolades from the Institute of Graphic Arts make it special, what is perhaps more endearing is the personal touch it carried. George and the company wanted to present employees with a thoughtful gift. One like the kind you would receive from a family member. In a company that employed thousands, the Ball brothers truly cared about their employees and sought to wish them a very merry and sincerely happy holiday season.