“Manhattan’s Mrs. Santa Claus”
Scotch Pine, New Jersey
International Santa Claus Hall of Fame – December 2020
Those walking past the Manhattan Savings Bank in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s were in for a treat. Peeking in the windows, passersby were treated to a sumptuous display of Christmas decorations, a singing Santa Claus and his elves, carolers, an ice rink complete with four ice skaters, and Mrs. Santa Claus making glass ornaments. That’s right, Mrs. Claus – otherwise known as Grace Howell.
For over a decade Grace Howell spent her days at the bank blowing colorful baubles and Christmas ornaments. She dressed as Mrs. Claus, from the fur-trimmed hat to a pair of rosy cheeks. She didn’t need makeup for the latter either: the heat of her lamp working torch helped with that.
Howell also worked at New Jersey-area attractions like the Gingerbread Castle and the Cannon Ball House, and appeared on television variety shows including Johnny Carson and Dave Garroway.
She was the eldest child of Robert and Ethel Howell, two glass workers who traveled the country demonstrating their craft to the public. Howell’s parents taught her to lamp-work as early as the age of five, and after years of practice she joined their demonstrations around the age of twelve. Her most recognizable appearance, however, was as a lamp working Mrs. Santa Claus in the window of the Manhattan Savings Bank.
Howell died at her home in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, on January 30, 1976.