There’s no way that Tom May could have known in December 1906, when he drew an editorial cartoon for the now-defunct Detroit Evening Journal, that his work would still be inspiring people 114 years later in a city far away from Detroit.
May, a well-known editorial cartoonist in his day, said later that he had intended to “spoil Christmas for every man and woman in Detroit who had remembered only themselves.”
He probably succeeded.
The drawing, “Forgotten,” shows a little girl sitting at a table in a sparsely furnished room with an empty stocking in her left hand, her head cradled on her right arm.
She’s either sleeping or weeping.
But it’s obvious that Christmas skipped her house.
“Forgotten” became the official emblem of Detroit’s Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund in 1923.
The original drawing now hangs in Detroit’s Historical Museum.
But other newspaper editors in other American cities saw the cartoon, picked it up for their editorial pages and ran it to inspire charity in their cities.
The Messenger-Inquirer has run “Forgotten” for generations during the annual Owensboro Goodfellows Club campaign.
Here’s the story of “Forgotten,” as told by May in 1921:
“The day after Christmas about a dozen years ago, our weekly visitor, the German laundress, arrived at our home before breakfast. It was not our wash day.
“She answered our look of surprise by telling how she had spent a large part of her own Christmas watching a little girl who lived in a hovel across the street.
“With the coming of nightfall, she had crossed the street and asked the child what she had been looking for so patiently all day. With tears in her eyes, the little girl answered that she must have been very naughty because Santa had not brought her one single thing.
“And I am sure the recording angel winked and smiled when that old lady lied and told the little girl that it was impossible for Santa to reach everyone on Christmas Day and that there were thousands to whom he came the day after.
“And then through the nip of the frost and the swirl of the storm, she walked most of the way across town, to ask us to help make her word good.
“It is needless to say that our Christmas tree was stripped, as were those of our neighbors, to fill a wash basket with books, toys, candy and clothes to vindicate the truth of that good old soul’s assertion and assurance.
“I have always liked youngsters, and the horror of that situation hit me like a terrible blow. Here was a little child too young to understand the why, too young to be in any way responsible, with all the yearnings of a childish heart, with all the patient waiting for Santa and the day had passed without a single present.”
In Owensboro, the Goodfellows Club has worked since 1916 to make sure that no child in this community is forgotten at Christmas.
Because of Covid-19, in-person donations at the Messenger-Inquirer are currently unavailable.
Contributions to the Goodfellows Club can be mailed to: Goodfellows Club, Messenger-Inquirer, P.O. Box 1480, Owensboro, KY 42302 or made online at www.goodfellowsclubofowensboro.org/donate. Another link to donate online is https://app.mobilecause.com/form/3ebhXQ?vid=eoq13. Or, text RollCall to 41444.
Goodfellows Roll Call
Previously reported … $11,783.42
Hollis Collier … $500
Helen Hays … $50
God Bless … $50
John Wright … $25
Total as of Dec. 1, 2020 … $12,408.42
Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org.