The Way It Was


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1959 A child’s reach usually exceeds his grasp, but that isn’t preventing this little boy, boosted by a ladder, from attempting to add a decoration to the tree on this downtown Hudson’s Christmas display. The young girl on the lower ladder at the right seems to have achieved her task, although her sights aren’t as lofty. The sign at the base reads “Tree of Christmas Stockings.” This photo was shot by Davis B. Hillmer on Dec. 10, 1956. Hillmer (1896-1979) was a self-taught commercial photographer whose bulging portfolio included many top Detroit retailers during his half-century career, which ex-tended from 1922-72. Clients included Newcomb-Endicott, S.L. Bird & Sons, Kline’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Crowley-Milner, Meyer Jewelry Co., B. Siegel, and Kern’s. But his biggest business came from J.L. Hudson Co., which, according to the Detroit Historical Museum, hired Hillmer exclusively to chronicle its interior and exterior displays from the late 1920s on. Hillmer kept his studio in Midtown, hop-scotching from Canfield Street to Ferry Avenue to Second Avenue. In the early 1980s his family donated more than 2,000 prints and negatives to the Detroit Historical Museum, of which this is one.

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