1843: "A Christmas Carol" Is Published

By Terry Claypoole
A Scene from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843. (Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

On December 19, 1843, Charles Dickens published his classic holiday story A Christmas Carol, but had he stuck with his original idea, our yuletide celebrations might be very different. In the spring of that year, Dickens read a government report on child labor and was horrified by what he learned about the conditions of little girls sewing dresses in factories. As a former child laborer himself, the issue was near and dear to his heart, so he decided to write an informative pamphlet on the matter.

By October, however, he'd decided a fictional tale was a better avenue to take. Dickens was something of a workhorse, and these were the days when the publishing machine was much leaner and didn't require months-long social media campaigns, so his manuscript was ready for print a scant two months later, but he hit a roadblock in the form of his publishers. Dickens was determined to publish the story as a stand-alone book, but due to lackluster sales of previous efforts, the publishers wanted to run it as part of a collection or a magazine story. They ended up arriving at an odd arrangement: Dickens agreed to fund the publication of his story and reap the profits, while the publishers earned the printing costs as well as a set figure per copy sold. The story, of course, was a runaway hit, selling out by Christmas Eve, but its printing costs were so high that Dickens didn't actually see much profit.