History Of The Empty Stocking Fund

By Jacob Duff

I’m Jacob Duff and I am the great-great grandson of Harry “Dutch” Ervin, the founder of the Empty Stocking Fund. I’ve created a webpage  http://emptystockingfund.weebly.com/           to honour him because outside of Saint John, NB, nobody knows about him and the fund. This upcoming December will mark the 101st anniversary since the establishment in 1912!

  Hi! I am Jacob and I was a twelve year old, grade seven student. I created this project and this web site for my school’s Heritage Fair, which took place at Island View School in April 2012. I chose this project because it’s about my family and it’s a Saint John tradition. When my family and I began to research the Empty Stocking Fund’s history and the founder, my great-great grandfather, there was little information out there. Google….nothing, but only newspaper articles with the same story that appears each year. I began a two month search into this project, interviewed people, searched through newspapers and death records on microfilm at the SJ Public Library, poured over provincial archive records, searched through census on ancestry.ca, dug through books and visited the Fernhill Cemetery, where Harry Ervin and his wife are buried.

I was disappointed to find Harry Ervin’s tombstone laying on the ground and with no engraving, but the last name, Ervin. I would hope that with my efforts, that I will be able to raise the awareness and funds to have the founder of a Saint John tradition, Harry Ervin’s gravestone repaired and engraved. (An update….the Ervin family has since had the stone repaired! Thank you for those who contributed!)

I won first place at my school’s Heritage Fair and went on to compete in the Regional Heritage Fair on May 12th, 2012 at the NB Museum. I was very proud to win first place in the grade five projects and the McCain Foundation Literacy Award for my research I conducted for my project.

In October, a reporter from the Saint John Telegraph Journal came to my home and interviewed me for an article, which appeared in the paper on Nov.2nd, 2012.

The Reporter


    Harry Ervin was born on Aug. 13th 1874He started his career at the age of 16 as a crime reporter. He got the inspiration to collect money after he caught a glimpse of two poorly dressed children standing outside the MRA. “Dutch” had that scene etched into his head and could not rest until he did something about that Christmas changing scene. He then dipped into his own Christmas funds, got some help from a couple local funds and eventually raised 700 dollars! Then on that long ago Christmas Eve, himself, Charles Wilkins and Thomas Longdon delivered the Christmas gifts to the needy families of Saint John.    


 Harry (Dutch) Ervin begins his career as a reporter at the age of 16 in 1890 at the Standard.

* In the winter of 1912, Dutch Ervin caught a glimpse of two poorly-dressed children standing and looking longingly into a store window at a mountain of Christmas toys and treats on display.

* Dutch had the scene etched in his mind and he could not rest until he tried to do something. He dipped into his own Christmas savings, took up a collection of his co-workers and contributions and business men and a women’s organization. Before long, he had $700 raised for Christmas gifts.

* On that long ago Christmas Eve, Dutch, Thomas Longdon and Charles Wilkins deliver toys to needy families of Saint John.

* 1913 Newspaper takes of the administration of the annual appeal.

* 1936 Annual appeal is broadcasted on the CHSJ radio station on the ‘Uncle Bill Show’, with the All-Stars.

* November 2nd, 1940 Harry Ervin, the founder of the Empty Stocking Fund passes away.

* 1957 The appeal is broadcasted on TV, but only for 5-10 minutes each hour using NB Telephone Co. microwave connection and transmitter. Location: Pythian Castle.

* 1967 The first complete broadcast is on CHSJ-TV with the ‘Time for Juniors’ hostess, Jene Wood, leading the children in their live television performances. Location: new CHSJ-TV studio on Crowne and Union Street.

* 1993 CHSJ closes doors

* 1994 Moves to Brunswick Square Mall

*2008 Moves to Saint John High School Auditorium

* 2009 Aitken’s Pewter makes ornaments for the fund

*2011 75th Anniversary of broadcast

*2012 100th Anniversary of Dutch Ervin’s first collection Department Store, MRA where it is believed to be where Harry Ervin saw the children looking in the window that inspired the Empty Stocking Fund 100 years ago.

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