In 1946 WWII was over and many were returning home from military service. One of those was Virginia Holmes. She was a prize-winning commercial artist coming back to Indianapolis to begin her job in the advertising department of L.S. Ayres, a downtown Indianapolis department store. She was assigned the task of putting together their 1946 Christmas catalog, but merchandise was still in short supply so Holmes created whimsical cherubs to fill the somewhat empty pages. These cherubs charmed the public and began a tradition that continues today.
The response to the cherubs was so great that Ayres brought them back in their 1947 holiday advertising. 1947 was their 75th Anniversary so they commissioned nationally recognized Indianapolis sculptor David Rubins to create a bronze cherbu for the store's landmark clock, located on the outside of their building on the corner of Washignton and Meridian streets.The story goes that the whimsical Cherub mysteriously appeared atop the clock on Thanksgiving Eve of 1947 to keep a watchful eye on the shoppers until Santa took over on Christmas Eve. Every year since, thousands have watched for the appearance of the Cherub perched atop the famous clock.
In 1986, L.S. Ayres was purchased by May Department Store Co and in 1992 they decided to move the Cherub to their headquarters in St. Louis. There was such a tremendous public outcry when the Cherub did not appear that season the May Company donated the Cherub to the City of Indianapolis in 1994. Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. is now the legal guardian of the Cherub and assures us of our heavenly shopping guardian for the future.
When you go downtown this year to look at all the beautiful lights - be sure to swing by the corner of Washington and Meridian streets and look for the Cherub. Share the story with your kids and make it a part of your Christmas tradition.
The Indiana State Museum sells replica Cherub ornaments in their gift shop.