The tradition started on Christmas Day 1911, when Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The New York Times, went out for a walk after a big turkey dinner and encountered a shabbily dressed man on the street, according to The New York Times.
The man said he had just been given Christmas dinner at a Y.M.C.A. but had nowhere to sleep. The publisher looked him over, decided he looked respectable and gave him a few dollars and his card.
"If you're looking for a job," he said, "come see me tomorrow."
The encounter left the publisher thinking about charity. The next year, he sent a reporter to several of the city's private welfare agencies to collect stories about the poor. His plan was to publish stories about the Hundred Neediest Cases in New York. These small chronicles, it turned out, sounded a powerful call. The campaign began Dec. 15, 1912.
In Chattanooga, Ochs, former Chattanooga Times publisher, started the tradition in 1914 and continued after the merger of the Chattanooga Times and the Chattanooga Free Press in 1999.