Featured Christmas Cards, Era

JPK Huson 1863

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Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
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This was inevitable. Christmas cards began as a tradition along with everything else, around the time of the Civil War. Slightly earlier, and during those years you can bet it had begun to really spread as a tradition. We have a few of the old ones, sent to ancestors, wish I knew who they were from- friends around the country, none of the names are familiar. They must have been saved simply because someone like the card. Mostly I'm seeing postcards, not folded cards in envelopes, do not know enough to know when this began to change, if it ever was the case. Maybe the postcards survived better, who knows?

Not all of these are era, some later, all are great examples of sending greetings this time of year!
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JPK Huson 1863

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Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I don't know about anyone else, but there are a few whose messages I'm a little unclear on! The little boys with the ' go to the wall' thing, and the horsewhip? Ho Ho Ho to you too! And the dog riding a pig, boy in tights- not a holly leaf in sight, were they on their way to Bethlehem? Litle girl and boy with oranges- maybe a Florida holiday? Also cupid rolling around in flower seems dicey. Just very interesting! :smile:
 

James B White

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Dec 4, 2011
I don't know about anyone else, but there are a few whose messages I'm a little unclear on! The little boys with the ' go to the wall' thing, and the horsewhip?

Answering the 2013 you, since no one else has given it a guess yet... :smile:

The best sense I can make is it shows a cab driver demanding his fare. You can see the cab as a silhouette in the background, and the boy with the whip is the driver.

A definition here says go to the wall means "to succumb in a conflict or struggle." The illustration seems to imply that the rider doesn't have any money to pay, so the meaning would be that when the world demands its fare, may you never have to give in because you can't afford to pay. Still kind of strange, but one thing to consider is that the date is 1892, according to the British Museum site, so maybe in that era there was a thing about not paying cab drivers--a funny scene from a play, a comic song, anything like that which would make the card seem current and trendy rather than just odd.

And the dog riding a pig, boy in tights- not a holly leaf in sight, were they on their way to Bethlehem? Litle girl and boy with oranges- maybe a Florida holiday? Also cupid rolling around in flower seems dicey. Just very interesting! :smile:

Oranges were a traditional Christmas gift, but other than that... It's also possible they were some inside reference to a current event. The cupid one looks like it says Weinachtfest, so maybe there's a German tradition that gives it more meaning?

Another thought on the pig and dog one: Since it has no Christmas references, do we know for sure that it's a Christmas card? "Hearty Greeting" could just be, literally, a greeting, meant for any situation or time of year when you wanted to send greetings to someone.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Did NOT think of that- ' Hearty Greetings', gee whiz! Could have just been your everyday card, intent being to say hello! And by the way, thanks for taking on something from last year- just proves one should never stop bumping these. :smile:

But rats- now I'm destined to try to chase down references, ** sigh **. Not out of duty or because you brought it up but because you brought it UP and my head won't allow me to give it a pass. Going to bug the stuffing out of so I dearly hope there's something out there at the end of 2 hours search.

OK- so ' Weinachtfest' is Christmas, that was easy- although I'd have thought it would have been something more recognizable as ' Christ', right? And I thought ' Nacht' was ' night'? We need Faraway Friend- I took FOUR YEARS of German, 4, remember so little it's disgraceful. Also 3 of Latin, same. Well, the intent there isn't so much learning the language as much as it's understanding some language genesis. Not finding a cupid connection so we do need our resident German citizen- may be just a cute way of including angels?
 

RobertP

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Dallas
I have a homemade card made by my g-grandmother for her young son in 1879. Not CW, but pretty close. She pasted images of Santa -- he really was a kind of gnarly elf then -- on cardboard and bordered it with gold paper lace. I remember great Uncle Will as a very old man when I was a child.

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James B White

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When we talk about art and style, I wonder how many of those are actually from pre-1865? Most look like chromolithographs, a process which existed at the time, but it soared to popularity post-war for everything from labels on cans to merchants' advertising cards, producing a distinct "look" of art and design from the 1870s and later. For example, from here: "The wide-spread use of chromolithography in America began following the Civil War, and in the next half decade millions of chromolithographs were made and sold throughout the country."

Because the technical process did exist at the time even though it wasn't in widespread use, I don't honestly know whether it was used at an early stage on Christmas cards. Seems that most random writers on the internet credit Louis Prang with first popularizing Christmas cards (would be glad to be corrected by someone who knows more) and this site indicates he began printing his chromo cards post-war, along with all the other post-war chromos:

"In 1864, Prang returned to Europe to study the latest techniques in German lithography. He came home to Boston primed to use a new process called chromolithography... Prang published his first Christmas cards for the American market in 1875. Their popularity was immediate. By 1881, he was reportedly printing five million Christmas cards a year."

So I think one has to be careful using these cards as a way to get a feel for the look and design of the Civil War period, without specific evidence about which ones are indeed from that period and which ones are characteristic of the later chromo period.
 
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James N.

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Other than the Harper's Weekly engravings posted above by E_just_E, the only one from "our" period is the first one at top which is actually older! It shows Queen Victoria and Prince Albert ( who was German ) enjoying the very first Christmas tree to grace Buckingham Palace. However, that news engraving wasn't colorized and turned into a Christmas Card until much later, well post-war. Even the familiar Harper's Thomas Nast Santa Claus, though similar to the wartime ones inspired by Clement Moore's 1840's A Visit From St. Nicholas actually dates closer to 1870.

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John Winn

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Nice collection (as usual); thanks !

I, too, have always liked magazine/advertising art and lithography of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have a small collection of tobacco caddies (box labels) for a relative's tobacco company that were produced by the Hoen brothers, a German duo that invented several processes and produced the first color cards and lithographed maps in the US. Really beautiful stuff (and amazing to me that multi-color lithographs would be used just as labels on boxes !).

Keep 'em coming y'all.
 

TerryB

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Dec 7, 2008
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Nashville TN
I don't know about anyone else, but there are a few whose messages I'm a little unclear on! The little boys with the ' go to the wall' thing, and the horsewhip? Ho Ho Ho to you too! And the dog riding a pig, boy in tights- not a holly leaf in sight, were they on their way to Bethlehem? Litle girl and boy with oranges- maybe a Florida holiday? Also cupid rolling around in flower seems dicey. Just very interesting! :smile:
Seems like going to the wall is having your back against the wall, i.e. no way out of a bad situation. The boy with the whip seems to be making a circus act out of his pets. I also like the two-horse sleigh--they were rich enough for two horses and a driver!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I have a homemade card made by my g-grandmother for her young son in 1879. Not CW, but pretty close. She pasted images of Santa -- he really was a kind of gnarly elf then -- on cardboard and bordered it with gold paper lace. I remember great Uncle Will as a very old man when I was a child.

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Holy Silent Night, RobertP, thanks very much! What genuinely lovely additions to the thread! It's always a kick to find something like that at an antique store but to have them in the family?? Gee whiz, priceless, as usual, thanks for sharing.

I'm certain a lot of these are not exactly our era. So sorry, should have dug a lot deeper. It was tough, finding cards which were exactly in our few years or even the dates when these were produced. I have a family card, could swear it would be 1900's it's 1870- some are weirdly forward, some the other way around.

Would have loved to have found more on what was sent to our men in camps, during those years. Believe me, have been looking, scouring old newspapers, letters, journals until my eyes bleed, swear. Best way to find this stuff, reading what was occurring at the time, was hoping to see if anyone received one of these with a package maybe? Hoping to find something for a thread before the 25th!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Like to say- went to some trouble ensuring these next were at least close to the Civil War era. The thing is, it is very valuable to have information on processes, what happened when. James B also went to a great deal of trouble providing that, thank you. Had no clue ( how shocking ), and with technology what it is today one is even more drawn to descriptions of 'then'.

I truly did not intend to be careless- or imply above were from 1860-1865 last year when this thread began, can't remember but think ' Era' was probably chosen because it seems deliberately vague. The Civil War early-ish for Queen Victoria ( yes, she and poor Albert in the famous image ), also while Santa was developing as a cuddly, jolly man. ' Victorian' becomes thrown around a lot, but she was around an awfully long time!

Just ' Christmas', and a non-contentious thread for the holiday season, that's all. Maybe have some extra time pinned to the couch in the early a.m., thought a general Christmas Card to the forum would be a good idea. What the intent was in 2013, again for 2014. Guessing what Ami thought, too, just a big, old, " Merry Christmas ", for anyone stopping by.


This is the first Christmas card, from what I read- certainly not era but worth getting into. Will dig into that tomorrow, after poking around more than one article ( always a mistake, only reading one ).
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18thVirginia

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Sep 8, 2012
I don't know about anyone else, but there are a few whose messages I'm a little unclear on! The little boys with the ' go to the wall' thing, and the horsewhip? Ho Ho Ho to you too! And the dog riding a pig, boy in tights- not a holly leaf in sight, were they on their way to Bethlehem? Litle girl and boy with oranges- maybe a Florida holiday? Also cupid rolling around in flower seems dicey. Just very interesting! :smile:

My mother, born in 1917, told of going to church at Christmas in the 1930s where the gifts for the children were bags of oranges and nuts. She was embarrassed because she'd gone with a male teenage cousin who, when they asked if any young person didn't get a gift, stood up and said, "I didn't." They did give him oranges.

It's a delightful thread, JPK Huson. Thanks. Merry Christmas.
 
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