Among the treasures I enjoy at this time of year are old Christmas postcards sent to my father in the first and second decade of the 1900s. Costing only a penny to mail, and a penny to buy, the cards traveled back and forth between my father in North Ogden and his cousins in Weston, Idaho. The messages rarely were humorous, nor were they maudlin verses, but displayed little works of art with sincere written greetings.
Cousin Harold wrote on a card imprinted with "Ever Thine" and a picture of a child in a bright red coat holding a white dove: "I hope this finds you all well as it leaves us the same at present. We are having an awfull cold winter out here, so cold that little Karl and I cant go out to play. Write soon."
Three women signed another card that featured a curly haired, pink-cheeked girl with "A Joyful Christmas" message surrounded by red holly berries and leaves. Another holly framed winter scene arrived from Pearly Swift.
My father received post cards at other times of the year, also. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends often communicated by this method.
It's no wonder thriving card companies employed excellent artists and designers for these greetings. Many of the cards carry no company's name, just a stock number. But two publishers identify themselves on their products.
Whitney Made company began in 1900 as a stationary shop in Worcester, Massachusetts founded by George C. Whitney. One of their better known creations were cute Kewpie Doll characters. When chromolithography became popular the company found a niche in card production in the "golden era" of penny postcards.
An even more prolific supplier was Raphael Tuck & Sons which opened their shop in London in 1866. Raphael received training in graphic arts in Prussia before his family moved to England. The company's coat-of-arms featured a shield with a flaming antique lamp positioned above two hands in the attitude of prayer. Tuck's motto was "Cum Deo."
His graphic arts business became so successful he opened new fields of labor for artists, lithographers, engravers, printers, ink and paste board makers. This set-up indicates the Victorian age was one of printed pictorials produced by various printing and engraving processes. During World War I, Tuck's headquarters was destroyed along with the originals of most of their series. The sons carried on until bombing during the Second World War demolished Raphael House, destroying 74 years and 40,000 original pictures and photographs produced by the best artists.
It seems amazing to me that such excellent artists' work ended up being appreciated and purchased by people in small towns all over America in the early 1900s.
Three other Christmas cards came to my father in envelopes. They depicted scenes similar to the Currier & Ives products. Their senders lived in Weston and Aberdeen, Idaho and in Huntington Beach, Calif.
From these early beginnings of communicating and well wishing Hallmark, American Greetings and other modern purveyors of cards enable us today to send colorful, happy correspondence to friends and family.