Saturday, December 8, 2012

1960s Russian С Новым годом postcard ("Happy New Year!")

This is a 1960s Soviet-made postcard. It features two anthropomorphic bears, an anthropomorphic rabbit, some birds and an evergreen branch.

The Russian phrase С Новым годом! means "Happy New Year!" (I haven't yet been able to translate the word written in cursive on the red ornament. Feel free to lend a hand if you can.)

According to this article about Russian New Year postcards on

"During the Soviet years, Christmas celebrations were not allowed in Russia and the Soviet Union. New Year's celebrations that were similar to Christmas celebrations elsewhere began in the 1930s. Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) took the place of Santa Claus at children's parties. He was given a grandaughter, called Snegurochka (Snow Girl or Snow Maiden), to help him. At first the New Year holiday was for children, but later it became a holiday for everyone. ... A real revival of Russian greeting postcards occurred in the 1960s. Although the artwork became more modern and international in style, the themes often show typical aspects of the Soviet and Russian culture. Many of the designs also show a decorative folk art influence." also tells us that С Новым годом is pronounced SNO-vim GO-dahm. The article there contains a number of beautiful vintage С Новым годом postcards, so you should go check it out. (It also explains how most of the animals that appear on Russian New Year postcards have their origins in fairy tales.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Centralia, Pennsylvania, would like to wish you a Merry Christmas

Joan and I made one of our regular trips to Centralia, Pennsylvania, earlier this week. (What? Not everyone makes regular trips to Centralia?) And, even though it's a ghost town with a mine fire burning beneath it, we were heartened to see that someone took the time to put up a nativity scene, a Christmas tree and some lights at the corner of the former town's main intersection. The Christmas spirit is alive and well there, amidst the abandoned desolation.

What is the unlikeliest spot that you've ever seen decorated for the holiday?

Edward Drosback's 1932 Christmas card to John Bryant

Eighty years ago — with the United States in the early years of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt preparing to take office and Buck Rogers hitting the airwaves on CBS radio — Edward Drosback of Maplewood, New Jersey, mailed this elegant silver Christmas card to John Bryant of Annandale, New Jersey.1

The front of the card (above) is not at wide as the interior, which looks like this:

I wonder how many of these cards Drosback had printed? Is this the only one that still exists?2

The Christmas card is still paired with its fancy envelope, too...

The stamp is for the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. According to the terrific website, which covers the history of U.S. postage, this purple 3¢ stamp featuring a sprinter was issued on June 15, 1932. There were more than 168 million copies of this stamp released. Here's more from

"The 3¢ denomination reflected the anticipated increase in first class letter rate from 2¢ to 3¢, which actually took place on July 6 of that year and was printed in the purple of the contemporary three cent stamps. ... The stamps were very popular as souvenir items and as with all of the commemorative stamps of 1932, sufficient numbers were saved that an adequate supply of both stamps exists today."

1. In New Jersey, Annandale is about 35 miles due west of Maplewood.
2. I could not find much online about Edward Drosback and John Bryant. (One of these days, I need to splurge for an subscription.) It appears, though, that Drosback might have been born around 1915-16, which would have made him just a teenager when he mailed this Christmas card. (Obviously, a well-to-do teenager for 1932.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Beautiful Christmas tree" illustration from 1903 textbook

This gorgeous color illustration by Paul King is featured in the 1902 textbook "Graded Classics, Third Reader" by M.W. Haliburton and F.T. Norvell.

The illustration accompanies the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Little Match-Seller," which is actually extremely depressing as Christmas stories go. (The little girl dies.)

1886 Christmas gift inscription to Myrtle H. Gilkeson

This is the gift inscription that was written into a copy of Martha Finley's children's novel "Elsie Dinsmore" 126 Christmases ago:

Myrtle H. Gilkeson's
Presented by her Papa as
Xmas gift. Dec 25 1886

I found one reference online for Myrtle H. Gilkeson. Her name appears in 1903's "Hand-book of the First Presbyterian Church" of Staunton, Virginia. She is listed as being from Tinkling Spring. And she received a certificate for reciting perfectly the shorter catechism.

By the time this copy of "Elsie Dinsmore" got to me, it was falling apart and unsalvageable. In addition to this Christmas gift inscription, there were other signs that the book's provenance changed over the years.

An inside page featured a mailing label for W.H. Wade of Raphine, Virginia.

The tattered book came in an envelope that was addressed to Mrs. Lewis Barksdale of Waynesboro, Virginia.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

1915 post-Christmas postcard: "Many thanks for the stationery"

This postcard was postmarked on December 27, 1915, and delivered to Mr. and Mrs. Percy Chipman of Bucksport, Maine. The note states:
"Many thanks for the stationery. It will be very useful. Wish you could come over & see us. Love & best wishes for the new year. Rita"
Greene, where this postcard was postmarked, and Bucksport are about 100 miles apart in southcentral Maine. Bucksport is the more interesting of the two towns. That area's first inhabitants were members of a prehistoric fishing culture known as the Red Ocher people. They poured red "paint" in their graves along with stone tools and weapons.

Some episodes in Bucksport's history might have served as inspiration for the TV show "Dark Shadows," which was based in the fictional Maine town of Collinsport.

Here are some gory tidbits from Bucksport's history, courtesy of Wikipedia:
  • In 1763, Colonel Jonathan Buck settled a plantation that grew to include 21 families. Legend states that Buck burned his mistress for being a witch, and that she promised to return and seek vengeance on the town. It is believed that Buck's tomb is cursed.
  • In 1876, three residents were murdered and their family farm burned to the ground. The authorities soon arrested a sea captain, who was found guilty despite the lack of witnesses, evidence or motive.
  • In 1898, a woman named Sarah Ware disappeared. Her beheaded corpse was found two weeks later. The case was never solved.
And I think that officially makes this the least-cheery Christmas ephemera post of the month. Stephen King would be proud.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays

  • "It costs you nothing to try."
  • "$100.00 IS YOURS for selling only 100 boxes of our new Crystal Fantasy Christmas Card box assortment."
  • "You make $1.00 for selling 1 box, $2.00 for 2 boxes, $10.00 for 10 boxes, etc."
  • "You can make a few dollars or hundreds of dollars."
  • "All you do is call on neighbors, friends and relatives anywhere in your spare time."
  • "Everyone needs and buys Christmas cards."
  • "No experience necessary."
The above image and excerpts are from the top half of the glossy advertisement that appeared on the back cover of the November 1971 issue of Marvel Tales comics.1 The Cheerful Card Company could help you make EXTRA MONEY by selling boxes of Crystal Fantasy Christmas cards. The cards, which came in boxes of 20, were described as "really deluxe cards" and "excitingly different."2

I'm not making that up. Look:

I'm not sure what the difference was between "deluxe" and "really deluxe." And, based on the illustration, "excitingly different" apparently involved some candles with what looks like Easter eggs in front of them. Somehow, I don't think these Cheerful cards approached the quality of Hawthorne-Sommerfield greeting cards.

Other products offered by Cheerful (which had a 96-page color catalog) included:
  • Pastel Pets: "10 heart warming giant size cards of unusual appeal."
  • Correspondence Circles stationery: "24 large sheets, each almost 8" in diameter. Bright colors, pink envelopes. Latest vogue."
  • Deluxe Christmas Gift Wrapping: "15 gay, colorful large sheets. Terrific."
Cheerful Card Company, a division of Bevis Industries3, was surely a top-notch business that made lots of money for comic-book readers by offering wonderful commissions and dandy products. I mean, anything that has a "Dept. Z-28" must be on the up and up, right?

In fact, the company hoped that getting you to sell Christmas cards on its behalf would be the start of a long and fruitful relationship. Elsewhere in the advertisement, it states:
"As a Cheerful Dealer I will also be privileged to receive additional FREE money-making literature, catalogs, special offers and seasonal samples on approval as they become available."
Privileged, eh?

Yes, you were certainly privileged to become their next sucker, I'm sure.

(UPDATE: Oh, how wrong-wrong-wrong I was with my flippant opinions in this post. To see how wrong, check out all the comments below and also see this January 2016 post for some vintage samples of their cards.)

1. Marvel Tales featured reprints of stories previously published by Marvel Comics. This issue features past tales involving Spider-Man and Iron Man. In one of the stories, Spider-Man finds himself battling Rhino (aka Aleksei Mikhailovich Sytsevich). If you're interested in the history of Marvel Comics during this time period, you might want to check out the recently published "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" by Sean Howe. To get a taste of the book, you can read a lengthy excerpt that was posted on Grantland.
2. Note that nowhere in the advertisement does it tell you the price of the box of 20 Christmas cards. That's a fairly important omission.
3. Oh look, here's a 1970 court case involving Bevis Industries, fraud and "certain unfair selling practices." Surprised?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vintage Christmas card from Hawthorne-Sommerfield

I love this holiday card illustration, with its shades of purple — perhaps byzantium and fandango would be more accurate — and green. (Take your choice on what shades of green are in there. Perhaps olive drab and pistachio?)

The card was issued by Hawthorne-Sommerfield, probably in the 1950s or 1960s. There is evidence that the company was around from at least the 1930s through 1970s. Sadly, one of the few lasting online documents regarding its history is a 1959 legal matter in Kings County (Brooklyn), New York.

That case involved Hawthorne-Sommerfield, Inc., as the plaintiff, seeking an injunction "restraining the defendants from picketing in front of its premises and misrepresenting and creating the impression that a labor dispute exists between the parties." The request for injunction was denied.

Here's the company logo from the back of today's card. It's too bad we'll almost certainly never be able to discover the identity of the artist who created this beautiful holiday card.