Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Old Italian-language Christmas postcard: "Buon Natale"

This vintage postcard, featuring a staged snowball fight in front of a painted background, states Buon Natale, which is Italian for Merry Christmas. Hand-scratched into the lower-right is the number 3327.

The red on the woman's skirt was applied separately, it appears, because that red coloring has bled a little bit toward the lower part of the card, making pink "snow."

The photograph has been pasted to the front of a split-back postcard, which was never written upon or mailed. It was published by I. & M. Ottenheimer of Baltimore, Maryland.

I. & M. was well known, starting in late 19th century, for books such as Howard Thurston's Card Tricks, German at a Glance, Automobile Jokes and Stories, New Book of Coin Tricks Illustrated, The Science of Hypnotism, Ventriloquism for Fun and Profit, How to Become an American Citizen, New Irish Yarns, New Dutch Jokes, Button Busters Jolly Jokes, New Clown Joke Book, Cowboy Jokes and Yarns, Best-Ever Joke Book, and, quite regrettably, The Minstrel Guide and Joke Book, New Coon Jokes, and New Black Face Joke Book, among many, many others.

The article "Joke Books and Humor Publications, 1897-1947" on the Kent State University website discusses the kinds of joke books that I. & M. produced and notes: "With million of immigrants arriving on American shores in the late 19th and early 20th century, ethnic humor served as an obvious and extremely popular topic for writers and performers. I. & M. Ottenheimer which published many joke books of this type, often in small 4"x5" formats, sold them through venues such as Woolworth's, 'by the carload.'"

Here's more on them, from the Baltimore City Postcards webpage:
"In August 1890, Isaac Ottenheimer, age 19, and his 14-year-old brother Moses rented one-half of a store located at Baltimore and Pine Streets to sell books. By 1940 the firm had more than 100 joke books, many of them written by the brothers using pen names of Moe and Joe Ott. ... None of the newspaper accounts describing the Ottenheimer brothers publishing endeavors make mention of their postcard publications."
So this postcard isn't indicative of what made most of the money for brothers Isaac and Moses, but it's an interesting footnote to their business, for sure.

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