Saturday, December 13, 2014

1915 Christmas postcard: "Nothing Too Good For The Baby"

This postcard, featuring a grumpy-looking baby surrounded by toys, was postmarked on the afternoon of December 22, 1915, in York, Pennsylvania, and mailed to Master Sickler in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (a 50-mile straight shot to the west on Lincoln Highway).

The message on the back states:
"Sincere good wishes to all for the yuletide and a bright, happy 1916 from all of The [illegible]."
The signed last name could be Oserpick, Osirpick, Oserfrick, Osirfrick, Aserpick, Asirpick, Aserfrick, Asirfrick or none of the above. Hard to tell.

That makes me grumpy like this guy.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rib-tickling requests of Santa from @TweetsofOld

It's been three years since I first mentioned "R.L. Ripples" and the fabulous @TweetsofOld Twitter account, in the post about the Knights of Pythias.

This merry season, that Twitter feed has been filled with actual excerpts from children's letters to Santa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They offer a window into that bygone era. They are scary at times (with so many gun references). And, mostly, they are laugh-out-loud funny. Or maybe that's just how my warped sense of humor reads them.

I encourage you to take some time to go through the full Twitter feed.

Here are some of my favorites thus far, as we jingle all the way toward our own 21st century Christmas.

Gorgeous postcard from Russia with Elena Potyakina artwork

I mentioned at the beginning of the week that I'm mailing vintage, Christmas-themed postcards across the globe as my half of the bargain for Postcrossing. The other half of the equation, of course, is receiving holiday-themed cards from all over. And a dandy one popped into my mailbox this week.

The postcard shown above features an illustration by artist Elena Potyakina and was sent to me by Sonya in Moscow. She writes:
"On this postcard there is a cat. It is the wonderful cat from Russian fairy tales. His name is The Cat-Bayun. ... In our culture there is tradition, that cats help in looking after infants and swing cots when children are sleeping."

According to Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend, Kot Bayun was "a talking cat that lived in the Thrice-Ninth Kingdom with the Thrice-Ninth Land."

Another website states:
A popular character of many Russian tales, Kot Bayun has a dual personality. In Russian "bayukat" means puts to sleep. Or "bayat" — tell the stories. On the one hand, this giant cannibal cat lulls to sleep the knights with with its magic voice and then kills them. The bravest ones, that manage to catch the cat, obtain the chance to cure the illnesses as the cat's tales have the healing power. Kot Bayun is a frequent character of many Russian tales and is most likely the prototype of the learned cat in the introduction to Pushkin poem "Ruslan and Liudmila".

So it seems as if Cat-Bayun/Kot Bayun has a bit of a dual personality, which is not uncommon for some of the oldest characters of folklore. Baba Yaga is another Slavic figure that has a history of being on both the dark side and the light side.

One thing is for sure, though: This is a festive postcard. And that cat looks like one you want in your house. I'm not as sure about the bird, though.

Lucian Lowen's cover illustration for a 1961 edition of The Sphere

I love this piece.

It's the cover illustration, by Lucian Lowen, for a December 1961 issue of The Sphere, an illustrated British newspaper. Specifically, this was Volume CCXLVII, No. 3205a. (Yes, that's a lot of issues. The Sphere launched in January 1900 and closed up shop in June 1964.)

It's too big to scan in its entirety (on our scanner, anyway). So I framed it. It's great to look at every day, especially during the holiday season.

I can't find much about Lowen, but this is a fabulous and festive piece of work on his part. Certainly suitable for a cover illustration. The artwork itself does have a bit of a 1960s vibe, but the scene itself seems nearly timeless (except for the electric lampposts and the boxy modern buildings in the background.)

Oddly, this illustration is available as a jigsaw puzzle on Amazon.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cash and puns make for a wonderful holiday mix

This Christmas gift envelope has fun with the homophones doe and dough. It is "A Gibson Card" and was produced by Gibson Cinti in the United States.

Alas, there was no cash remaining inside the envelope.

For some more holiday humor, check out Clean Christmas Puns and Jokes by Jean-Louis Bontront and the 2012 Papergreat post Kids Say the Darndest Things.

Also, why are there only 2,360 Google results for the search phrase "Batman laid an egg"?

1938 holiday postcard from Leinhardt Bros. of York

This handmade advertising postcard was mailed in December 1938 to an address in York, Pennsylvania

Leinhardt Bros. was a furniture store in York. It was known as “The Friendly Store." It was located on the 200 block of West Market Street. Most of the old advertising and references I've found online are from the 1940s through 1960s.

And we know the business was still around in 1972, because it is prominently featured in a photograph showing the devastation from Hurricane Agnes in York. That photo can be seen in a 2009 post on Jim McClure's York Town Square blog.

So, we know Leinhardt Bros. spanned at least the 1930s through 1970s. I'd happily welcome any reader memories or historical information in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Lee S. Boggs' Christmas card

This attractive Christmas card, complete with red ribbon, is signed by Lee S. Boggs on the inside.

The printed message inside states:

May the hearty Christmas Spirit
in tale and legend told,
Expressed in Yuletide customs
since friendly days of old,
Grip you and yours this Christmas
with its good will and cheer,
And yours be a happy household
throughout the coming year!

Other than a brief newspaper reference to a Lee S. Boggs who lived in Napa, California, in the 1930s, I can't find much online related to Boggs. So I'm certainly open to fresh leads.

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.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Five vintage holiday postcards that will be traveling the world

These postcards are out the door...

This month, I am "recycling" some old and very old Christmas postcards that were either lightly used or never used and sending them out as international Postcrossing exchanges. I hope they will be some special, vintage surprises in the mailboxes of postcards lovers in places like Austria, Poland, Hong Kong, Crimea, Taiwan, Belarus, Belgium and the Faroe Islands. (Yes, one card is en route to that northern nation, which has a ram on its coat of arms.)

So, before this ephemera leaves the Otto household forever, here's a look at some of these cool cards, which, like the denizens of the Island of Misfit Toys, finally have a use and purpose in their lives.

Note: I think this one is my favorite, with its mixture of Christmas and Candyland atmospheres. I don't know who Russell and Bertha are.

Note: This beat-up card was originally given to Mable by Sadie, but had no other writing on the back. So I was able to repurpose it.

Note: This isn't technically a postcard. But it's quite merry and suits the purpose fine. It's an old gift-subscription notice for the Farm Journal of Philadelphia.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ink blotter: Get your Christmas cards from Star Printing in Coatesville

This merry old ink blotter is 8½ inches wide. It advertises the holiday-themed offerings of Star Printing Company of Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

  • Unusual, Distinctive, Attractive
  • A COMPLETE Printing Service of Christmas Greeting Cards, Holiday Folders and Letters, and Personal Yuletide Messages
  • Check Our Huge Assortment Today!
  • There's something about a personal Holiday Greeting that warms the heart and fosters a friendly relationship between the recipient and the sender

So, basically, they were making the types of personalized Christmas items a half-century ago that are being featured here on Papergreat today.

Star Printing is still around. It's now called Star Print Mail Inc. and is located in West Chester. Here's a bit about its history from the company website:
"The presses started rolling on April 2, 1906 in Coatesville, PA, then a bustling steel town, servicing many of the area's growing businesses, some of whom are loyal customers to this day.

The Swansons updated Star Printing from a classic letterpress shop to a modern offset pressroom allowing us to more readily meet the needs of our customers."

These days, Star Printing handles brochures, flyers, business cards, booklets, catalogs, newsletters and direct-mail materials. But it's not clear whether they're still the go-to printing company for personal yuletide messages.

Also, I like their old logo, left, better than their new logo...