My Annual Christmas Card

a

Call me a sucker,
if you want….

But I dig Christmas time,
I really do, ( deep down ).

I have always believed that
the glimmer of humanity and kindness
people display around this time of year could —

might —

maybe —

possibly —-

be a starting point for that kinda thing being practiced all year round.

Hey-
ya gotta start somewhere, right ?

I know….
go ahead and dream yer life away, Chris.

Nuts.

b (Harry Houdini’s personal Christmas Card – 1920 –> )

Anyway…..

One of the things I look forward to the most around Christmas is getting Christmas cards,

—-especially from people that had completely forgotten I existed until they looked at their mailing list.

I like sending ’em too.

Sending a Christmas card to somebody could say,
well….
all kinds of things
like :

” Damn, I ain’t heard from you in a month o’ Sundays.. why doncha call once in a while? “

” My local football team beat yours last month 😛 “

” I’m just checking to see if you’re still alive. “

” Where’s that twenty bucks I lent you last year? “

” Hey — aren’t you related to me somehow? “

soapBut, mostly, it’s to say :

Merry Christmas —
We’re All in This Together
!”

And that’s what gives me hope that:

the commercialism that has pervaded and ruined the holiday will ease up a bit —

and hope that maybe we’ll quit this childish “MINE MINE MINE MINE” thing,

and the “THEM THEM THEM THEM” thing,

that we all seem to be enmeshed in as a society,

— and get back to ” US US US US “.

Uh huh.
Hope Springs Eternal.

Sprroooinnnggg.

c( Hand tinted Christmas card from 1903 )

Now, a bit of history about Christmas cards:

It had been a custom, in the U.S. and England, since the establishment of the mail systems, for folks who could afford it, to exchange handmade Christmas notes and cards …..

As a matter of fact, in 1822, the Superintendent of the Mails in the District of Columbia complained bitterly that he would have to hire 16 more mailmen to handle the extra holiday mail load, and that Congress should ban them: ” I dont know what we’ll do if it keeps on “.

But……
Did you know that the first commercially produced Christmas Card wasn’t sold until 1843?

Yep.

It seems one Sir Henry Hall, a rich businessman type in Merry Ole England, didn’t have the time for the customary hand written Christmas greetings common then, and decided to commission an artist, John Calcott Horsley, to mass produce a card for him.

And here it is.

d

Well, one of them, anyway.

Actually, 2050 were produced, many offered for sale at 1 shilling.
( I dunno how much that is in real American ‘coin of the realm’ money,
….. but I don’t think it was all that much…… )

And they really caught on for a short minute.

As you can see, the picture on the card is a triptych, showing people giving to charity, and a large group of folks making merry.victorian

And this didn’t rub the kill-joys over at the British Temperance Movement in the right places, and pretty soon there was a big ole fall-da-rall about these cards ” encouraging public drunkenness “.

Paging Mister Scrooge , Mister Scrooge – call on line two.

I never can understand how some people can find offense in something as sweet and simple , but they apparently are always gonna be with us.

Anyway…. it kinda killed the commercial market for cards for a while.

And despite the furor in the period, Queen Victoria was the first Royal to send a card.

Here’s one she sent in 1897.

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I love vintage Christmas cards, and I’ve got some nice ones to show you.

But you know, I gotta get just a few more historical references in there, first.

Herbert Hoover is thought to have been the first U.S. President to send Presidential Christmas Greetings in the mail, which were simply personalized family pictures.

FDR is thought to have sent out the first Presidential card produced in quantity.

Eisenhower sent out the first official “White House” card in 1953.

f

The first UNICEF Christmas card was created in 1949, by a 7 year old Czech girl named Jitka Samkova .

It’s a very pretty little card, isn’t it?

g

Getting back to the more vintage cards….

Louis Prang (1824-1909), a German immigrant to the U.S., started lithographing beautiful Christmas cards around 1873… and his cards are highly thought of.

Actually, he’s called the “Father of the American Christmas Card”.

His work was richly detailed, beautifully done, and expensive to produce.

h( Louis Prang 1880 )

Prang’s work became very popular, and soon there were many companies producing similar cards.

Unfortunately, most lacked the craftsmanship of Prang’s cards, but they were cheaper to produce, and soon, Prang was out of the Christmas Card business.

Still, today Prang’s cards are highly collectible….
……. and some are quite valuable as well.

i

I do not mean to say that there weren’t some really beautiful cards that were mass produced by the new companies…. there were many.

Several different kinds of cards emerged, with various printing and coloring techniques, textures, and materials.

Winter scenes were popular in the 1880’s, photographic art in 1890’s, and children more so in the early 1900’s.

Santa made quite a few appearances on early cards, as well.

j
(Frances Brundage)

Another quite popular artist of the era was Frances Brundage (1854-1937).

Frances was already a well known book illustrator when she started designing Christmas cards in the 1880’s.

She illustrated books by Louisa May Alcott and Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as having done work in paper dolls, calendars, Valentines Day cards etc.

Her imagery of children, in particular, made irresistable Christmas cards.

k
( Frances Brundage – 1913 )

Many types of novelty and humorous Christmas cards were also produced around this time.

These included:
die-cut cards with delicate edges,
mechanical cards with moving parts,
reduced size or ‘midget’ cards,
oversize cards,
silk and exotic material cards,
talking cards ( with a built in grammaphone record )
and ‘squeaker’ cards — (they squeaked when pressed) .

l
( “Squeaker” Card – Germany – 1910 )

All the fascination that Victorian and Edwardian age people had about the mystique of Christmas can be clearly seen…..

And of course, all the popular notions and prejudices of the age were also apparent in their Christmas cards….

m

All in all, though, a vintage Christmas card can be both a very instructive and enjoyable piece of art history , and collecting them can be a fun way to keep that history alive.

Heck,
if you get enough of them, you might even want to start sending them to your friends!

OH—
and just in case you don’t get my card,

………… Have A Terrific Christmas !!!!

n

HOY!

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Donald McGill’s Christmas Postcards

mcgill1If you’ve been paying
any attention at all
to the Muscleheaded Blog–

( and who could blame
you if you weren’t )

I know you’ve seen
this guy’s work before….

… even if you didn’t know
who he was, exactly.

His name is Donald McGill,

he was from England,donaldmcgill

and during his active working life as an artist,

between 1900 and 1960,

he was considered to be the:

“King of the Saucy Postcard”.

Saucy meaning humorous,

mcgillingredients—-  with a heapin’ helpin’
of double entendre .

If you like this blog,

you probably like his postcards, too.

His distinctive simply-drawn
style is relatively easy to spot,

.. and the earthy humor
is very approachable.

And, just like the MH Blog,

there were plenty of people,
who,
mcgillwar
over the years,

didn’t appreciate McGill’s
signature combination,

of simple, sarcastic and sexy, of course.

The Germans,

— during World War I, for instance,

didn’t exactly enjoy Donald McGill’s
snarky anti-Kaiser propaganda …

not one bit.
kaiser
Nein.

And despite his patriotic poster
and card war-work ,

… he never became what you would
call an insider in British society.

He once told a reporter that even
his children didn’t like to be seen
near a shop that sold his postcards.

Tsk tsk.

During the 30’s,mcgillmale

very vocal critics in English media
and politics weren’t all that fond
of his willingness to lampoon
anything and everything….

…. especially the strict social mores
and class structures of post-Edwardian England.

And after World War II,

— a consortium of Brit blue-noses
ganged up on a then 80-year-old McGill
and had him prosecuted for obscenity–

This, in turn, practically drove the
postcard industry in England out of business,

mcgillkiss— for a while, anyway.

The ‘saucy seaside postal card’
almost went the way of the dinosaurs.

But, he’s certainly also had his fans —

George Orwell wrote an essay on his work,

— and he has a large following of collectors,

both in the United States and Great Britain,

who specialize in finding his cards.

There is now even a museum featuring
his postcard designs on the Isle of Wight (in Ryde).

kiplingAnd despite the fact that much of his work
is so obviously created for a British audience,

… one of his ‘saucier’ post-card punch-lines
even made it to American television.

The Beverly Hillbillies, that is.

Yep.

Ellie Mae’s boyfriend
(played by Louis Nye)
asked her if she liked Kipling.

To which she (Donna Douglas) replied:

I don’t rightly know, I’ve never kippled “.

mcgillshiftTake out the faux southern accent,

……… and that’s pure Donald McGill.

Anyhoo…..

while I have featured several
of his postcards on the MH blog previously,

I have never done a post
about his cards created
for the Christmas/New Year Holidays….

And December does seem
as good a time as any, right ?

It actually it’s too logical for this blog,

— but we’ll go with it anyway.mcgilltrousers

I find his Holiday work particularly enjoyable….

It’s a nice change from the usual themes–

of snow covered lanes,
Santa,
and the more sentimental/religious images,

that we usually see on Christmas cards.

As far as I’m concerned,

it’s not a real holiday without a little fun,

pollyholly…… and I always prefer the naughtier kind.

( In just about everything,
….. now that I think about it. )

Hey,

I’m only human.

McGill was thought to have designed
over 12,000 different cards in his long career,

— but the Holiday pieces
he drew number under 50.

So,

not only are they fun,

— but they’re pretty unique, too.

I hope you enjoy them….

You never know….

….  maybe you’ll become a Donald McGill fan, too.

HOY !!!

mcgillgoodthings