Editor's note: In honor of the season, we bring you four holiday-themed collections objects from our Graphic Arts Collection, selected by Curator of Graphic Arts Helena Wright.
Colorful trade cards promoted products and often were saved in scrapbooks like the one housing this card in the Graphic Arts Collection of the National Museum of American History. The miniature children in the advertisement are "the gay troop of children that hied after the Pied Piper of Hamelin, charmed by his wonderful music," according to accompanying text. Mother Goose spots the youngsters and sends a fairy to bring them "every goody in the world in a single bite," a mince meat pie. After feasting on the pie, they children grew up into "splendid American citizens."
The covers of Harper's Weekly, a
popular American magazine published from 1857 to 1916, featured wood engravings of topical illustrations. This cover, from the issue of December 31, 1864, is titled "Christmas Morning," and portrays a family of children enjoying their presents while their parents look on from the doorway. One boy is dressed as a soldier and plays with a toy sword, a reminder that the country was embroiled in the last months of the Civil War.
This edition came to the museum as the gift of Marcia B. Kass in memory of Herbert J. Friedman, a collector of graphic art, newspapers, and political cartoons.
In 2001, the museum acquired a collection of printing plates, drawings, and a variety of commercial work including greeting cards produced by the Steelograph Company. The collection was donated by Mrs. Lea Guttman, daughter-in-law of the firm's founder, Dr. Joseph Guttman. He came to the United States from Europe and organized the company in the 1920s. Steelograph specialized in steel engraving, an intaglio process in which the design is cut into a hard steel plate that yields sharp impressions even in large editions. Many of the greeting cards were produced for commercial clients.
The card features a black and white steel engraving of Christmas at Valley Forge. It carried season's greetings to the clientele of the Warwick, a Philadelphia hotel. The colored engraving featuring a sleigh ride in a New England village is a sample card, one among dozens of designs mounted in an album for selection by Steelograph's customers. These cards date from the middle of the twentieth century.