Saturday, December 22, 2012

MISS MUFFET'S CHRISTMAS CARD!


I’ve got this old cardboard box in one of the cupboards under my living room bookcases; it’s a shipping box from The American Stationery Co., Peru, Indiana. It’s postmarked 1923 (I think – it’s hard to read), and it’s addressed to Frances T. Gould, 1206 Boylston St., Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts. I’m sure that it originally contained my great-grandmother’s notepaper, but now it’s full of old holiday greeting cards that she saved from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

This yellow-fringed card was sent by Cora Day in 1882.

Fringed cards were the rage! All the larger card manufacturers produced fringed cards in the 1880s, including Louis Prang in Boston and Raphael Tuck in London. The more clever ones had a Christmas greeting on one side and a New Year’s wish on the other; some opened like small books (although when the fringes meshed, separating the pages could get pretty tricky); others had an additional string for hanging – either on a tree or as an ornament (my great-grandmother used to tie them to the window-shade pulls in the living room!).

A Miss Dresher sent along this die-cut, bell-shaped card. When you open the card, a pop-up scene of a crowd outside a church appears. It’s clearly British: the stonework, the arch, the coach driver’s livery – the whole thing smacks of English gentry. The detail is amazing – there are children in bonnets and pinafores, gentlemen in topcoats and hats, a deacon with book, ladies in ribboned finery!

It's true that old Christmas cards weren't necessarily illustrations of what we now consider Christmas themes: Santas, sleighs, decorated trees, snowy landscapes, perfect children hanging perfect stockings. Years ago, flowers, birds, tropical isles and other non-Christmas images were common; things that make us scratch our heads in wonder -- like this last card.

It reminds me of Edward Gorey – slightly funereal and not at all Christmassy. It’s a bright pink card (also die-cut) with a gold border and string for hanging – but it’s the artwork that is so incredible – red, yellow and blue flowers, ferns, stalks of unidentifiable weeds and twigs.



And a nasty, yellow-ish spider, lurking in a handsome web!

A Christmas spider?
Really?

Really.
What were they thinking?

My best wishes to all of you for peace, simplicity, honesty and integrity this holiday season and throughout the new year.

19 comments:

  1. That pop-up card looks lovely, what treasures to have these! Ms. Muffit and I would definitely not get a warm message from that last one! But thanks for your good wishes, and the same to you and your loved ones.

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    1. Yes, the pop-up is pretty amazing; my photo does not do it justice! Very intricate cutting, and it must have been hand-glued. And I agree -- spiders aren't so very warm and cuddly!

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  2. I have trouble with describing the bell-shaped card as British. The architecture of the building is all wrong unless it is somewhere in what used to be the Empire.
    Delightful old cards nevertheless.

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    1. You may be right, Bob! I'm not an expert on that stuff, and may be rash attributing it to the British -- does anybody else out there have any ideas?

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    2. The onion domed church tower reminds me of Austria, or Southern Germany.

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  3. I've never seen such cards, especially one with fringe. What fun treasures to own. As for spiders and Christmas, a friend gave me a spider ornament because there's some legend about spiders at Christmas, but I've forgotten what it is. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Deb!

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    1. No kidding! A legend about spiders and Christmas? Then it makes sense, doesn't it, to have a Christmas card with a spider! I'll have to try to find some info about it! Thanks, Wendy!

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  4. It is fun to see that all these Christmas symbols, that we take for granted today, weren't there a hundred years ago. It is the same in bridal fashion.
    Merry Christmas, Deb!

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    1. Thank you, Peter! My best to you and yours.

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  5. As much as I've loved "Charlotte's Web", I loathe spiders so that last card would not be a big seller with me...

    I am amazed at how well preserved this fringed card is. But the die-cut is my fave!! Truly lovely!!
    I personally remember cards lined with lace or ribbon, but that fringe thing is quite something!!
    Happy holidays!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. You're not alone, TB -- I have an adult male cousin who is terrified of spiders; his wife must remove the little ones that seem to appear in their bathroom occasionally. And even if Wendy is right (Christmas legend), it's certainly a story that won't be told in my household...

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  6. Hi Deb, what a treasure that your grandmother left for you, and with such variety! I haven't seen a fringed card before.

    Merry Christmas to you, and best wishes for the upcoming year.

    Kathy M.

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    1. To you, too, Kathy, and here's for a bright, happy 2013!

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  7. My father's prize Christmas ornament was a spider. I think I have a spider ornament I bought too. I remember that there was some symbolism attached to the spider, but I can't remember what it was.

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    1. There must be something to this spider thing...I MUST look it up! Happy Christmas to you!

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  8. These were unfamiliar traditions that still rang a bell with the spider. So I looked it up and I was right, there is a Christmas folk story from Germany and Ukraine about a spider which explains the tradition of tree tinsel:

    http://www.kraftmstr.com/christmas/books/spider.html

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. Oh, Mike -- thanks so much for the link. And it's a great story, too -- about spiders building webs in Christmas trees (and how now we use tinsel to make them sparkle). Finally, an explanation for the spidery Christmas card my great-grandmother saved! Thank you ALL...

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  9. The first card fringed looks new. How wonderful that these were saved. I have some old cards of my own, will anyone look back many years forwar, not, likely they will be tossed. The vintage cards are beautiful art work.

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    1. Will others look back, Pat? Yes, I think they will; people just like us will, someday, look over things we have left behind and feel the same connection! It's people like US who leave pieces of history in boxes and albums for the next generations to find...

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