The Picture Collection's holdings of holiday-themed postcards dating from the early 20th century. Artists and illustrators represented in the collection include Ellen Clapsaddle, Frances Brundage, and Maud Humphrey, among others. Practically every festive motif of the holiday calender is depicted: idyllic winter scenes, Easter eggs, holly, decorative initials and borders, horseshoes, shamrocks, chicks, cupids, cherubs, four-leaf clovers, turkeys, and bushels of bouquets of posies. Along with the holiday-themed artwork, the sentiments that went along with each occasion are often expressed in printed verse on the card, and in handwritten notes on the backs of the cards, typically short expressions of goodwill to loved ones. Foreign-language cards form a small but notable subset of the collection. Postcards were circulated by the Picture Collection from at least the early 1920s and were likely housed with subject clipping files until later segregated into a separate collection. Acquisition has been mainly through donations from hobbyists and travelers, but the department has historically sought ways to harvest ephemeral material of this kind; librarians on foreign or domestic travels, for instance, were encouraged to buy and add postcards to the collection. The Picture Collection holds an equally comprehensive collection of holiday greeting cards dating from the 1930s through the present.
Biographical/historical: At the turn of the century, artists and illustrators desiring a decent living applied themselves to the design of postcards, which were enjoying a golden age since the first picture postcard in the United States appeared at the Chicago Columbian Exposition in 1893. With postage rates at a penny a card, the demand was insatiable.Though the demand for postcards in Victorian times was greatest in Great Britain and the United States, the most skilled printers for this new reproductive technology were to be found in Germany. A fad for collecting as well as sending postcards developed, fostered by the firm of Raphael Tuck in Great Britain, who provided steady employment for artists and thereby became associated with strong design quality.