A Golden Age of Illustration: Vintage Holiday Postcards

At the dawn of the 20th century, artists and illustrators desiring a decent living had only to apply 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. Holidays aligned the interests of artists and postcard publishers precisely. With postage rates at a penny a card, the demand was insatiable. The Picture Collection's holdings of nearly 2,000 holiday cards from this period showcase the imaginations of the prolific Ellen Clapsaddle and children's book illustrators Frances Brundage and Maud Humphrey (the mother of Humphrey Bogart), among others. Colors extend past the palettes associated with contemporary holidays, and themes include technologies such as the airplane and the radio alongside animals, bells, children, dancing, dogs, and Egyptians. Decorative flourishes of feathers, glitter, and ribbons frame messages in elegant Art Deco typographies. Some industrious types illustrated their own holiday cards. The Picture Collection holds an equally flavorful collection of holiday greeting cards dating from the 1930s through the present.

A selection of vintage holiday postcards, ca. 1907-1930.
The New York Public Library, Picture Collection.

More Images of Vintage Holiday Postcards

About the Art and Picture Collections

Learn More: "Worth Beyond Words: Romana Javitz and The New York Public Library's Picture Collection"