Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Happy Old Years!

Even during Prohibition – perhaps especially during Prohibition – New Year’s Day was widely observed as hangover day, as in this iconic cartoon by John Held, Jr.

by Rick Marschall

Christmas cards are only about 160 years old, mostly the children of an increasingly efficient postal service in English. In America they proliferated mostly as postcards, around 1900, ironically produced in their numbers in England and Bavaria. In fact many of the famed postcards and greeting cards of Raphael Tuck and Sons, “Stationers to the Queen” and King, were printed, die cut, and embossed in Bavaria’s print shops.

Thomas Nast, whose conception of Santa Claus is the one we know today, called upon Father Time for this drawing in his 1874 Nast’s Almanac. 

The success of Christmas themes and post-card formats, and rank commercialism, inspired studios to make mailed greetings a necessary component of every holiday thereafter. Valentine’s Day, of course; but also the Fourth of July; Hallowe’en; Easter… even New Years.

Charles Dana Gibson welcomed a new year with pen and ink and watercolor. This was inscribed to his niece, and was used on a cover of Life, 1925.

The Post Office likely was happy with this fad. Stamps cost a penny for a post card with an image on the front and address on the verso. For “divided backs” (if the sender wrote a message to the left of the address-space) two pennies would do.

Friederich Graetz drew for Puck for about three years, 1882-1885, and then returned to his his native Vienna whence he came; and was then associated with the humor magazine Der Floh for many years. His penwork was exquisite.

A major subdivision of these holiday post cards (purely humorous artwork was a major genre too) was cartoons. Famous cartoonists drew gags, or, frequently their famous characters. Through the years I have collected about 1500 of these – and they are fun, well composed and colored, and largely forgotten spin-offs of strips and their artists. Avoiding the ubiquitous roadside, and anonymously drawn, cartoons of fat women with skirts caught on barbed-wire fences, my albums have cards from around 1900-1925.

Clare Victor Dwiggins (Dwig) was, with R F Outcault, the most prolific of newspaper cartoonists who designed holiday and greeting cards. This from 1906.

Another category is the Christmas card that cartoonists draw not for post cards or for Hallmark racks, but for friends and fellow cartoonists and some fans. Of these I have about 1250, and many have been shared in NEMO, in Hogan’s Alley, and in Yesterday’s Papers.

But here, having dispatched the ghosts of Christmases past, I will share a few New Year’s drawings by cartoonists. Postal greetings, magazine cartoons, covers, special art. With a couple words as guides, they will speak for themselves. And I will speak for them to this extent – it is a nostalgic relief to visit times where New Years seemed bright, hopeful, and predictably Happy indeed. 

Throughout the ‘teens and ‘20s the Kewpies of Rose O’Neill populated magazine drawings, plush toys and ceramic figurines, children’s books, and… holiday post cards.

Many things in daily life have changed, however. Is it “progress” that a penny postal now costs 35 cents?


Apologies to Rick and to Yesterday's Papers readers 

for late posting this. It should have been up a week ago!

John Adcock


No comments:

Post a Comment