Saturday, April 24, 2010

Calling, advertising, and greeting cards, 1906-1920.

In 1975, Elizabeth Shoughro of New Orleans donated to Tulane University her collection of early twentieth-century commercially printed cards, of three types: calling cards, advertising cards, and greeting cards.

Calling cards were commonly used, a hundred years ago and earlier, as an informational memento to give to a host family when visiting. The examples in this collection are small in size, similar to a modern business card, and range from plain white with only the name in black, to more elaborate and imaginative with color printing, tiny envelopes, and expressions of love. These reveal a social networking intention which is familiar to us, but the style of the cards reveals the innocence of an earlier time.

Greeting cards were mailed and given out as they are today, to celebrate the holidays and special occasions, and in fact are very much in the same spirit. They are decorative, light-hearted and sometimes humorous. Occasionally, a religious theme appears, but more often the treatment is secular in nature. The only striking difference is physical, as these greetings are in an unfolded post-card format. Evidently, at some point in the collection’s life, Ms. Shoughro’s family members added some of their own artwork to the cards. Having cataloged this collection yesterday, I checked to see if my use of the word “glitter” was unique in WorldCat, but in fact, a keyword search shows that there are 14 bibliographic records there for archival material which use that word, and several of those use that term when literally describing the contents of their archival containers.













Advertising cards may be of scholarly interest to those researching the historical aspects of American lifestyles, home economics, graphic arts, business and commerce of the era. These were perhaps both mailed and distributed at stores. It is fortunate and surprising that these were kept within a collection of social keepsakes. Advertisers may have been hoping for this positive subliminal association.

Captions: Inventive calling card of Cornelia Worden, of one of the families included in this collection; Easter card, copyright 1906, by the Rotograph Co., N.Y., mailed April 15, 1908 to Mrs. John Sherman of Saunderstown, R.I. “This card is a REAL PHOTOGRAPH on bromide paper.”; advertisement card for Willimantic Thread, bearing on the verso, “America ahead once more!” (awards won at the New Orleans World’s Exposition years before were still being boasted about); and finally, advertisement for Mrs. Dinsmore’s Cough & Croup Balsam, which promises “Cures a Cough in One Day, and the Croup in One Minute”, showing a happy baby.

Posted by Susanna Powers

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