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A Very Burdick Christmas

Freyda Spira, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Liz Zanis, Collections Management Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013

Best Wishes for a happy Christmas, early 20th century

Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (American, 1865–1934). Publisher: The International Art Publishing Co., New York. Best Wishes for a happy Christmas, early 20th century. Color lithograph with embossing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick (Burdick 457, p.15r(3))

«Since the establishment of the Print Department in 1916 there has been a clear mission to gather all types of printed material ranging from Rembrandt's magnificent and widely collected etchings to the more ephemeral, which includes, among many others things, American and European trade and calling cards, bookplates, illustrated catalogues, and even greeting cards.»

The collection of Jefferson R. Burdick (1900–1963), in particular, brought to the department in the 1950s over 300,000 printed ephemera, or printed paper that is not meant to survive because it is ruined and disposed of by the masses that used these objects in their everyday lives.

"Greetings to one and all," Merry Christmas, early 20th century

Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (American, 1865–1934). Publisher: The International Art Publishing Co., New York. "Greetings for one and all," Merry Christmas, early 20th century. Color lithograph with gilding and embossing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick (Burdick 457, p.15r(5))

Burdick's vast collection includes all manner of advertising materials from baseball cards to wartime propaganda that were inserted into commercial goods as well as a significant number of early American Christmas cards (many printed in Germany, because of their specialization in commercial color lithography and card making). These dimly remembered cards, first produced in the mid-nineteenth century in England, are organized in a dizzying number of albums by Burdick, can be sweet, vivid, brash, or poignant, and are often very funny.

A Merry Christmas, early 20th century

Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle (American, 1865–1934). Publisher: The International Art Publishing Co., New York. A Merry Christmas, early 20th century. Color lithograph with embossing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick (Burdick 457, p.15r(1))

With over 3,000 designs to her name, the American illustrator Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle's (1865–1934) imagery was often populated with children engaging in fanciful seasonal situations, such as the young girl telephoning Santa shown above. Working for the New York based International Art Publishing Company, which specialized in holiday and souvenir cards, Clapsaddle traveled to Germany to further learn the trade and see the printing side of the business which happened there. Although her holiday postcards consistently evoke the syrupy sweetness of Victorian era cards (1837–1901), her own life took a turn when she was caught in Germany at the outbreak of the First World War.

A far cry from Clapsaddle's sentimental examples, the 1950s cards rely on humor related to professional and personal business materials such as: a memo book of season's greetings, a library exclusively concerned with good will, a bank statement from the Bank of Happiness, a voucher owing the recipient 365 days of confidence and loyalty, and volumes of encyclopedia that promise sincere good wishes that cannot be surpassed even by likes of Einstein, Lincoln, Gandhi, Beethoven and the other great men contained in the books.

Opening from Burdick Album 575, "Recent Greeting Cards"

Opening from Burdick Album 575, "Recent Greeting Cards." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick (Burdick 575, p.4v/5r)

Volumes of Good Cheer, 1952

Anonymous, American, 20th century. Volumes of Good Cheer, 1952. Commercial color lithograph. The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick (Burdick 575, p.4v(2))

Continuing in the tradition of our founding curators, the department recently received a generous gift of greeting cards that includes a variety of American Christmas cards from the 1920s.

Merry Christmas to my Sweetheart, 1920s

Hanging Holly by Candlelight, 1920s

With best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year, 1920s

Christmas Greetings for Mother and Dad, 1920s

Clockwise from top left: Anonymous, American, 20th century. Merry Christmas to my Sweetheart, 1920s. Commercial process and ribbon. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.3). Anonymous, American, 20th century. Hanging Holly by Candlelight, 1920s. Commercial process. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.1). Anonymous, American, 20th century. With best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Bright New Year, 1920s. Commercial process. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.2). Anonymous, American, 20th century. Christmas Greetings for Mother and Dad, 1920s. Commercial process. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Diane Carol Brandt, 2013 (2013.521.4)

Department(s): Drawings and Prints

Comments

  • LILIANA VECCHIETT says:

    IT´S SO DELIGHTFUL TO WATCH THIS GREETING CARDS! WHEN I WAS YOUNG I USED TO COLLECT THEM.

    Posted: December 20, 2013, 9:11 p.m.

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About the Authors

Freyda Spira is an associate curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints.

Liz Zanis is a collections management assistant in the Department of Drawings and Prints.

About this Blog

Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.