We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Antique BABIES & STORKS Birth Announcement Postcards

It seems obvious, looking at turn-of-the-century birth announcements, that everyone agreed babies were brought by the stork.  Although there are a rare few announcements without the stork, the great majority include a big white bird with a long beak and long legs.  The theme may be witty, amusing or simply happy, but there's almost always a delivery-bird in the celebratory design.  In this post, we look at a variety of birth announcements, embossed and flat, from 1901-1918. 

We begin with a popular design from Paul Finkenrath Berlin (PFB) with charming artwork by Marie Flatscher.  If you like this card, you may want to see more of artist Flatscher's work in another post where we focused exclusively on her designs.  Her snow white storks are fluffy and friendly - you can almost see a smile on their faces - and her babies are wonderfully individual, each one with its own personality.  Rich embossing and strong colors add to the desirability of this series.    Below is another PFB design, also embossed, showing a more exotic image of a stork wearing a dark red fez and a baby in a bib riding the stork, little riding crop in hand.

 Other cards in this series also show the stork wearing a ruffled bonnet and a Russian-style scarf or babushka, giving rise to the question of whether the stork is male, female, or either one depending on the artist's fancy.

Below are three different series, each with an Asian-influenced style.  The one with the lady waving good-bye to the stork is the last in a series that shows the stork searching for a baby in a marsh, finding the right baby, taking him to his parents, etc. with each card marking a step in the journey.  There are 6 cards, each with a deep red sun in a dramatic sky. These flat cards date from the early undivided back era, and were published by Adolph Selige in St. Louis, Missouri.

The card on the right has elements that could have come right off a Japanese kimono - round swirly clouds that look embroidered, flat areas of strong color and variations in size that make the stork very large and the baby thin and small, balancing in a basket.
The entire design gives us a flavor of cool Asian elegance with golden edges around each color on this dramatic flat card.  It is marked German-American Novelty Art Series No. 1088 with a divided back.

Here is an elegant series with the captions in German, where each card has a limited color palette in the blue-green range, with highlights of black, red and white.  It, too, shows Asian influence in the design, which is spare and dramatic.  These early undivided back birth announcements have light embossing, and a signature at the bottom that is either Asian or initials in a design that's made to look Asian.  Again, the series depicts the stops the stork makes when preparing to deliver a baby, including one titled Rast, where the baby is in a big twiggy nest atop a tiled roof, guarded by the standing stork, as though all babies had to go through the Netherlands on the way to their final destination

Now for a very different postcard, signed with the artist's entwined initials at lower left.  It's a good example of a sub-type of birth announcement where the design left a special space for the new parents to enter the baby's vital statistics.  This one is especially vibrant with strong colors and the Man in the Moon, always a favored turn-of-the-century motif, included in the image.   Furthering the theory that babies develop in marshland, we have a wonderful design below of a frog nursing babies to delivery-standards, and offering them to the stork.

We cannot imagine the circumstances in which this card, where the stork says the parents are not quite ready yet, would be sent...perhaps when a couple first showed pregnancy but the delivery date was some months in the future or maybe this is a card from eager-to-be-grandparents to the young couple as a hint that they should start building their family.  All the same, it's an unusual design where the stork is joined by another helper...in this case, the baby-bottle-wielding frog.

This post concludes with some examples of birth announcements without a stork in the design.This business-like Mammy figure holds up a baby in a little blanket, hanging from a hook-scale to tell how much the baby weighs.  It will appeal to collectors who like birth announcements and also collectors of Black Americana.  It's a flat card, with an early undivided back. No publisher is given front or back; it's harder to find than many birth announcements.  The last postcard in this post shows Baby arriving in a completely modern way - by a little airship marked Baby Land Air-Line that combines a dirigible with a little red motorized seat below equipped with a baby bottle.  Design copyrighted 1906 by Charles Rose, a divided back flat postcard signed by the artist, Dwig.

 Price Estimates:  Birth announcements are fun to collect and are not too expensive - a wide variety may be had for $5 or $6 each.  Those that offer something special - for instance, publishing by the popular and top-quality PFB - may cost twice or even three times as much.  Estimates are for cards in excellent condition, and are only estimates.

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