Father Time appears on many antique New Year postcards, sometimes with wings and sometimes not. He's frequently accompanied by Baby New Year. The concept of Father Time is an old one, dating back to Chronos, the Greek god of time. He is often shown carrying some symbol of the endless passing of time – a scythe, an hourglass or a clock may appear in the design. When he’s representing the old year he appears as an old man with a beard and sometimes a cane or staff. His job is to pass the duties of time to the infant New Year. Since Father Time represents the old year, we could imagine that the Baby New Year was always a boy. Sometime he is, and sometimes the New Year is represented as a baby girl (see the post on artist Frances Brundage for examples). In the first illustration, a postcard from Tuck publishers, an Angel representing the flowering of the New Year waves good-bye to Father Time as he gets in a small boat to depart.
Sometimes Father Time is alone, guiding in the new year as shown in the image here - this is a postcard from an unusual series which shows the new year arriving on a train, a steamship, a dirigible and other vehicles. This series celebrates the transporation advances of the turn-of-the-century. The clock is frosted with snow, hanging on a tree, set to the midnight new year hour.
Occasionally Father Time is shown in other styles, as in these two fine designs from John Winsch publishers of Samuel Schmucker artwork, showing the old man with some very classy ladies. Because Samuel Schmucker's artwork is so sophisticated and subtle, we get a new vision of Father Time as a sexy old gentleman in these magnificent images. The clock provides a big round background element - Schmucker designs often use a circle (sun, moon, or clock as here) in the background behind his glamorous ladies.
Here he meets Baby New Year at the train station, helping him on to the New Year train. This Father Time has angel wings but Baby New Year doesn't, furthering the confusion about whether they have Heavenly or only Mythological qualities. In the next image, Father Time signs in a young New Year officially. The little boy is not an infant - he has his January 1st suitcase with him. Note the hourglass embellishments at the top of the right-side illustration, the old-fashioned stick telephone and the midnight clock on the wall. These two illustrations add 'modern' imagery to these turn-of-the-century greetings.
Father Time is a basic figure in an antique holiday collection. Whether he appears to be whimsical, serious or sensual, he represents the wisdom that only experience can provide.
We close with an image of Baby New Year alone, perched on a cloud above planet Earth, announcing the coming of the New Year by another wonderful new-fangled device - the telephone.
Price Estimates: Prices for Father Time and Baby New Year postcards vary widely. Tuck published lots of images of the famous duo, and they must have been popular as there are so many of them still available to collectors. The price on these pretty pastel cards is very reasonable - watchful bidding will acquire them for about $5. Also, Baby New Year on the telephone can be acquired at a similar price. The series with Father Time welcoming in the New Year on various vehicles is desirable and much harder to find. Expect to pay $12 - $25 each, depending on which vehicle is in the design - the airplane and dirigible, for instance, are usually higher than the train. The other cards we have included in this post will generally cost between $12 - $15, except for the Samuel Schmucker designs which range from $40 - $100 each. These are current estimates for postcards in excellent condition, and they are only estimates.