Saturday, July 12, 2014
This post shows a variety of Art Nouveau postcards. The Art Nouveau period flourished from the 1880s until the First World War. Nature served as inspiration, with flowers, leaves and curving, swirling lines creating elegant designs in architecture, on furniture, artwork and in the graphic arts. Different artists interpreted the style in their individual ways, as can be seen by the first two postcards in our post. Above, we see blossoms bordering a spare design by Henri Meunier. His ladies are displayed on solid color backgrounds. Below is a lady among purple and white lilacs by Jack Abeille, who created a series of women with different types of flowers, each labeled with the flower's name.
I've had the postcard below in my collection for a long time without knowing about the artist, whose name, Victor Mignot, I found in the 1977 book by Alain Weill shown below. In the book, I learned that the artist had designed advertising posters for bicycles, and that this series of his postcards is "devoted to sport." This large format paperback book is a useful guide to a selection of Art Nouveau postcards. The postcards are shown in large color illustrations with brief descriptions of the artists.
Here is a fashionable lady with striped shoes signed by Gaston Noury, who has an easy-to-identify signature. An elaborate design with an unusually subtle palette.
A different sort of design can be seen above with a wide border at the bottom by Kempf, from a series published by Tuck.
You may be familiar with additional well-known Art Nouveau artists, such as Mucha, Kirchner and Combaz. While the popular and expensive work of these artists falls in the "investment" category, you may want to enjoy Art Nouveau designs that cost less.
You can seek out fine images without famous artists' names.. One postcard in my collection displays all the classical elements of Art Nouveau design - a beautiful woman enjoying roses in the garden. This is a divided-back flat postcard and has printed on the back: "The Ellanbee" Nouveau Art Series No. 105 Printed in Austria.
The risque postcard below shows a woman in a dramatic low-cut gown and a fanciful hat. The circle in the background has gold added - an outstanding image on a flat undivided back postcard. On the back the only indication of its origin is "Germany".
The woman with swirling garments carrying wheat above is one of a Stroefer-published series of the seasons. She is SUMMER.
This gorgeous postcard of a dark-haired woman in red has gold highlights applied throughout the design. It is a German-published postcard, postmarked 1903, with no publisher provided.
Art Nouveau designs also appear in more contemporary art. One example is the colorful poster-postcards that advertised bands performing in San Francisco at Bill Graham's venues in the 1960s/1970s.
Friday, July 4, 2014
Independence Day seems like the ideal time to look at some Uncle Sam postcards. Above, we see him with a woman in a patriotic outfit, who may be Columbia or Lady Liberty. Columbia was an early symbol of the United States who lost prominence, leaving the main responsibility for serving as a symbol of our country to Uncle Sam. There is some controversy about where the name Uncle Sam comes from - either from Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, N.Y. who supplied soldiers or from the initials U.S. that stand for United States. The city of Troy claims Uncle Sam as a hometown hero. These two postcards with black backgrounds were copyrighted in 1907 and are divided back flat designs.
It was the famed illustrator James Montgomery Flagg who gave Uncle Sam his enduring image with white hair, white goatee, and a top hat with a star-studded band. The Flagg artwork below of Uncle Sam "I WANT YOU" appeared on the cover of a July, 1916 issue of the magazine Leslie's Weekly, an image that became extremely popular throughout WWI and was used again for recruiting in WWII.
Below we see two more postcards of him in slightly different outfits - an artist's rendering and a real photo postcard of a man wearing an Uncle Sam costume.
Does Uncle Sam represent our country as a whole, our government or our military? Hard to say, since postcards can be found of him in all these roles. Below, we see him on an embossed Lounsbury postcard postmarked 1908 with golden details observing what seems to be a group of boys firing a cannon. He has written on the paper before him, By the grace of God, Free and Independent.
In the postcard below, postmarked 1910, Uncle Sam surveys the Great White Fleet that Theodore Roosevelt sent around the world, The Nations Pride of our military.
Our last postcard below is from France, where he seems to represent both U.S. military strength and American resolve. We still find Uncle Sam in contemporary images - no matter his beginning, he has proven an enduring American figure.
Happy Independence Day!
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
This post shows some examples of real photo postcards related to delivering the mail in the U.S. in the early years of the 20th century. The United States Postal Service has an informative website on the history of the service, and the facts in this post are from that site. The above unused postcard has an AZO stampbox, dating the image 1904-1918. Since the postcard has a divided back, the age is most likely to be 1908-1918. The previous owner noted Stewartstown, PA. on the back.
These fellows stand in front of a small free-standing Post Office on a divided back postcard with the same AZO stampbox. Originally, the carriers hand-delivered the mail to customers but, if the customer was not at home, the mail carrier kept the mail and re-delivered it. By 1912, new customers were required to have a mail receptacle. As late as 1914, the Postmaster General estimated mail carriers spent 30 - 60 minutes a day re-delivering mail. By 1923, all customers had to have mailboxes to receive service.
This divided back postcard from the same period shows the hefty mailbags that carriers used. Their route could be as long as 22 miles per day, carrying mailbags that weighed up to 50 pounds. Homes received mail twice a day, and businesses up to four times daily. When I was a child in the 1950s in Pennsylvania, there were twice-daily mail deliveries at the Christmas holidays - exciting! By then, mail carriers' loads had been reduced to 35 pounds, still the official weight.
Of course, before the mail can be delivered, it has to be sorted. Below is a rare interior view of a busy post office sorting room. On the back is handwritten: Seasons Greetings from your carrier.
Delivering the mail required a variety of vehicles. Below is a dog sled loaded with mailbags on a snowy winter day. U.S. Mail Leaving P.O. at Cheboygan for Pointeaux Pins and Walkers Point, Mich. Copyright 1910 by J.R. Johnson is printed on the front. This is an unused divided back real photo postcard with an AZO stampbox.
By 1897, there were 44 Rural Free Delivery routes in the U.S., and it became a national service in the summer of 1902. Customers out in the countryside had sent over 10,000 petitions requesting the service in the years before it was available nationally, so that they didn't have to drive miles to pick up their mail. Below is a divided back unused postcard with an AZO stampbox showing a horse-drawn Rural Free Delivery wagon. The growth of Rural Free Delivery was partially dependent on the availability of decent roads...the dirt road in this image looks rather primitive.
Rural Free Delivery was abbreviated R.F.D. on some wagons, as the one below. The mailman is handing letters to several ladies and they are surrounded by an enthusiastic group. Don't miss the boys on the left, so delighted to have their picture taken. This real photo postcard is postmarked 1909 from Warren, Ohio.
In 1906, the word FREE was dropped from the service, as it was understood.
Here is a mailman in his horse-drawn Rural Delivery wagon putting mail in a mailbox. In 1901, the Postal Service asked manufacturers to create a standardized metal mailbox to replace the assortment of boxes, pails, and cans previously put out by rural customers. The mailboxes were to be attached to poles at a height that would allow the mail carrier to put in the mail without getting out of the wagon. It wasn't until 1929 that mail carriers were almost all driving motor vehicles.
We close with a portrait of five Marion, Michigan Rural Free Delivery Carriers in uniform. The Post Office Department declared that, "as a class there are no more faithful employees in the Government service."
This brings us to the famous inscription on the New York city James Farley Post Office: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Since I conduct my eBay business by mail, I am always grateful for the essential service the USPS provides. And I am grateful that we still have Saturday delivery!
PRICE ESTIMATES: Real photo postcards with a mail theme have become highly collectable and bidding can be very competitive. I recently heard a dealer at a postcard show say, "In the old days, you couldn't GIVE real photo postcards away," making me wish (again) for a time travel machine. Postcards like the ones shown in this post will cost about $35 - $60 depending on quality and rarity. This estimate is for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and it is only an estimate.