Really Old Greeting Cards Are Cool

Posted In: Behind the Scenes, Collections, State Library Resource Center
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By Michael Johnson

Wishing you a Happy Christmas card from 1888, with violets and real feathers Let’s be honest, some of the things we do at work are done because we’re deeply interested in the topic and some things are just done. We’ve got work to do, and not everything can always be absolutely fascinating, right?

But then that’s where surprises come in, when something sparks an interest you didn’t expect, and the "kinda boring" becomes the "kinda interesting".

We’ve got 71,000, yes, thousand, greeting cards in Special Collections. They’ve been donated over the years by lots of people and the collection just kept growing and growing. We’ve had a bit of interest in them lately, so I thought I’d scan a few and spruce up the Finding Aid and let people actually see what some of them look like.

Click any image to see it larger.

Easter Card with Sparrow and Egg (detail) I guess there was something about seeing them close up, and really looking at them, that surprised me, thinking of how much detail and craft went into the handmade cards, and how the hand-colored woodcuts still have vibrancy even though they were made so long ago.

Some of the cards are just plain strange. Why is there an egg strapped to the back of that bird? Did the bunny take the day off? Or is it some sort of jetpack?

It’s also interesting to see what was actually on a Christmas card back in the late 1800s. Who would have thought that the Yule log was really big back then? I’m not sure I really know what one is, other than something people are dragging all around on these cards. (I’m sure someone will fill me in.) Yule Log (detail from an early 1900s greeting card)

There are 71,000 of these. Not just Easter and Christmas, but Mothers Day, Weddings, you name it. I’m sure there are some more cool things to discover so come on in and take a look.

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