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

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Samuel Schmucker Detroit Publishing Postcards

In this Samuel Schmucker post, we look at some of the series the artist produced that were published by Detroit Publishing.  These are all flat cards with superior artwork, many with gold added.  Because some were originally released as early undivided back postcards that only allowed the address on the back, there is white space on the front of the card for the sender's written message.  These can sometimes also be found with blank backs, as non-postcards.  Above is one from the series where Schmucker has paired beautiful women with ocean creatures - there is one in this series that has a lady with a lobster.  The card above is an unused divided back with an early design on the front.  You can just barely see the Detroit Publisher emblem in the shape of an artist's palette at lower right, printed in a pale grey.   The copyright date is 1907.

 This lady with fishes is printed on a blank-back card, and like the opening image has splashes of gold lighting up the design.

The Schmucker women with wings like butterflies and dragonflies are another stunning fantasy series published by Detroit.  Like the ocean women, these have a pale Detroit Publishing emblem at lower right.  They also have titles in the same pale grey print at lower left.  This lady with blue wings is captioned Fragility.

Here we have another flying woman, this time with classic butterfly wings.  Her caption is Sensibility.  Below we show postcards from the Gnome series - they also have captions printed in very faint lettering.   

The Gnome riding the hummingbird has a two line caption:  Home is too stupid, dull and dead."I'll see the world," a bold Gnome said.     The Gnome shown with a bumblebee has a caption that reads:    But scarce his journey had begun When he must needs dismount and run. 
Both the Gnome cards shown have blank backs, the Detroit emblem on the bottom right, and gold details added to the fanciful designs.  A popular series of the time was Schmucker's CHILDHOOD DAYS

This was a set of six cards which came in an envelope printed with the saying, Ah! What would the world be to us if the children were no more?  These postcards have divided backs and each carried a caption that described a childhood moment.    
The last fantasy series I have to share in this post puts glamorous and slightly risque ladies together with cocktail glasses.  The artwork in this series does not seem as accomplished or confident as the artwork in the series described earlier, but Schmucker's touch can be seen easily in the wry humor of the images.  All these series are fun to collect and, though expensive, will only be worth that much more if you are collecting as an investment for the future. 

Price Estimates:  The postcards shown in this post are not readily available - you will have to search them out at shows and auctions.  Expect to pay between $100 - $350 each for them in EXCELLENT condition, although you may find them for slightly less, which would be a true bargain.  These prices are only estimates.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Off Color SANTA CLAUS Postcards

In this post, off-color refers to the delightful variety of Santa Claus postcards in which old St. Nick is NOT wearing red - instead, he appears in purple, blue, green, brown, and occasionally white or black clothing.  These turn-of-the-century postcards represent Santa in a variety of settings, with heavenly helpers and sometimes elaborate environments.  What makes them extra special is the color of Santa Claus's outfit.  Generally harder-to-find and more expensive than red-suit Santa scenes, these are fun additions to any holiday collection.  Above we have a dark blue Santa Claus with an Angel, carrying toys and a holiday evergreen tree thru a snowy forest.  This card is nicely embossed with silver swirls against a purple marbleized background forming a 'frame' for the central image.  The back is divided; there is no publisher given.

   This green Santa is having a meeting with some excited children on an early undivided back postcard.  All their clothing is decorated with tiny gold designs, and the rest of the image has gold details added, too...nice embossing.  Don't miss the gold shooting star in the sky above Santa's head.  No publisher indicated.

The Santa on the right is from one of my favorite series - the artwork is especially fine, the colors very vivid and Santa has the gentle expression of someone we would like and welcome into our homes.  These designs were printed on soft paper, however, and often have significant edge and corner wear.  Nice embossing and lots of bright gold details add to this series' charm.  This is a divided back postcard that says Printed in Germany on the back, but that does not state the publisher.
The Santa in a deep chocolate brown outfit carries a big sack down a snowy street in town, past an impressive gate.  Santa is rarely shown in such affluent surroundings; usually we find him in the woods or with a town in the distance, so this Santa is a bit unusual in that regard.

The family's Christmas tree is outside and has the stand nailed to the bottom, and golden ornaments...perhaps this is Santa's belated trip to homes he missed on the official Christmas eve run...rich embossing and lots of gold details.  A divided back postcard without a publisher's name or logo.

On the right is a popular blue Santa published by Tuck, showing him holding open an enormous bag of toys.  This is an early undivided back, so the sender signed on the front.  It has light embossing.  It must have been a very popular card, since there are still many of them to be found.

On the left, we see Santa in a "white" robe, which is actually a cream or beige color.  The children with him have metallics added to their clothing, so that gives this embossed Christmas postcard very colorful accents. The back is divided, and it has Postkarte-Carte Postale with the word postcard then printed in many languages.  Again, no specific publisher is given. 

The Santa Claus designs above show him in dark green outfits - in one he carries a great big red umbrella to protect him from the falling snow, and in the other he stops to read directions beneath a street lamp.  His little helper looks as if she is practicing patience...oh, grown-ups can be tiresome!

Here are two postcards that show reverse images of the same Santa Claus, with a deep turquoise coat in one and a maroon coat in the other.  This may be an example of the common habit of one publisher stealing another publisher's artwork, and creating a slightly different - and usually cheaper - version.  Our blue Santa has a more elaborate background with a soft sunrise behind clouds and a church on a snowy hilltop.  The second Santa is placed on a textured background without artwork.  While both the divided backs say Made in Germany, neither names a publisher, so it's difficult to say what created two cards so alike, yet not the same.

Another blue Santa shows him with an entire town scene in the background.  His pockets, as well as his sack, are filled with toys.  Light embossing on a divided back postcard marked only Printed in Germany.  Below we see a blue Santa in a very unusual scene - he is on skis and going down a steep incline.  Nice embossing, Printed in Germany, and the Postkarte-Carte Postale in many languages on a divided back.   
We finish this post with a close-up of a purple Santa carrying a basket of Christmas treats and toys and a sprig of holly.  He is embossed, with gold accents in the banner behind him and the bars on either side of his image...this is a divided back postcard, marked on the back with a B in a diamond, P.C. 285.

Price Estimates:  I have always liked Santa Claus postcards showing him in off-color outfits, so I have been collecting them for many years.  I paid about $10 - $25 for these postcards in my own collection.  Currently, you may expect to pay about $15 - $55, with the Tuck blue Santa the easiest to find and most reasonably priced of any images shown in this post.  Top prices will be asked for Santa in unusual designs, like the skiing Santa, and for cards in excellent condition.  Remember, these are only estimates

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Samuel Schmucker Postcards for All Seasons

Samuel Schmucker is one of the most collectable artists on the discriminating deltiologist's
wish list.  His artwork is spectacular and sometimes has a macabre touch, like the lady above selecting heart-shaped treats from a candy box with tweezers, in front of a big spider web background.  I begin with this Valentine image because it was the first Samuel Schmucker postcard I ever acquired, back in the 1970s.  I've been a devoted fan ever since.  This post will show a selection of holiday postcards by Samuel Schmucker, all embossed and all published by John Winsch.  Many have gold added. I have focused in on the central images on these postcards rather than showing the full cards so you can see Schmucker's style.  He produced some sweet holiday postcard designs for Tuck with children on flat cards - those have a spare quality to the drawings.  These Winsch images are much more elaborate and intricate.  Schmucker rarely signed his artwork.  When he did, he used the initials SLS written quite small.  Your best method of collecting genuine Samuel Schmucker postcards will be to acquaint yourself with his style and publishers. 

Here are two more pretty Valentine images - both of beautiful blonde women.  On each, our lovely lady is surrounded by hearts, in a sunburst design and in a rainfall.  On both, there is a bright gold background - the postcard on the left has a circular gold panel behind the woman's head.  Schmucker often used a circular design behind the main figure. 

These cards also showcase the fancy and colorful lettering Winsch used on many postcard designs.

There are quite a few Schmucker images for Thanksgiving, and here again is a large gold circle - this time we can imagine it's a rising or setting sun - creating a special background element for his attractive early American woman. 

Some of Schmucker's Thanksgiving designs feature Native American women in harvest settings, also published by John Winsch with rich embossing and strong colors.

Below are some of Schmucker's Christmas holiday designs.  The trademark pretty woman is the central element in each postcard.

The Santa Claus postcard shown here features glass beads applied to the woman's hair - these look ordinary in daylight, but shine and twinkle in a darkened room under artificial light.  Schmucker created a few odd Santa images, including one where a pretty lady is about to don a Santa Mask, and the one above with what appears to be a Peeping Santa. 

The two ladies above Santa Claus, outside on a snowy day, both have the Schmucker circle made of a holiday wreath that 'frames' the background view.  In one case, the wreath is made of holly and in the snowman card the wreath is made of misteltoe.  The gold backgrounds are embossed with fancy textures. 

Here we have a Christmas lady in a bright poinsettia patterned gown with a sunburst-style circle behind her made of poinsettia petals. This holiday series of full-length women in long gowns also features rich embossing and lavish applications of texturned gold.

Some Schmucker postcards can be hard to identify; his popularity also makes wishful dealers label postcards with his name that aren't his work.  Here is an example of an Easter fantasy postcard with faces in white blossoms that is often described as a Schmucker.  On the left you can see Schmucker's superior artwork, with elegance and subtlety.  Once the cards are side-by-side, it's easy to tell the difference.  However, the overall design and the 'splashes' of gold ink make us think that the publisher of the white blossom card was trying to cash in on Samuel Schmucker's popularity.  Not only is the artwork in the white blossom card inferior to the genuine article, its price is about $10 compared to $50 - $75 for the genuine Schmucker postcard.  You can protect yourself by knowing your artist's style.

In a separate post, we will focus on the fantasy designs Samuel Schmucker produced for Detroit publishing.  Printed on flat cards with gold added, they are truly exquisite.

Price Estimates:  The cards shown in this post usually cost between $45 - $75 depending on where you find them.   Some of the Thanksgiving and Christmas designs are more plentiful and may cost as little as $20 if you watch the auctions carefully.   We also have a post in this blog featuring Samuel Schmucker New Year designs which are rarer and more expensive.  Because they were printed in Series of 4 cards (rather than the usual 6 or 10), the New Year postcards cost more originally and are therefore harder to find.  These prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition and they are only estimates. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Linen DINER Advertising Postcards 1930-1950

This post focuses on one of the most popular current linen postcard themes: diners.  In our opinion, a true diner is a stand-alone building with the streamlined look of  a retired railroad dining car.  Wikipedia has some insight into this architectural style of classic diners:

Like a mobile home, the original style diner is narrow and elongated and allows roadway transportation. In the case of the diner, this is a carry-over from the first "true" diners ever built, which were never intended to remain stationary. The original diners (as opposed to "dining wagons") were actual dining cars on railways. When a dining car was no longer fit for service, it was often employed as a cheap restaurant at a (stationary) location near a train station or along the side of the railroad at some other location. 
Later, tradition—along with equipment designed to build railcars—kept this size and shape. In this original floorplan, a service counter dominates the interior, with a preparation area against the back wall and floor-mounted stools for the customers in front. Larger models may have a row of booths against the front wall and at the ends. The decor varied over time. Diners of the 1920s–1940s feature Art Deco or Streamline Moderne elements or copy the appearance of rail dining cars (though very few are, in fact, refurbished rail cars). They featured porcelain enamel exteriors, some with the name written on the front, others with bands of enamel, others in flutes. Many had a "barrel vault" roofline. Tile floors were common. Diners of the 1950s tended to use stainless steel panels, porcelain enamel, glass blocks, terrazzo floors, Formica and neon sign trim.

The Wikipedia article describes how, over time, diners left the pre-fab style and began to resemble more traditional restaurants with wallpaper, multiple dining rooms and more conventional exterior architecture.  We acknowledge our own purist attitude toward these collectible linen postcards  -  we don't accept that the illustration is of a diner unless it specifically says DINER on the postcard.  To our way of thinking, a cafe is not a diner, nor is a restaurant.  Certainly not a hotel dining room!  Others may differ.  We only collect the most classic images of American diners and, for the sake of your investment, we recommend you do the same.  

Our personal favorites include automobiles of the time - the vintage cars add a touch of dated style and help identify the era of the diner's popularity.  These linen postcards are often unused; they may have advertising on the back. 

Here is a diner without the stainless steel dining car exterior, but it clearly states on the sign that this is a DINER.

This postcard of the Richmond Belle Diner shows a classic streamlined building with an addition on the back, an old woody station wagon parked in front, and a fantastic sign.

Above is another linen diner postcard that shows a stucco exterior with striped awnings, a gas station (another popular collectible in the linen postcards department) and an interior image with a counter and tables with chairs instead of booths.

  This Florida diner postcard shows an in-between diner design of a long, narrow building with stucco exterior.  Panels of glass brick let in plenty of light and louvered windows let in a breeze. Don't miss the round windows that add a nautical motif to the building. In this multi-view the motel is also shown, as is their boat dock. 

There are also interior views of diners that give us a sense of how eating at a diner felt during a busy time of day:

Above is an interior view of a Willow Grove PA diner with the booths and counter described earlier.  Diners are casual environments, conducive to meeting friends and sharing basic, inexpensive food we love - burgers, milkshakes, pie and coffee.  Think of how often a diner appears in a movie or television show - there's an inner-city diner in BONES, for instance, where conversations often take place among the characters over plates of French fries.  There are commercials where a diner counter is used to give the same atmosphere - the diner setting is an evocative one.

More from Wikipedia: 
Diners almost invariably serve American food such as hamburgers, french fries, club sandwiches, and so on. Much of the food is grilled, as early diners were based around a grill. There is often an emphasis on breakfast foods such as eggs (including omelettes), waffles, pancakes, and French toast. Some diners serve these "breakfast foods" all day long. Many diners have transparent display cases in or behind the counter for the desserts. It is common with new diners to have the desserts displayed in rotating pie cases.  Diners frequently stay open 24 hours a day, especially in cities, making them an essential part of urban culture, alongside bars and nightclubs; these two segments of nighttime urban culture often find themselves intertwined, as many diners get a good deal of late-night business from persons departing drinking establishments. Many diners were historically placed near factories which operated 24 hours a day, with night shift workers providing a key part of the customer base.

There was a classic 24-hour diner near my college dorm in Philadelphia.  One night my roommate, who was wakeful and depressed, went down to the diner.  There she met an old sailor who, at 3 am over coffee and cigarettes, proposed marriage.  She declined, but told me it made her feel much better.

Price Estimates:   Diner postcards are available in both linen and chrome varieties.  Linens are older and more valuable.  Price is also determined by the rarity of the postcard.  The Richmond Belle postcard, for instance, is often available and not too expensive.  Show dealers tend to price diner linens high - in the $40 - $75 range.  It's more advantageous to keep a close watch on auctions, or to search flea markets for diner linens.  The postcards shown here cost between $12 - 35.   These estimates are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The EASTLAND Disaster 1915 Chicago

This post covers The Eastland Disaster in postcards from 1915.  Above is a real photo postcard (RPPC) showing the upturned ship in the Chicago River.  All the other postcards in this description are printed.  They are shown in the order in which the incident occurred.  First, here is a description of the disaster from the internet:

On 24 July 1915, the Eastland and two other Great Lakes passenger steamers, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petoskey, were chartered to take employees from Western Electric Company's Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois, to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. This was a major event in the lives of the workers, many of whom could not take holidays....

On the fateful morning, passengers began boarding the Eastland on the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets around 6.30 a.m., and by 7:10, the ship had reached its capacity of 2752 passengers. The ship was packed, with many passengers standing on the open upper decks, and began to list slightly to the port side (away from the wharf). The crew attempted to stabilize the ship by admitting water to its ballast tanks, but to little avail. Sometime in the next 15 minutes, perhaps owing to a passing canoe race on the river side of the ship, a number of passengers rushed to the port side, and at 7:28, the Eastland lurched sharply to port and then rolled completely onto its side, coming to rest on the river bottom, which was only 20 feet below the surface. Many other passengers had already moved below decks on this relatively cool and damp morning to warm up before the departure. Consequently, hundreds were trapped inside by the water and the sudden rollover; others were crushed by heavy furniture, including pianos, bookcases, and tables. Although the ship was only 20 feet from the wharf, and in spite of the quick response by the crew of a nearby vessel, the Kenosha, which came alongside the hull to allow those stranded on the capsized vessel to leap to safety, a total of 841 passengers and four crew members died in the disaster. Many were young women and children. 

Many of the bodies were taken to a cold storage warehouse in the vicinity, which has since been transformed into Harpo Studios, the sound stage for The Oprah Winfrey Show.

This is a postcard showing the Eastland before the disaster.

Here are two postcards showing the ship having rolled.  You will see that the top postcard is a printed version of the real photo postcard that begins this post; it may have been taken from the RPPC postcard or these printed views may have been made from newspaper photographers' images at the time.


There are several picture postcards of bodies being removed from the hull.

Note that the faces of the dead have been blanked out, perhaps out of sensitivity or perhaps to prevent complaints from bereaved family members of the deceased.

Some of the postcards have captions; others seem self-explanatory.  Here, bodies are laid out awaiting identification.

In the last image, we see a memorial service for those who were lost in the disaster.

Price Estimates:  Disasters were popular collectible postcard images in the early 1900s - dramatic and moving -  there are some disasters that were covered in great detail, like the San Francisco Quake and Fire, and others that have few preserved postcard images.  The more images there are, of course, the less expensive they are.  So a comprehensive album of San Francisco Quake and Fire postcards can be assembled relatively cheaply, especially if purchased in lots (expect to pay $3 - $10 per postcard).  The Eastland Disaster has limited images - they are more expensive (up to $25 each).  Local photographers created real photo postcards of nearby  tornado damage, fires, floods and railroad wrecks to sell to the local residents, who sent the postcards to their friends.  They are a  sub-set of real photo postcards and quite interesting to collect.  The main problem is that they often lack captions.  Because the residents of the town knew about their local disaster, they apparently didn't think labeling the location was important.  Now, 100 years later, we can find dramatic images that are 'unidentified'.  A location (which can be supplied by a caption, a postmark, or a message the sender has written on the card) adds significantly to the value of the postcard. Real photo postcards of identified disasters will cost more than printed postcards.   Prices are for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.