Christmas in Art Deco
The first two letters to grab my attention were art deco Christmas cards - one mailed in December 1932 and the other in December 1933 according to the postmarks. Designed on parchment paper, both cards have illustrations of people dressed in formal 19th Century fashion enjoying the holiday season. Characteristic of art deco design, one envelope is lined with a colorful flourish pattern painted in green, blue, black, and white and accented with metallic gold paint - it’s really beautiful.
To wish you Christmas happiness
And all the Season’s cheer
With everything that’s best in life
Throughout the coming year!
Stating the obvious here, the drawings are of affluent whites - a couple holding gifts and a family out visiting. Race relations during the 1930s / Great Depression had black Americans faring worse than any other group in the country - higher unemployment rates, housing and employment discrimination, rampant segregation, lynchings. Knowing this, I have to wonder what she, and many other black Americans, may have felt or thought when buying or opening cards like these. But these depictions were the norm, so maybe they just focused in on who sent the card and the interior note and less on the artwork.
To my own Ruth
Not sure who Dinny was, but he was claiming his Ruth (Ha!). A few DC history facts from this find:
The cards were mailed to “2403 H Street NW, City” (Washington, DC) which was in the Foggy Bottom area of DC. This house would be located on George Washington University’s campus where a high-rise apartment building (or dorm) now stands.
One of the cards was mailed from a house located at “1904-16th N.W.” This house was built in 1876 and is still standing.
It cost 3 cents to mail a letter in 1932.
If you’re a lover/collector of this type of ephemera, there are a ton of Pinterest boards devoted to art deco greeting cards and you can even find single cards this age for sale if you want to add some to your collection.