Did you send out your New Year’s cards yet?

new year card first imageIt’s no wonder Louis Prang is considered the “Father of the American Christmas Card.” During the height of chromolithography in the 1860s, 70s, and 80s, Prang’s firm in Boston introduced the concept of the Christmas card to America and produced over 5 million greeting cards per year. While Prang’s Christmas cards are displayed often, in honor of New Year’s Day let’s look at some of the fun New Year’s cards from the Society’s collections.

The AAS has a sizable collection of Prang archive material. There are more than twenty books of salesman’s samples used by the firm to sell greeting cards, trading cards, and small prints. These albums are great because they preserve the color and have the prices and options for each card. Cards were usually sold by the dozen, and embellishments like silk fringe, a folded greeting card, and mica flecks were sold at an additional cost. An entire volume of salesman’s samples from 1882 has been digitized and is available here.


Comical cards were very popular and common in these sets. The set above shows happy cats engaged in singing with a dog, enjoying a feast of a poor mouse, meowing on a rooftop, and kittens being rocked to sleep by their mother. Each has a humorous verse wishing happiness in the New Year.

The “mews”ic moves without a “paws”
In quite “dog” matic measure.
I only add a friendly “claws”:
“May this card bring you pleasure.”

Another comical set shows frogs and ducks (who knew they didn’t get along!) acting peacefully in one scene, and at each others’ throats in the next. The top right scene reads

“Come, birdie, come with me”
though frogs may croak,
and geese may hiss.
Let pleasure reign on days like this.

467233_0067_frogsJapanese art and design were very popular during the last decades of the nineteenth century in Boston. The Peabody Museum in Salem had been amassing Japanese items since the early 1800s. In the 1870s, Edward Sylvester Morse left Boston to travel to Japan, and collected Japanese artifacts and shipped them back to Boston, furthering the city’s affection for Japanese art. Prang depicts beautiful Asian-inspired designs in this set of New Year’s cards with vases, silks, fans, and flowers. This set was also used for Christmas cards, as Prang often used the same designs for different holidays.

467233_0072 japanese

New Year’s Day isn’t celebrated nearly as much as it was in the nineteenth century. But wouldn’t you like to receive one of these fun, colorful New Year’s cards in the mail tomorrow?

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Associate Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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