Tuesday, 23 December 2014

DAY 12 OF '12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS'

On the final day of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards', I'd like to share a card from the 1860s featuring a New Year message. Many Victorian cards looked ahead to the New Year.

Copyright Michelle Higgs
Cards from the 1860s always had a paper 'lace' border like this. In this card, you can see a scene from Dr Yule's Popular Lectures for the Young with a Christmas pudding for the globe.  I'm not sure what the diagram on the blackboard is referring to!

I hope you've enjoyed looking at these cards as much as I've enjoyed selecting them. This is my last blog of the year so I'd like to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Monday, 22 December 2014

DAY 11: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

On Day 11 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards', I have a humorous card from the 1870s to share. It pokes fun at the skill and balance required to ride a penny farthing safely:

Copyright Michelle Higgs
The cyclist, complete with top hat and newspaper, is about to fall into the canal. I love the expression on his face - and his whiskers!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

DAY 10: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

It's Day 10 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards' and I have a real treat for you today. Continuing with the animals and birds theme, here is a wonderful card from the 1880s:

Copyright Michelle Higgs
It features two beautiful owls flying in the moonlight while wearing top hats. One of them has an intriguing key around its neck.

The reason may be found in a second card which makes up the pair:

Copyright Michelle Higgs
I think the owls in top hats are possibly a bridegroom and his best man, and that the second card shows the bride owl in her bonnet with her new husband at her side. How very romantic!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

DAY 9: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

On Day 9 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards', I give you mice pulling a cracker!

Copyright Michelle Higgs
Or is it a sweet? I can't tell but it's another typically Victorian subject for a Christmas card featuring cute animals.

Having looked at the picture again, the tails of the mice look suspiciously long. Maybe they are rats, not mice, and are not so cute after all! Unless, of course, they are friendly pet rats...

Friday, 19 December 2014

DAY 8: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

Today is Day 8 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards'. I'm going to share a slightly different image of Father Christmas to the one from Day 1 which was based on the more scary pagan figure.

Copyright Michelle Higgs
In this card, Father Christmas is wearing a brown cloak and he has become more benign, similar to the red-jacketed gift-giving Father Christmas of today. The 1880s was the period in which there was a cross-over between the pagan figure of Father Christmas and the more friendly Santa Claus.

This is not a standard Christmas card; the reverse reveals it is, in fact, a trade card for the toy shop E. J. Wright's in Clapham High Street. The verse reads:

'Little Bo-peep had lost her sheep,
They left their tails behind them;
But come to the sights at E. J. Wright's,
And you'll be sure to find them.
And if you don't see those lambkins wee,
Then turn your faces beaming,
And open your eyes in wild surprise
At toys beyond your dreaming.

Horses are there beyond compare,
And pussy-cats are waiting, -
Such delights at E. J. Wright's!
And bon-bons fascinating,
Chocolate creams, and fruit that gleams
All frosted and beguiling, -
Tell Mother dear, she'll find them here
Where Santa Claus is smiling.'

Victorian customers had to be wary of the 'fruit that gleams all frosted and beguiling' because these types of sweets and bon-bons were coloured with poisons such as chromate of lead and red sulphuret of mercury (vermilion). They were highly toxic and could be deadly!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

DAY 7: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

On Day 7 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards', I offer another Victorian 'trick' type card. This time, it's a shadow card from the 1880s:

Copyright Michelle Higgs
These cards were supposed to draw parallels between animal and human characters, for instance, a picture of a duck paired with the shadow of a physicist (a quack); and a goat paired with an old gallant's shadow.

In this card, the shadow of the dog is shown in silhouette to highlight the similar facial attributes of an elderly man in a policeman's helmet.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

DAY 6: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

Amazingly, it's already Day 6 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards' which means we're halfway through. Today, I'd like to share a card featuring a character with a long history: Mr Punch.

Copyright Michelle Higgs

Mr Punch has his origins in the Italian clown Pulcinella. He is first recorded in 1662 when Samuel Pepys saw him featured in a puppet show as part of Charles II's wedding festivities.

Victorian theatregoers would have enjoyed shows with Mr Punch including a live dog called Toby who entertained the audience with tricks.

In this card, Mr Punch and his dog Toby are running away with the Christmas pudding: 'If I had specially ordered it it could scarcely be better.' This is 'Mr Punch's Favourite Receipt for a Christmas Pudding'!