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'!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

DAY 5: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

It's Day 5 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards' and today I give you a Victorian novelty card. This is a 'trick' card of the type that was extremely popular in the 1870s and 1880s. It tapped in to the Victorians' love of ingenuity and invention.


Copyright Michelle Higgs
What can you see in this landscape? Scroll down for a clue.
















View the card sideways!








The reverse is printed with the message: 'In this landscape you can trace a jolly Father Christmas face.'

Monday, 15 December 2014

DAY 4: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

On Day 4 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards', it's time to look at a card with one of the most common designs of all: animals.

Copyright Michelle Higgs

Cats, dogs, monkeys, pigs, mice, you name it: the Victorians put all kinds of animals on their Christmas cards. Some of them were anthropomorphic with animals dressed in all kinds of Victorian finery. Others, like this one from the 1880s, featured creatures in their natural state.

Here, we have four cute puppies wishing the recipient a merry Christmas. Their heads are die-cut to give a three-dimensional appearance; this would have made the card slightly more expensive. This card is aimed squarely at the children's market. In fact, the reverse of the card is inscribed 'To Ronald, From your little cousin Guenelda with love and best wishes for a happy new year'.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

DAY 3: 12 DAYS OF VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS CARDS

For Day 3 of '12 Days of Victorian Christmas Cards', I'd like to share an early card from the 1860s featuring a girl in the snow. I don't think this girl is really dressed for such wintry weather!

Copyright Michelle Higgs

These early cards were quite small, about the size of visiting cards which the Victorians left at people's houses to say they had called. Christmas cards from the 1860s had a paper 'lace' border, usually with a scalloped edge. You'll notice that there are a limited number of colours on this card because chromolithography was still in its infancy.