20 Easter Cards from the Early 20th Century

Libraries are fantastic. As National Library Week draws to a close, just think of all they symbolize about human accomplishment and freedom. One of the best is the New York Public Library, and they have been big players in digitizing our amazing history. I often look at the site when doing research or looking for inspiration or just because I like to see how holidays were commemorated in decades past.

Since this weekend is a big one on the church calendar in Western civilization, I dug up a few interesting Easter cards from the early 1900s. Most of these are the front sides of postcards sent among friends and family as early as 1906, but some of the fun is in reading the backsides with a variety of personal messages still whispering to us across the century. On this list, #7 is particularly interesting.

1. Printed in Germany, this one’s titled “A Joyous Easter,” although I’m not sure those chicks are having a very joyous time with that girl holding a switch.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1910). A joyous Easter. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4991-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

2. Bunny baseball? I wouldn’t trust that Hannibal Lecter umpire rabbit.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (19–). A joyful Easter. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-715f-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

3. Special cameo by Cupid?

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1907). Easter greetings. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-716d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

In case you’re wondering how much postcards cost to send before World War I, the answer is one penny.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1907). Easter greetings. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-716e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

4. Easter bunny burlesque?

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1909). A happy Easter. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4907-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Did you notice this funny guy with his looking glass?

Ha!

5. I call this one The Godrabbit.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1904). Bonne Amitie. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-6221-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

6. Just a romantic boat ride with his beloved egg, as one does in Eastern Europe.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Wesolego alleluja! Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4609-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

7. Some old timey poetry from 1917. Imagine how frayed people’s nerves were at this time, with World War I raging on, and a deadly influenza epidemic killing millions of people.

https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4f9b-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

This particular card includes a personal note on the back from a woman named Ettie to her sister Mattie McKee in Saranac Lake, New York. Life was more fragile than ever, as is perhaps evidenced by the fact that this Easter card was sent in late February.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1917). An Easter wish. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4f9c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Reading documents like this is one of the first things that ignited my passion for history. Here’s the transcript:

Dear Sister:
I guess it is a little early for Easter cards but I have them so will send them. We are all well and hope you are. We pray for you every day that you will keep well and good. Esther has just gone up to aunt Mattie’s. They are all better. Wilbur wrote that his mother is very low and they don’t expect her to live long. Raining hard here. Write soon.

With love from Ettie.

The past does indeed come alive.

8. Another foreign card, this one of mother and child is postmarked Mannheim. Just beautiful.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Fröhliche Ostern. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-621d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

9. The classic Easter lillies. This one was sent to someone on New York’s Upper West Side in 1907, although the copyright of the image was from 1898.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Easter lillies. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-48fd-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

10. My grandma always talked about Easter chicks, and we ate a LOT of Peeps, which are gross.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1906). Best Easter wishes. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4fad-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

11. A Jewish star? This one is written to a Mrs. Flaherty from New York’s Upper East Side and wishes “A bright and happy Easter to you and Bill.”

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Easter gladness. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4f68-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

12. The prequel to Watership Down?

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (19–). Easter greetings. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4989-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

13. Greetings from the Children of the Corn and other assorted nightmares.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1906). Easter greeting. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4f5c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

I love how the sender labeled a couple of the creepy characters, presumably because she despised them 🙂

14. Extreme bunny-ing on the rapids

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1909). Easter greeting. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-498f-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

15. An Easter gnome? He might be saying “Ta-da!” after emerging from the egg, but if I know gnomes, he just broke that thing.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1907). Easter greetings. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4923-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

16. Oh, you fancy. This one’s embossed.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Easter greeting. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4fbf-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

They spelled Puerto Rico wrong on the back:

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Easter greeting. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4fc0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

17. Buono Pasqua. I just like this one.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Buona Pasqua. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-45ff-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

And check out the little mysterious touch on the back. A question mark in place of signature from “Your old friend.” Who could it be? Long-time acquaintances? Secret lovers? It’s addressed to Miss Genevieve Pool in the “Stitcher Department.”

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Buona Pasqua. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4600-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

18. Another one printed in Germany. Yo, they kinda earned some of those uber-stern stereotypes because coloring Easter eggs was always WAY more fun in my house.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1908). Easter greeting. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-48ff-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

19. This scene looks touching, but tell me how you think those birds got up there. That’s right, the mischievous rabbit hopped them on top that wall, and now it’s a prequel to Humpty Dumpty.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (190-). Fond Easter wishes. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-4f64-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

20. Not sure if the Easter Bunny is just disinterested at this point or jaded and peppering this young girl like it’s dodgeball.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (190-). Easter greetings. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-7173-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Bonus Bunnies! She is NOT pleased at his driving. Look at his shame. I’d love the backstory on this image.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. (1907). Easter greetings. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-7185-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

~*~*~

When you love history as much as I do, any peek into windows of the past like this is exciting.

  • If you ever have a chance to support historical preservation, including through digitization, please do so!
  • The old images all across the library’s collection are terrific prompts for inspiration. Just pick one, imagine who these folks are sending/receiving post cards, and write a short story about it.
  • Are you an artist? These old images are also in the public domain, so jazz up your Etsy shop and encourage historical preservation all at once.

Have a wonderful Easter. Here’s a funny video to get you in the mood.

Author: Clay Morgan

Clay Morgan is the author of Undead. Say hi on Twitter.

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