On December 24, 1909 my grandfather, Donald C. Minor, received this gorgeous card, the seventh in my Postcard Advent Calendar. The background is a cardinal crimson, not fully captured by a scan. A young courier, dressed all in white, flies across the gold-colored ice, to his deliver his holiday wishes. Embossed details transform white lumps into fluffy mounds of snow and give the pond an authentic uneven surface. Publishing information is printed in the snowy bank: Painting only is copyrighted by S. Garre 1909. I turned the card over and found the “Printed in Germany” stamp. My research throughout this project has confirmed my gathering suspicion–most penny postcards were printed in Germany until the First World War. So it is not unusual to find yet another of Donald Minor’s cards to be of German origin. Yet, this card is different from my other German cards. The colors. The details. The child’s concentration. This card is special.
AS I stood by the window the bright winter’s light revealed more and more detail. There! A signature. Yes, indeed. With magnifying glass in hand I peered more intently than ever at the pond’s surface and made out the neat cursive script: Ellen H. Clapsaddle. This is a CLAPSADDLE CARD! Born in 1866 New York, Ellen Clapsaddle had been trained as an artist and was one of the few women who actually found a commercial outlet for her talent. Hired by the Wolf Brothers, a subsidiary of International Art Publishing Company, Ms. Clapsaddle had been a prolific postcard artist, with over 3000 designs patented in her name. These facts I had gleaned from several websites giving biographies and histories of the postcard industry. But the Wolf name doesn’t appear on this card. Hmmm. Intrigued I went into research mode, and googled S. Garre Wolf Brothers International Art Company. In 0.43 seconds I had an astounding clue from the December 28, 1895 edition of Publisher’s Weekly, Volume 48, p. 1245.
Wolf & Co., of Philadelphia, and Samuel Garre, the manager of the Art Lithographic Publishing Company, have organized the International Art Publishing Company, Limited, and this new company will open up for business in the new building at Nos. 3 and 5 Waverley Place, two doors from Broadway, New York, on January 1. This company will take over the Christmas card and souvenir business of Wolf & Co. and of the Art Lithographic Publishing Company, and besides these will have a number of other lines. Mr. Garre will have the management of the new company.
The business associations seem clear; and the story told on abundant websites remains grounded in facts, though their details may not reveal the whole story accurately. It does seem likely that Ellen Clapsaddle was discovered by the Wolf Brothers and then hired under the International Art Publishing Company to design postcards. This card suggests that the patent for this design is in IAPC partner Samuel Garre’s name rather than Ms. Clapsaddle’s. Thus it offers confirmation that the artist was still in the employment of the International Art Publishing Company in 1909. I, for one, am glad that these gentlemen provided opportunities for Ellen Clapsaddle to share her talent, still skating across the decades to wish us all a Merry Christmas!