My Fair Lady Wishes You A Happy Christmas!

Sent with no message, December 22, 1909

This fair lady sends greetings for a Happy Christmas. Seven year old Donald C. Minor received this card at Christmastime 1909, and though the painting is not signed, I believe it to be another Ellen H. Clapsaddle card.  Why?

  1. An embossed frame of gold holds the portrait of a sweet young lady, hair swept stylishly up and under a hat bedecked with fresh roses.  A ruffled collar frames a face full of youthful innocence.  Such a joyful illustration of Victorian youth is characteristic of Ellen H. Clapsaddle’s work.
  2. Turning the card over, I discovered this:
  3. The International Art Publishing Company was established in 1895, merging companies formerly run by Messrs. Wolf and Samuel Garre.  Their most prolific artist was Ellen H. Clapsaddle, as I discovered while researching Skating to Greet YOU!, a card also printed in 1909.

Until a collector convinces me otherwise, I stand on my judgement: My Fair Lady is a Clapsaddle original.  Happy Christmas!

A Joyous Christmastide – Christmas in Postcards

Printed in Germany

Dear Cousin

Dear Cousin, We arrived home safe and it has been winter ever since.  Old Santa is coming to our church Friday eve. and we are anxious to see him. Come out and see us and we will take a sleighride. ~Ivan Vannroy

A happy Christmas “meow” to you! The lightly embossed kittens send young Donald Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania wishes for a joyous Christmastide.  The publisher’s mark is right below the right kitty and reads “Painting only. Copyrighted by S. Garre, New York 1909.”  Small print on the back indicates that the Series #1064 postcard was printed in Germany.

The note’s salutation led me on a goose-chase to find the connection between Donald and Ivan.  The postmark is stamped Tama, Iowa, December 22, 11 am, 1909.  While some Pennsylvania Minors migrated west to Ohio, Illinois and Iowa in the mid-1800s, I haven’t seen the name Vannroy in any family documents.  

Finally, exasperated, I took the shortcut offered at the Thomas Minor (The Immigrant) Society web page, searching the site by surname.  Within the descendant surname list I spotted the family name: VANNOY.  When I plugged this spelling into Ancestry’s search engine I confirmed the Thomas Minor Society’s information.

The Story Unfolds

Francis Marion Minor had three children older than Donald’s father, Robert.  John P. was the eldest, then Olfred (whose son Carl also wrote to Donald), then there was Sarah Priscilla.  Sarah married Mark Herrington and had Beatrice Jane.  Beatrice Jane married John Vannoy and had little Ivan in 1906.  They are cited as living in Tama, Iowa in the 1910 census.

Behind this pair of kitten’s lies a family story wherein Sarah’s daughter Beatrice marries and moves west to Iowa.  In the fall of 1909 Bedie traveled home with her family, including young Ivan, returning to Iowa before winter set in. The Christmas kittens were then sent in three-year-old Ivan’s name to six-year-old Donald, the cousin with whom he had played during his Pennsylvania visit.

A Joyous Christmastide to you and yours!

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Christmas Presents of Christmas Past: 1960

If safe-keeping is any indication of what we value, then a Santa gift from 1960 must be one of my most important treasures.  Both the doll and the doll bed, complete with original bedclothes sewn by my mother, are stored in my attic, saved for some distant day when a grandchild comes to visit.  

Advent Calendar December 6: Santa’s Secret

I turned the doorknob and fell into our foyer as Brad pulled the front door open with a flourish.

“I SAW AN ELF!” His hands gestured emphatically with each word.  Three year old David jumped up and down by his side yelling, “SANTA! SANTA! SANTA!”

Just that day there had been a heated discussion at the third grade coat rack about Santa’s capabilities, with some friends even whispering that *he might not even exist*.  I greeted my five year old brother’s pronouncement with a little skepticism and a tiny sliver of hope. Just then Richard came in from the bus stop and, upon hearing of the elf, demanded more information–which the preschooler gladly provided.

“The doorbell rang at the BACK door, and Mommy said ‘Who can that be? You need to go answer!’ and I did! There was AN ELF with a red suit and a BIG hat running into the woods! And then I saw the paper in the door! And I opened it and Mommy read it!”

Dashing into the kitchen he grabbed a piece of paper from the table. Though Richard was a competent second grade reader, it was to me, the wise elder one, that the brothers now turned  to read aloud Santa’s secret:

It certainly seemed authentic; the scratchy scrawl was Santa’s writing.  Just last year I had criticized his penmanship only to be reprimanded for not understanding just what all those sub-zero sleigh rides could do to a person’s hands.  So I felt reasonably certain that this note was actually written by the same arthritic hands that had annually tagged our Christmas gifts all my life.

As my mouth stopped reading other mouths started voicing the questions we all shared: Just what gift would be undeliverable by chimney?  Was it too big? Was it alive?  Was it magical? Must it be kept clean and free of soot? Daily speculations led to a long list of possibilities:  a pony, a puppy, a baby sister, a monkey, a Martian, a magic car. No dream was too wild, no hope too irrational to be placed on our list.  WHAT WAS SANTA’S SECRET?????

By Christmas Eve our yellow green house could barely contain the excitement.  I  am certain our parents groaned at the prospect of dealing with our uncontrollable glee all day.  After breakfast we set out to play; “OUTSIDE,” said our mother.  Our lunchtime requests to get started for the airport were met with the logical reminder that it wasn’t that far away.  We would not depart until after dark.  And then we bundled up to play outside once more.

The long shadows of the sinking sun chased us indoors.  A toddler’s voice plaintively cried, “It’s dark. It’s dark.  Let’s go to Santa!”

“Not until you have set the table.”

“Not until you have eaten your supper.”

“Not until the dishes are washed.”

“Let’s get coats on!”

FINALLY.

Four sets of excited hands zipped up car coats and pulled on hats or coat hoods, then out of the house there arose such a clatter! We jostled into our traditional places in the back bench  seat of the car–I got the driver’s side window, Richard got the other window, and  Brad and David squeezed in between us.  No seat belts existed to constrain our joyous wiggles. The windows grew steamy as Daddy inspected the tires’ chains then threw up the garage door.  Finally the car was full and the garage was empty! David stood up on the “hump” that housed the Ford’s drive shaft, clutching the front seat with his tiny hands and singing, “Santa, Santa, Santa!” The soft ching ching ching ching of chains on snowy roads accompanied our caroling as our white sleigh took us closer and closer to our appointment.

Up on the housetop reindeer pause

Out jumps good ol’ Santa Claus

Down through the chimney with lots of toys

“But he can’t get this down the chimney!!!! Will we be there in time? Will he wait?”

Joy to the world, the Lord has come.

Let Earth receive her King!

We sang every carol we had ever learned at home or at school or at church.  Ching, ching, ching, ching. At last up ahead, little lights could be seen.  Not the lights from decorated trees or family-filled homes, THE lights.  Airport lights.  We all sighed deeply as our father parked the car, and our mother opened the doors to release us. Like a swooping flock of Canada geese the family entered the airport’s single, cavernous room.

The clock read 8:05.

I felt a twinge of panic.  My brothers and I surveyed the room.  No Santa inside.

We ran to press our noses up against the glass at the far end, and looked out on an unobstructed view of an empty tarmac.  No sleigh. No elves. No reindeer.

No Santa.

Our disappointment silenced our din.  My mother and father caught up with us. Silently we turned away from the wall of glass, dejected, crushed.  They herded us to the counter, where a man stood ready to hear our family’s monologue: “You see, I saw an elf!” “And he left this letter from Santa!” “And it said to meet him here at 8:00 on Christmas Eve, and we are only five minutes late!”

With a twinkly smile the gentleman put his finger to his nose. “Just a moment,” he said before he walked away.  We were left to squirm, wiggle, tug on parents’ hands, wonder, moan, and squirm some more.  Shortly he returned carrying a box.

“A crate of oranges? Santa asked us here to pick up oranges?” I wondered.

But as the man approached we all realized that this was no ordinary box.  It was closed on all sides, save one, and on that one open side there was a grate.

“Santa told me to make sure the Strickland children got this,” and he set the crate at our feet.

All at once, very gently and carefully, we knelt down to peer inside.  Two chocolaty eyes stared back.  A dark, damp, cold bit of nose sniffed our curious faces and then a little pink tongue darted out to wish us a Merry Christmas.  Eagerly we welcomed our sandy-colored, Cairn terrier puppy, Sir Nicholas of Nottingham–a wild, irrational dream come true!

This story was originally published in this blog December 6, 2010.

Christmas For The Birds

Born in Greene County, Pennsylvania in 1902, Donald was the youngest son, youngest grandson and youngest cousin of the Francis Marion and Mary Jane Gwynn Minor clan.  His parents, Robert and May Stephenson Minor, sent cards from their travels; his older sister, Helen, sent cards while she was attending school in nearby Waynesburg; aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends sent photocards and holiday greetings from all over the United States with great regularity.  The resulting Postcard Collection is both a family puzzle and a cultural window to the world of Donald Minor during the first decade of the twentieth century.  Today’s card comes from the Christmas Collection.

These American Robins are perched in a shrub, heads turned to some sound – perhaps someone is throwing out a pan of bread crumbs.  Helen Minor, age 17, sent this flock to her eight year old brother, Donald, in 1910.

Dear Brother, How many sleigh rides have you had? Do you slide down hill and skate at school?  I am busy getting read (sic) for examinations now.  Will be through next Wednesday at noon.  So will be home Wed. evening if nothing happens.  

Loving, Helen

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