Postcard Advent Calendar, December 17: A Joyous Christmastide from Ivan Vannoy to Donald Minor


Printed in Germany

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

On this fourth day of the Postcard Advent Calendar I share a Christmas “meow” from 1909.  The lightly embossed kittens send young Donald Minor 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 has led me on a goosechase to find the connection between Donald and Ivan.  The postmark is stamped Tama, Iowa, December 22, 11am, 1909.  And while some Pennsylvania Minors migrated west to Ohio, Illinois and Iowa in the mid-1800s, I don’t recall seeing the name Vannroy in any other family documents.  In fact,  I can’t find any Vannroy in my Iowa census stumping….My genealogical skills have failed me.  So far.

I love chasing the family geese.


In researching other Advent cards, I went back to the web-based genealogy for the Thomas Minor family, from whom I am descended.  Within the surname list I found the word I was hunting: VANNOY.  When I plugged this spelling into Ancestry’s search engine I confirmed the Thomas Minor Society’s information.

*drum roll*

Francis Marion Minor had three children older than Donald’s father, Robert.  John P. was the eldest, then Alfred (whose son Carl also wrote to Donald), then there was Sarah Pricilla.  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.

Story unfolds: Sarah’s daughter Beatrice marries and moves west to Iowa.  She travels home in 1909 with her family, including young Ivan, before winter sets in. The Christmas kittens are then sent in Ivan’s name, to the young cousin with whom he played during his Pennsylvania visit.




Postcard Advent Calendar, December 16: A Merry (European) Christmas!

E. B. C. 1810, Printed in Saxony

Hello, Donald, Come on over and we will sled ride. What is Santa Claus going to bring you. ~Carl

On the third day of the Postcard Advent Calendar I again reveal a Santa, but this toy-bearing gent is more St. Nickolas than Santa Claus.   Influenced by the artist’s Saxon* roots, this illustration depicts a St. Nick clad in heavy black boots and a long, hooded red robe tromping through the snow, his waist-length beard catching the wind.  A mittened left hand clasps the fir tree which is big enough that it must stand on the floor in some fortunate home!  Under its branches St. Nick will leave dolls and drums pulled from his basket and sack.

Carl Corbly Minor extended his sledding invitation to his five year old cousin, Donald Minor, in December of 1907.  The 28 year old son of Alfred (1855-before 1900) and Anna (1860-?) lived down the road from Robert, May, Helen and Donald, running his family’s farm with his mother.  Imagine these rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania covered with a good snowfall. I am certain Donald had a fast trip down!

The rolling hills of the Minor Home Farm, Ceylon Road, R.D. 1, Carmichaels, PA

*Saxony is a southeastern state of current day Germany and is home to Dresden, Leipzig and Seiffen. It is also the home of many Christmas customs, like the Christmas tree.

Wordless Wednesday: Postcard Advent Calendar, December 15: A Merry Christmas to All

Santa Postcard, HSV Lithograph Company, New York, New York

Hello, Donald, I received your card. Would like to see you. Hope Santa will bring you what you want. I want a pair of Skates but mama is afraid for me to have them.  ~Ralph*

On this second day of the Postcard Advent Calendar I reveal another Santa in the American style. Outfitted in his fur-trimmed red suit and hat, this sainted man’s rosy cheeks and twinkling eyes are buried in a full snow-white beard.  His posture, finger paused by his nose, seems to suggest Ralph interrupted him to write Donald’s note.  “Remember, Ralph and Donald, I am watching you boys.”  Wreathed in a holly-covered horseshoe, Santa generously offers the promise of dreams fulfilled: “Good luck learning to skate!” “Here’s your drum and trumpet! Play in the town square!” “Scare your sister with this toy mouse and then calm her down with Dolly!”

This silver bordered postcard was sent to Donald Minor on December 18, 1909.   A one cent stamp was all that was required for young Ralph to send this Christmas greeting from South Connellsville to Carmichaels, towns in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

Blair and Ralph, Photocard postmarked June 17, 1908

I delight in trolling through family heirlooms, discovering the bits and pieces of my story. This current project is but my second reading of the postcards and I am still discerning the relationships various writers have with my grandfather.  One thing IS clear; a good percentage of these cards are sent by family members.  Therefore, I am willing to wager a pair of skates that Ralph is  Donald’s cousin.



*To make the note easier to read, I have corrected spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Postcard Advent Calendar, December 14: Greetings From Christmas Past

I am having a merry ol’ time with my Christmas Postcard Advent Wall, so much so that I am inventing yet another way to enjoy my 100 year old holiday greetings.  Starting with today’s post I will share a different card each day until Christmas.  The focus will shift from treasure to treasure as some cards are noteworthy for their family history, some for their postage marks, some for their publishing details.

*drum roll please*

On the first day of the Postcard Advent Calendar, I reveal a Santa!

Embossed card from the Christmas 500 Series, Copyright 1908 Julius Bien and Company

Santa Claus is among the most common images in this collection.  This 1908 embossed Santa postcard was produced by Julius Bien and Company, a publishing house that I believe was located in New York.  Julius Bien was a European-trained lithographer and map engraver whose company produced state atlases, maps and obviously holiday postcards as well.  There is no citation as to where this card was printed, but the message within the “stamp spot” states that postage within Domestic Canada, Great Britain and Germany was One Cent, whereas foreign use required Two Cents. Perhaps it was actually published in Germany, as were so many of this era’s postcards.

On the back is a note, with no postmark:

Dear Donald–Wishing you a very merry christmas and a Happy New Year. from your cousin Leora B.

Leora Black was the daughter of Eva Stevenson Black, the sister of May Laura Stevenson Minor, my grandfather’s mom.  Born in 1897 Leora communicated with her younger cousin (b. 1902) quite frequently as evidenced by the many cards I am finding in this collection.

The pipe this Santa is holding fascinates me, but its significance has stumped me.  The inspiration for Santa images has been drawn from the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” since the mid-1800s, and this postcard seems to follow the illustration directives until you notice what Santa is holding.  A stump of a pipe this clearly is not!  Readers, collectors, help! What are we looking at here?  I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Update:  A reader comment led me to the Tobacco Collection, which discusses in depth the era’s German pipes.  Transfer printing techniques made painted porcelain bowls affordable for the masses.  People bought pipes ornamented with regimental coats of arms, and portraits of family or famous people.  Pipes were also painted with ornamental motifs particular to one’s occupation, as in this case, where Santa has his pipe painted with Christmas holly.

Advent Calendar December 4: Christmas Greetings–The Postcards of Donald Corbly Minor

Every day I open my Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar, click the glowing ornament and enjoy the day’s holiday animation.  As the cyber village comes to life I relive the memories I share with my friend who sent this Christmas greeting.  Every day I gather the mail from its box, bring it inside and stand by the kitchen bin, sorting my stash into bills, junk and CHRISTMAS CARDS!  The colorful greetings from neighbors, family and long-distant friends are read, reread, then taped to the kitchen door frame to be admired throughout the season.  This year I am adding another source of holiday anticipation–a blast from my past! Each day I will print out a copy of the Christmas greetings mailed to my eight year old grandfather, Donald Corbly Minor, a hundred years ago.   These postcards belong to a substantial collection found in a book made expressly for postcard collectors.

When I tap into my printer’s menu options, I can actually increase the postcard 250% and make a small 8″x11″ poster.  Day by day I will add a poster (praying that the poster tape is really paint friendly upon removal) to my living room wall, and by Christmas I should have a unique mural, a postcard quilt–that’s the plan.

All sorts of loving wishes were sent to little Donald who lived on a farm at Rural Route 1, Carmichaels, Greene County, Pennsylvania, with his dog, Rover and a pony, Billy.  Snowy landscapes, excited children, ladened Santas, birds and kittens all sent their greetings, much like Christmas cards today.

I love Christmas cards, in all their formats, but I must confide that one card–received over forty years ago–remains the BEST CARD EVER.  It wasn’t a card so much as a note, left by an elf at our back door, and discovered by brother #2 who SAW the said elf as he hightailed his high-hatted self into the woods behind our Virginia home.   To discover the contents of Santa’s Christmas greeting you, dear reader, will have to pop by on December 6.


You can see more vintage Christmas greetings in my Postcard Advent Calendar, posts that begin December 14 and run through December 25.  Enjoy!


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