Holidays and Celebrations

A Reason To Celebrate.

interesting heading

At the dawn of the 20 th century, Americans celebrated the same holidays that we do today. There are differences, however, in the attention paid to some holidays and in the traditions of sending postcards to acknowledge the celebration.

Today, Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday; in 1910. the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington were each an occasion for sending a postcard greeting. (Out of deference to former Confederate states, Lincoln’s Birthday was never made a federal holiday,
although it was widely-celebrated in most states!)

Based on the huge number that have survived for more than a century, postcard greetings on St. Valentine’s Day must have rivaled all other holidays except Thanksgiving and Christmas.

St. Patrick’s Day was observed with postcards celebrating the national virtues of Ireland. Unlike today, however, the celebrations were occasions for sending postcards.

Another difference of the St. Patrick Day celebrations more than a hundred years ago is that of tone – many vintage postcards reflect a deep yearning for the “old country” and the once-familiar sights of a European “home”. (Columbus Day did not become a federal holiday until the administration of FDR.)

Although Labor Day was established as a federal holiday in the 19 th century, there are few surviving postcards related to this day. While we know that many cities and towns had parades or public celebrations of the holiday, it does not seem to have become a popular occasion of exchanging postcards. Also, the lack of surviving Labor Day postcards might be due to the significant number of postcards with an inspirational theme related to initiative, hard work, and industriousness that were mailed throughout the year.

In the 21 st century, Thanksgiving is ranked seventh in popularity of seasonal mail. (Most contemporary Thanksgiving cards are sent to persons unable to attend a gathering, according to greeting card companies.) This seems to have been much different in the early 1900’s, according to the very extensive range of Thanksgiving postcards that survive today. (There is no available data related to the sale of postcards by category in the early 20 th century.)

As discussed in Postcard Art, the quality of all holiday postcards ranged widely – from simple line drawings to highly-detailed photographs and original art with magnificent coloration. Christmas, which remains the leading occasion of holiday mail, is discussed in a separate category.

The enormous range of styles, motifs, and messages, of Christmas postcards requires its own narrative.