HOLD TO LIGHT INFORMATION ARTICLE

POSTCARDS- WINDOW'S TO THE PAST
By Jane Huffman/Kransky HOLD TO LIGHT'S


----- They may be comical, serious, religious, or teach a moralistic lesson, but no matter what the scene portrays, early Christmas postcards offer a window through which we can peek into the customs of holidays past. One of the rituals of sending Christmas greetings caught on, an extensive assortment of inexpensive cards, priced to fit the "commoner's" pocketbook, flooded the European market where they were manufactured. In addition, large shipments of greeting cards landed on United States shores to be distributed and sold by local entrepreneurs. These cards, along with general purpose greeting cards, eventually found a place of permanence in postcard albums. Prominently displayed in front parlors across the nation. These albums and the plethora of cards contained therein, were a ready topic of discussion when visitors arrived.
----- Affluent consumers were able to indulge inexpensive die-cut "hold-to-light" cards. According to old records the price of one card, was .35 to .50 cents, equaled a day's wages for many. Today, these rare specimens are difficult to find and are highly sought after by most postcard collectors. And no wonder! Holding one to a bright light, the die-cut portions appears to light up, illuminating a magical Christmas scene.
----- Ralph Williams, a Santapile-deltiologist who collects figurals as well as graphic memorabilia, has amassed a considerable collection of HTL's. Fewer of the unique crafted HTL's were manufactured, and at today's prices these extravagantly designed and heavily embossed postcards can cost up to several hundred dollars, each. The beginning prices start at $35 to $50 and go up from there. Many dealers sometimes consider $1.00 per hole as a pricing guide.
----- According to Williams the HTL collecting mania has been very active for a long time. He advises anyone that does not have one, not to wait very long when deliberating over a purchase, if a fine collection is to be built. ----- Searching through shoe boxes at antique shows, garage sales and flea markets is almost useless, he says. It's rare as hen's teeth if any ever shows up; however, a friend did find a 'sleeper' recently for which he paid one dollar! Williams pointed out that collectors should be careful not to confuse HTL's with transparency cards, although their beauty is also captured by holding the card to the light. Transparencies are also rare, difficult to find, they sell for much less than the die-cut varieties.
----- The difference between the types of the transparencies do not have any section cut out. Instead the card's front is constructed using a layer of paper, thin enough to see the color line drawing underneath. ----- The HTL Tom William's collection were made in Europe or Spain nearly one hundred years ago and were distributed through-out the continents as well as to jobbers in the United States. The sentiments on the cards shipped were appropriately printed in various languages so that particular ethnic groups could convey Christmas wishes in their mother tongues.
----- Generally the cards were manufactured in sets of four. That is, the same artwork of Father Christmas figure was set in four different situations. "Finding all four in a series complicates collecting but keeps one searching for more", says Williams. Many of the artists remain unknown with the exception of Mailick a Gesetzli Co. Artist whose signature appears on HTL Santa postcards. According to Williams there are four distinct Mailick images that appear in various configurations. Placement of his signature is inconsistent since it appears in two different locations. Sometimes the same artwork, which is obviously Mailick's is unsigned.
----- Artists portrayed the old giver-of-gifts in many real lift situations, but one of the red-suited Santa Claus that we have become familiar with since the 1930's when Haddon Hubbard Sundblom sketched a fat, jolly Santa for the Coca-Cola Co. instead, he was dressed in long flowing robes of blue, brown, pink, purple and green. Sometimes he wore a stern, spiteful expression, but generally he appeared jovial, frequently taking on the persona of a "teaser" as he scurried about delivering Christmas treats and toys to expecting children.
----- Probably the rarest of all Christmas HTL's are those depicting a red, white and blue garbed Father Christmas representative of Uncle Sam. Even though patriotic Americana decorated their homes with the Stars and Stripes, buntings and banners, the four different Uncle Sam Christmas cards known to have been manufactured apparently were not well received and therefore few exists today. One theory was that some Americans were dismayed by the use of this hypothetical character in a Christmas context, while another is that, fewer were made because the market was limited to the United States. Cards Manufacturers cannot always be determined and many postals simply say "Printed in Germany" on the back side. However, it has been ascertained that Woolstone Bros, London, Gesetsli and Hagelberg publishing firms, both fine german concerns, employed workmen who tediously hand stamped designs into the cards with precisely ground cutting tools to achieve the intricate die-cut look.
Thin pieces of colored paper were glued over holes, followed by applied backing which became the address greeting side. When held to a bright light, the marvel of these tiny cut-outs representing doors, windows, stars, toys or other whimsical trivia were a delight to see. Imagine, if you will, the children excited squeals and wide-eyed wonderment when holding these remarkable cards to the light on Christmas morning. But, it wasn't just children who were fascinated-adults too must have spent many awestruck hours looking in the kaleidoscopic magic of Christmas these cards provided.
-----The Exposition Hold-to-light Postcards by Cupples, etc. are other excellent examples of the HTL Postcards. Will try and add more information here as time will allow!

 TTTHHat's ALL FOLKS! It's the fun of the Hunt!


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