HOLD TO LIGHT INFORMATION ARTICLE
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
----- 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
----- 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!
FOLKS! It's the fun of the Hunt!
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