Archive for ephemera

Special Invitation

I’ve been looking at postcards again.

Here’s one sent by Mrs. Gridley in 1912



and a lovely, delicate drawing of children listening to a Rally Day greeting over crystal radio headsets.



And then I found this invitation to a youth group outing with Peter Max-inspired fireworks.





A few traces of the Church’s imagination and practice that happened to catch my eye.


Working for our daily bread

Lord's Prayer postcard printed by P. Sander, NY. 1908

Lord’s Prayer postcard
printed by P. Sander, NY.


Today is a snow day, but before I get suited up for shoveling the white stuff, I’ll share a bit of Christian material culture that I picked up last week.

This postcard is one of a series printed in 1908 by Philip Sander. Postcard sets of The Lord’s Prayer and The Ten Commandments were popular during the early 20th century. Each card would depict a different petition or commandment so that a person could collect or send the entire set.

Such cards are still fairly common out in the world of ephemera collectors, and you can pick them up for not too much money if you’re interested. I’m fascinated by the way they reveal the values and assumptions of religious people in an earlier age. With one foot in the world of religion and the other in the world of commerce, these cards may not show the church’s official positions, but as images that were marketed and purchased, they can tell us a lot. A successful postcard has an easily understood, high-impact image. A viewer ought to be able to take it all in quickly and feel something that makes them want to share (that is, buy and send) the postcard. They’re are a lot like today’s social media in that respect.

I was drawn to this particular postcard because, instead of showing us people eating, this one presents two different ways to earn our daily bread. It’s more complicated than just “provide us food.” There’s the farmer harvesting wheat, and the businessman talking on the phone with factories that are likely intended to represent flour mills in the background. It’s a country life/city life juxtaposition that speaks to the urbanization of America which had been taking place since the 19th century; and it unites the two men by depicting the farm-to-mill chain of production.

Unlike the pictures of people saying grace at the table (which are often quite lovely), or the sentimental images of angels feeding destitute children, this Lord’s Prayer postcard clearly shows people working for their daily bread. “Give us our daily bread” becomes “Reward our daily labors with bread.” The card doesn’t tug at the heart strings, but it does convey the ideas that “work is noble” and “work is important.” It all feels very American and very Protestant.

There’s a lot to like about this card, though I can’t really call it art. The curls on the dividing line are a nice touch that give an impression of time, and I like all the detailed office supplies on the desk. And then there are the roses on the windowsill adding a touch of beauty to that skyline of factory smoke!


Happy Comradeship

Three more vintage postcards invite everyone to church: happy children, shy teens, and even those who fly in on Sunday mornings. (How convenient to have the runway so near the church!) Charming illustrations, full of light and affection.


Good landing place HiRes multi


Happy Commradeship2


Empty place 300ppi

Memo to the working girl

Working Girl 300ppi


I had some fun this week looking through vintage postcards. Wish I could read the shorthand on this one! I also wish I knew who the artist was. The composition and the use of color are terrific. Just look at the way the space is layered on a diagonal from the memo pad all the way back to the desk and typewriter. It’s a great example of commercial art reaching out to a specific audience, and it shows the Church pushing to stay current.

The printed message on the back reads:


Things seem not quite right when you are away. Hope to see you next Sunday. If there is any other reason that you cannot come, please let us hear from you.

Sincerely your friend