Pondering "What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?" with Vintage Easter Postcards

March 23, 2016 | Bill V.

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There are hundreds of vintage postcards celebrating Easter in the Toronto Reference Library postcard collection arranged thematically in 25 sub-categories (see the complete list of subjects in this pdf.)

Happy Easter vintage postcard by P.F. Volland publisher Chicago, copyright 1912 # 2525 mailed 1913

"Happy Easter" P.F. Volland publisher Chicago, copyright 1912 # 2525 (mailed 1913)

Easter is a deeply important religious holiday, possibly more so in the past. Christ's crucifixion and resurrection is the most significant celebration in the Christian calendar.  And Toronto, in the 1910-1920 era, was predominantly a Christian town and so it's little wonder Easter postcards are among the largest and most varied holiday themed collections we own. Along with religiously themed cards, there are many more playful ones that use imagery we would find familiar today.


Vintage Easter Postcard

"A Happy Easter" is published by the Rotograph Co of New York City. It is a real photo postcard (RPPC) done on bromide paper and mailed in April 1912 (copyright date 1907, part of a series B 1650).  For another example of Rotograph RPPC, see the sullen rabbit postcard in our Digital Archive and also at the end of this blog post.


Vintage Easter Postcard


Vintage Easter Postcard   Vintage Easter Postcard

"Joyeuses Pâques" (Happy Easter in French) is another RPPC card in the Parisian Moreau and Kivatizky series 1801. It was mailed in 1907 to Sister Marie St. Blandin and sold at EP Lacombe on Ste Catherine Est Montreal.

The chick(en) makes a good show in the Easter postcard collection:

  Vintage Easter Postcard     Vintage Easter Postcard

But, at the same time, the egg is no slouch:

  Vintage Easter Postcard


But the chick is not satisfied with being second fiddle to the egg and so with some rather splendidly creative anthropomorphism, the chicken transforms into a variety of human-inspired aspects and aspirations:

1908 vintage Easter Greetings postcard with automobile

In 1908, this "Easter Greetings" automobile postcard was mailed from Brooklyn, New York to "Master M. Mitchell, 55 Wolfrey Ave., Toronto". At that time, this car would have been both very expensive and the latest thing. I like how sporting the chicks are with their fur coat and car blanket and the slightly arrogant expression, compared to the poorer chick who is on foot with a basket of eggs. Modern Easter chicks drive sports cars and don't deliver eggs the old-fashioned way.

  Vintage Easter Postcard   Vintage Easter Postcard

You have to admire the well-dressed chick in top hat, frock coat, walking stick and flower in the lapel in the "Easter Greeting" card on the left mailed in 1915. His rather bohemian artistic friend on the right is from 1911. You'll notice the pre-WW I era card is a bit more sophisticated graphically and the coloured background is a deep intense hue. Most pre-WW 1 cards were printed in Germany (especially Saxony). Although the white card is also printed in Germany, the extra-wide white background indicates a more cheaply produced card -- ink was expensive. During the war, and afterwards, postcards were more often printed in the USA with less sophisticated technology and with less expensive inks.

Vintage Easter Postcard

Speaking of technology, this 1911 "Easter Greeting" International Art Publishing Company postcard (again printed in Germany) shows chicks going up into a Zeppelin which at the time would have still been a relatively new technology -- especially for the American and Canadian market. This card was mailed from Grand Rapids to Miss Eusebia Benson, 380 Dufferin Avenue, London, Ontario.

Easter Joy attend you is an undivided back 1907 postcard.

"Easter Joy attend you" is an undivided back 1907 card. It was mailed to Miss Evelyn Rugg, 448 Parliament Street.  It includes a message on the front: "My dear Evelyn, will meet you in same place, same time as before -- Artie B." The postcard was the text/ Snapchat of 1907. This charming card was also produced by the International Art Publishing Co.

Chicks though, are not the only thing that comes from eggs, as can be seen below.  

  A Happy Easter vintage postcard showing baby hatching from red Easter egg and bunny watching circa 1910 and made in Germany.

This "Happy Easter" postcard features a graphically beautiful and charming design of a rabbit looking at a baby hatching from an red egg. It was never mailed, and was printed in Germany circa 1910 era and is lightly embossed. 

  Vintage Easter Postcard

We're fortunate to have a pair of these unusual postcards featuring semi-nude bathing beauties and differently coloured backgrounds. They were part of a series of four or maybe six cards.  Risqué, they were printed in Germany on especially thick paper. The one with green background was mailed from New York in April 1909 to Mr Wm. Mitchell, 55 Wolfrey Ave, Toronto.  The one in red was never mailed. There's no indication that the two cards came from the same source.

Vintage Easter Postcard

The idea of beautiful women and girls coming out of eggs seems to have been a common motif as seen below.  The woman with the Gibson-era hair and hat was mailed in 1910 to Dr Egil T. Olsen, corner of Armitage Ave and Humboldt Blvd, Chicago.  The young lady in the green hat carrying pussy willow branches, a spring symbol, was mailed about the same time and is published by the International Art Print Company

Vintage Easter Postcard    Vintage Easter Postcard

The purple beauty, "A Happy Easter" below, is what's known as an undivided back (pre-1907) and has a Toronto postmark from April 14, 1906. Only the address would be written on the blank back -- any writing would go on the front. There is a handwritten "from Winston" in the centre of the egg. It was mailed to Miss Evelyn Rugg at 448 Parliament Street, Toronto.  We own many cards from the Rugg family (see the yellow chick postcard at the top of this post for another of Evelyn's cards from 1912). This is a foiled front and embossed card -- it would have been expensive to produce at the time and is done on extremely thick paper almost like cardboard.

  Vintage Easter Postcard

"With Best Easter Wishes" is a slightly disturbing postcard with a surprisingly avant-garde graphic punch. It also has an undivided back and a postal mark for 1907. It was mailed in Toronto to "Master Herbet K. Rugg, 448 Parliament Street, City". You can see the outlines in the corners of the indentations where it must have been kept in an postcard album -- likely the Rugg family (both Evelyn and Herbert) protected their postcards in an album that at some point was donated to Toronto Public Library which explains the prevalence of their cards in the collection.

  Vintage Easter Postcard

When I talked with my co-worker Peggy about this blog post, she quite seriously said 'well, the egg came first from a couple of slightly diverse DNA-endowed chicken-like birds.' Peggy's very smart. If you want to read about the science of this, please see this Wikipedia entry and this article from Popular Science.

I leave you with "Loving Easter Wishes" .... frolicking chicks and eggs together. 

Vintage Easter Postcard

Easter has always been a special holiday for me, as my family is Greek Orthodox and there are many religious and food traditions that happen at this time. Along with fasting for the 40 days of Lent (no animal products!), there was also colouring eggs. The most memorable thing was mass on Saturday night with candles lit at midnight to represent the resurrection, followed by singing "Christos Anesti" / "Χριστός ἀνέστη!" / "Christ is Risen!" I fondly remember being with my parents at church service annually. My father was named Anastasios, a version of the word 'risen', so Easter was also his name day -- another important type of holiday among Greek Orthodox people. Bog da prosti (God rest his soul).

A happy Easter