It is that time of the year when people make New Year’s resolutions and publications make all sorts of lists: best, worst, favorites and so on, usually consisting of ten items. Why not combine the two and explore the postcard possibilities of illustrating them?
The history of New Year’s resolutions supposedly goes back to 153 B.C. when the Romans named the first month of the year after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances. Janus was always portrayed with two faces, one on the front of his head and one on the back, which enabled him to look backward and forward at the same time. Logically, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, the Romans imagined Janus looking back at the old year and forward to the new. Whether Janus wanted to lose weight and quit smoking is not known!
In addition to losing weight and quitting smoking, certain resolutions are on many of the ten favorite resolution lists that I consulted. Quitting drinking, getting out of debt, getting fit, and getting a new job are also perennial favorites. Here’s my somewhat cynical take on ten popular resolutions and postcards of various genres and eras that might be used to illustrate them.
1. LOSE WEIGHT: This is the “biggie,” especially since New Year’s Eve is the culmination of the overindulgent holiday season. There is no shortage of postcards showing rather large people that could be used for this resolution. The calorically challenged lady on this Argentinean postcard seems to have somewhat unrealistic expectations. The odds are that she, like most of us, will need to repeat this resolution annually. Time to seriously consider salads, sweetie!
2. QUIT SMOKING: One would think by now that all the negative publicity about smoking would have eliminated this as one of the most popular resolutions because fewer and fewer people seem to be smokers. Not so – it is still way up on the list of most common resolutions. So if you’re still smoking, take a look at the billboard on this card! “TOBACCO – The deadly enemy of the human brain. The foe of human progress. The subtle destroyer of youthfull (sic) virtue. The menace of the Christian church. The universal fire hazard.” I could have chosen a postcard I have showing the diseased lung of an ex-smoker (ex as in expired), but I thought I would spare you.
3. QUIT DRINKING: As the man at the bar on this 1950s comic postcard advises his fellow imbiber, “It’s easy to quit drinking – I’ve done it hundreds of times!” This is another topic with an abundance of postcard possibilities. The drunk is always good for a laugh. I suspect that if quitting drinking is high on your list and you are like this guy, a good rehab facility and/or Alcoholics Anonymous may have a more lasting effect than the typical resolution. Here’s to your health.
4. GET OUT OF DEBT: If you’re like the cowering chap on this circa 1905 comic postcard, the person approaching you with his hand held out is looking for the “green” you owe him, not a greeting. Debt can be debilitating. Low on dough? Start singing. “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work we go.” Maybe resolution number five should be higher on your list.
5. GET A NEW JOB: Do you want to end up like the two elderly sisters on this circa 1910 real photo postcard who are folding and boxing Grace-Mae hosiery? During their 54 years of service in this mill they have boxed and folded 71,280,000 pairs of stockings. If not, check out resolution six.
6. GET A BETTER EDUCATION OR LEARN SOMETHING NEW: Many schools have issued postcards over the years, but the National School of Meat Cutting in Toledo, Ohio has a slogan that almost guarantees employment “People must eat.” My guess is that a meat-cutting career also pays better than boxing and folding 71 million pairs of stockings.
7. WORK ON YOUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH: A circa 1908 real photo postcard shows James E. Warfield concentrating on his spiritual growth. Rally Day cards (postcards that encourage church attendance) would be an obvious choice for this resolution, but there is something about Mr. Warfield’s piety that is irresistible. Do you suppose he’s praying for a new barber?
8. GET FIT – EXERCISE: This guy is no dumbbell when it comes to fitness. “Francie” seems to have this resolution well in hand. Unfortunately there is no info on this postcard that might shed some additional light on Francie’s motives. But he does have a faux leopard-skin exercise suit to die for!
9. TAKE A TRIP: John DeLion and Herman Dehm billed themselves as “Trans-continental Pushmobile Tourists” on this 1912 postcard. This is probably not the kind of trip most of us have in mind, but hey, with the price of gas rising, these guys sure were ahead of their time when it comes to getting good mileage. And resolute they must be to fulfill their version of this resolution.
10. SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY: Walter Wellman is the artist responsible for this image of “The Whole Damm Family” They’re not just spending time as a family, they’re having a wonderful time traveling in the “Damm Family Trailer.” Even “The Damm Mut (sic)” is joining in the fun with I.B. Damm, Helen Damm, May B. Damm, and Will B. Damm. The Damm (or Dam) family was a favorite of comic postcard artists for many decades.
If none of these resolutions resonate with you, maybe you can resolve to organize, weed, exhibit, share or archive your postcard collection.
Happy postcard collecting in 2009!