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Home > Blog > December 2010 > Christmas in the Archives

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know that we archivists are in a holiday mood. The authors whose papers we're processing also had a soft spot for Christmas. They made their own Christmas cards and Christmas posters, and wrote books about their characters’ Christmastime adventures. Robert Lawson, the famous illustrator of The Story of Ferdinand (1936) and author of Ben and Me (1939), at one time made his living creating Christmas cards. He and his wife Marie drew one card a day, every day, from 1923 to 1926 in order to pay for their house in Westport, CT. Later in life, when drudgery for the greeting card companies was no longer financially necessary, Robert and Marie continued to send out handmade Christmas cards to their friends. We have several of these lovely cards in the Frederick R. Gardner collection of Robert Lawson in the Rare Book Department. It’s hard to decide which is our favorite, but we’ve been posting several of the front-runners to Facebook, and you can see another at the right. 

Tomi Ungerer also made subversive and brilliant Christmas cards. While we sadly don’t have any of his Christmas cards in the Children's Literature Research Collection, we do have the manuscripts for Christmas Eve at the Mellops’ (1960), the fourth book in his popular series about an adventurous family of pigs. Each of the Mellops brothers cuts down a Christmas tree, only to find they’ve all had the same idea. As they look for other deserving pigs to give their trees to, they learn the true meaning of Christmas. Like all of the Mellops adventures, this one ends with reassuring servings of Mrs. Mellops’ famous cream cake for everyone.

Carolyn Haywood, the well-known author of the beloved Betsy and Eddie series, made beautiful Christmas posters with the artist Elfrieda Klauder, who shared her studio. Haywood also made her own Christmas cards. Later, as an established children’s author, Haywood wrote several Christmas books. We are lucky to have Haywood’s Christmas cards, Christmas posters, and the original manuscripts and illustrations for Merry Christmas from Eddie (1986), Merry Christmas from Betsy  (1970), and Santa Claus Forever!  (1983) in the CLRC.

While we’ve run out of room for images in this blog post, be sure to check in with us on Facebook  and Twitter  to see more holiday-related pictures, including an upcoming card from amateur cartoonist (and author of the Prydain Chronicles) Lloyd Alexander. And if you’re interested in artists’ Christmas cards in general, be sure to stop by the Prints and Picture Department here at the Parkway Central branch and see their display of both commercial and handmade Christmas cards, from the 1870s to the present day.

Tags: CLIR Grant, Children's Literature Research Collection, Holidays, archives

Rabbit Hill was the name of Robert Lawson’s home and studio in Westport, CT. It was also the title of his 1945 Newbery Medal winning book.
Rabbit Hill was the name of Robert Lawson’s home and studio in Westport, CT. It was also the title of his 1945 Newbery Medal winning book.
Title page from the original dummy for Christmas Eve at the Mellops’ by Tomi Ungerer
Title page from the original dummy for Christmas Eve at the Mellops’ by Tomi Ungerer
Illustration by Carolyn Haywood for the cover of Merry Christmas from Betsy.
Illustration by Carolyn Haywood for the cover of Merry Christmas from Betsy.
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