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Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Blog > Ellen Clapsaddle's postcards

Today we bring you the story of a stationery maker from another era... you've probably seen her designs in vintage cards floating around on Ebay - today we bring you the story behind them! :)

Ellen Hattie Clapsaddle was an American illustrator and the most prolific postcard and greeting card artist of her time. She was born in 1865 in South Columbia, New York, about 200 miles from New York City. From an early age she displayed great artistic ability. Encouraged by her parents and teachers to develop her skills, she eventually pursued a career in art. After finishing her studies at Cooper Union Institute for the Advancement of Science and Art, a well-renowned and competitive college for artists, she returned to South Columbia and began giving art lessons out of her home.

Hearty Thanksgiving greetings. Digital ID: 1588268. New York Public Library

While earning a living, she also painted in her free time, creating landscapes and commissioned portraits of families in Richfield Springs. She began to submit her work to publishers in NYC and quickly became known for her illustrations that were used in advertising, calendars, paper fans, and greeting cards, where she gained her most success. Eventually, her artwork was turned into single-faced cards that could be kept as souvenirs or used as postcards. She began to design her illustrations particularly for these increasingly popular cards.

In 1906, the Wolf Company hired her at a time where very few women artists were hired as illustrators. Clapsaddle initially produced her postcards under Wolf’s name and in time became their sole postcard designer. The golden age of these postcards ranged from 1898 to 1915, and Clapsaddle is attributed to creating over 3,000 designs during this time.

A merry Christmas. Digital ID: 1586998. New York Public Library

Her images express an innocence and joie de vivre that is very childlike in nature. The main themes of her cards are centered on holidays. Her Halloween cards are the most highly prized by collectors; the Christmas cards usually feature children, but sometimes include transportation designs of automobiles and airplanes of that time period; Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s, and Fourth of July themes were also frequently incorporated in her illustrations.

Check out some classic Ellen Clapsaddle cards here!

PS - PostEurop's Europa Stamp competition ends this week - don't forget to vote for your favourite stamp! :)

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28 comments so far

Luziaceleste, Brazil
Wow! Great artcle as usual. Congrats!
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Vagabond_Trader, United States of America
love the vintage halloween cards
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SOFT-P, Algeria
I loved her work and i adore her designs they bring flashbacks from my childhood life
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Blogger, United States of America
I have a few of her postcards - thank you for posting this - it is great information!
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bookishnerd, Canada
How wonderful! I honestly wish designs like this were still around. I would love to send postcards as greeting cards for all occasions!
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rosenbusch, Germany
Thank you for the informations. Lovely vintage postcards...
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Kamorin, Japan
Fantastic cards ! Thank you for sharing the information.
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YiliLoh, Malaysia
Nice cards, thanx for sharing! :)
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martha66, Netherlands
what a nice story, hope to receive one of them sometime, if that is still possible
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LyndaC, Canada
I bought a book recntly from Amazon and it has some of her Christmas designs in it.
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teesa, Portugal
I love these vintage postcards, and i didnt know the name of the illustrater.
Thanks !
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ned44440, Ireland
Delightful! Like most of us here I have a few of Ellen's wonderful designs on postcards and have received one or two via Postcrossing. Thank for the lovely article on Ellen.
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Seashelly, Netherlands
Brilliant designed by Ellen! I simple adore these postcards and love to received one some time.
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rcornelison, United States of America
Thank you for the great history on her cards. I actually have a few of her cards.
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schwan272, United States of America
Thank you for the interesting and informative blog post!
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Luciano, Brazil
Lovely!
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edo, Spain
Fantastic art cards,really!!!!
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JuliaVasylyshena, Ukraine
Wonderful cards! I wish I could have some in my collection!
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michellesimone, United States of America
I have some of these cards from my grandmother's collection! I'm so happy to know their history. Thank you!
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geminiscp, Portugal
Greats cards, great story! Thanks! :)
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jensned, United States of America
It was fun to see this article. I remember learning about her as a kid during a unit on local history (She was from the same county in New York state that I was from)
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Angelinabee, United States of America
Wow, I have an old scrapbook from the early 20th century and some of the cards shown here are pasted in it. How COOL!
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Ebbles, United States of America
I have a scrapbook made by my grandfather's grandmother which has many illustrations by this woman! I am very pleased to learn more about her.
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nugget, United States of America
Lovely article. Thanks!
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stamp6, United States of America
I have collected Clapsaddle cards for over ten years now. They range in price from $6 to $75. Not all of them are signed cards. Ellen's work has gone into public domain so look for it on new reproductions from calendars to cookie tins.
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CrazyHomemaker, United States of America
This is a great look at classic Americana. Great article!
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BraziliumGra, United States of America
Amazing! Thank you for sharing!
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AdirondackJoe, United States of America
I have many Clappsadle postcards in my collection and I even have mailed a few. I usually scan a few of her Thanksgiving cards creating postcards in order to mail to friends and family every year.
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