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.
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.
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! :)