November 29, 2016 in Editorials
This Patriotic Santa printed on a linen handkerchief or scarf was produced by the Oriental Print Works in Apponaug, R.I. The image was designed by Edward Peck in 1868, and produced during the late 1860s through the 1870s. This large-size scarf measures 18″ by 24″. It was a bit large to be used as a pocket hankie, but was actually a Christmas decoration and to be used as a Christmas banner or table cover. The illustrations show a brief pictorial interpretation of Clement C. Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. This is a wonderful example of mid-19th century Christmas imagery.
The Edward Peck image reflects the style of modern Santa Claus popularized by Thomas Nast in his Harper’s Weekly illustrations and political cartoons of the 1860s, but still retains some elements of earlier German Santas. His fur hat, blue pants and large basket on his back are details usually associated with the German Woodcutter Santa. His appearance was inspired by Clement C. Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, including the red ‘cherry’ nose and the smoking pipe ‘…he held tight in his teeth’. Also the quote at his feet ‘His eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry’ is direct from Moore’s poem. Santa is holding an armload of toys and a sled, typical toys of the era. There are several Post Civil War-era patriotic motifs in the image, including the miniature American flag under his arm, the ribbon rosette in his hat and the red, white and blue toy pinwheel in his hand.
Surrounding the central, large Santa motif are four small vignettes in the corners. The first is titled “Santa Claus is coming”, and shows Santa in his sleigh racing through the woods with a starry sky under the watchful eyes of a full moon. The next depicts Santa about to deliver a package down a chimney and is titled “With compliments of Santa Claus.” The third shows a group of children hanging their stockings at the fireplace and states “All the stockings in the house were hung to be filled, by Santa Claus.” The last vignette has the children cavorting with their new toys around their sleeping parents’ bed and stating “Santa Claus gave all these toys because we were good girls and boys”, all relating to and following the story-line of Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” poem.
In addition to this scarf, Edward Peck designed several other Santa images for Oriental Print Works, including printed Christmas stockings and ‘Cut-N-Sew’ Santa dolls; all are hard-to-find and equally desirable. The Oriental Print works suffered greatly during the economic depression of the 1870s and closed completely in 1883, ending production of these festive Christmas linens. These linens are not rare, examples can be occasionally found, but usually they show a century and a half of wear, tear and abuse. Often they are faded or sun damaged, and many times stained or exhibit holes, so to find one in excellent condition is truly a prize, as this one is ~ from our personal Christmas collection. Learn more about vintage Christmas collectibles at www.christmasnostalgia.com.
By R. C. Runge Jr. of Christmas Nostalgia