The Smithsonian sets the scene for this Christmas card sent in 1933, a few years into the Great Depression. They write:
Despite the glum economic situation, the Pinero family used a brown paper bag to fashion an inexpensive holiday greeting card. They penned a clever rhyme and added some charming line drawings of Mom, Dad, and the kids with the message: “Oh, well—in spite of it all—here’s a Merry Christmas from the Pineros.” On December 19, 1933, they mailed it from Chicago to friends in Massachusetts, using a one-and-a-half-cent stamp. For a minimal outlay of cash, they were able to keep in touch with friends and comment on their reduced circumstances with wit and humor.
This hand-lettered poem is a delightful example of light verse, a whimsical form of poetry intended to entertain or amuse, even if treating a serious subject in a humorous manner. In the poem, the Pineros suggest that they had struggled economically for some time, but now, due to the continuing Depression, others shared their financial plight, which enabled them to be more open and candid about their situation.
Like many families, the Pineros probably had lots of bills for necessities including rent, groceries, utilities, milk, and ice. Because not every family had electric refrigeration in 1933, many relied on regular deliveries of ice to keep their perishable foods cold. These bills for milk and ice were separate; they were not part of the grocery account. Local dairies supplied milk and other products on a daily basis. Both the Ice Man and the Milk Man would cometh, as long as they were paid!
It’s a historical case of when less is indeed more…
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When Salvador Dalí Created Christmas Cards That Were Too Avant Garde for Hallmark (1960)
John Waters Makes Handmade Christmas Cards, Says the “Whole Purpose of Life is Christmas”
Watch Terry Gilliam’s Animated Short, The Christmas Card (1968)
May we all face adversity with as much grace and heart.
Here’s wishing you all at Open Culture a safe, happy and healthy holiday season, and only good things in the year to come.