By the time you’re done reading today’s Cookbook Wednesday post, my Christmas cards and gifts should be on the way to their destinations; hopefully. I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve been a slacker lately. Well, kinda. Actually, I’ve been “playing” in the kitchen, trying to learn how to add some pizazz to this blog of mine for the new year (a new font would be nice) and just plain ol’ being lazy! It seems my sparks are flying in so many directions I can’t keep my mind on just one thing. This too shall pass:)
Let’s talk about An Old Fashioned Christmas published by the folks at Time-Life Books in 1997. I’m a huge fan of Time-Life Books and believe me when I tell you, this book does not disappoint. Just look at this Table of Contents.
Pretty impressive, don’t you think? This book has all a girl could ask for and then some. The tone of the book sings deck the halls with decorations, crafts and of course festive foods. I had a difficult time choosing what to highlight out of this wonderful book especially since Bellefonte, the first place I lived when I moved to Pennsylvania, just celebrated their 33rd Annual Victorian Christmas. I only live about 20 minutes away but I just didn’t make it this year. Harry’s wife Ruth told me it was an experience right out of Charles Dickens.
There are wonderful chapters on both Pennsylvania Celebrations and Victorian Celebrations in An Old Fashioned Christmas but, I’ll need to share them another time. Today I’d like to share a few pages in the book dedicated to Louis Prang, a German immigrant who came to America in 1850, who is often referred to as the “Father of the American Christmas Card.”
It’s widely accepted that the first Christmas card was printed in London in 1843, when Sir Henry Cole hired artist John Calcott Horsley to design a holiday card that he could send to his friends. But it was Boston-based printer Louis Prang who introduced the Christmas card to the American public…Prang published his first Christmas cards for the American market in 1875. Their popularity was immediate. By 1881, he was reportedly printing five million Christmas cards a year. Prang’s earliest cards were simple flower designs with the words “Merry Christmas.” Later cards often featured more traditional holiday motifs, some of which were adorned silk fringe, cords and tassels.(New York Historical Society)
Louis Prang, one of the founders of the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, was born in 1824 in Breslau, Silesia (present day Poland). He studied printing and dyeing techniques in Bohemia before immigrating to America in 1850. Prang developed a four-color printing process known as chromolithography in the 1860s. Prang's system was the first workable system to reproduce color in print. He used chromolithography to reproduce great works of art for classroom use. Prang set up a workshop in Boston, Massachusetts in 1860 and began to produce the first colored cards. Most of his business at first was to reproduce masterworks of art and maps for use in classrooms.
…It was the American public’s fascination with Civil War territory disputes, battles and troop movements coupled with the lack of newspapers’ ability to print photographic images which provided Prang with a unique opportunity to put his skills to use. He manufactured some of the first mass produced maps with red and blue lines, which illustrated troop movements and positions of opposing forces on the battlefields. It allowed those on the home-front to track troop advances and retreats through victories and defeats throughout the war…(Louis Prang, "Father of the American Christmas Card" Presented by the Sandusky Library, Sandusky, Ohio
Mr. Prang's greeting cards ranged in prices from 50 cents to $15 each (remember this was the 1800s). Here’s more of his story from the pages of An Old Fashioned Christmas.
It just wouldn’t be Cookbook Wednesday without a recipe now would it? There are oh so many recipes to choose from in the Holiday Baking section. I finally decided on this recipe for Sweet Potato Swirl Bread. It’s swirled with cocoa!
1. Prang & Co's Art Publishing House in Roxbury, Mass in 1873
2. Printer Louis Prang Issued 'Checks’
3. A Prang Christmas Chromolithograph
4. World’s oldest mass-produced Christmas card in SMU collection