Happy New Year (Really)!


I don't know what the booksellers Billings, Harbourne & Co of San Francisco had in mind back in 1883 when they issued this solemn New Year's greeting. Could they have found a more unhappy looking figure to represent their wishes for a Happy New Year?


The reverse side offers a poem, which may help explain the forlorn look on the young woman's face. Apparently she is separated from her loved one and his words express a longing to see her on New Year's Day.


K. Van Tassell is credited as the artist, but I can't find anything about an artist with this name. L. Prang & Co. of Boston is the publisher of this card in 1883, and there is a lot of information available about this prolific chromolithographer. A German immigrant to Boston circa 1850, Louis Prang became a popular printer of collectible trade cards.

The Philadelphia Print Shop offers prints of Prang's work as well as a brief biography of his life. At this site, I learned that Prang, as his business grew, began offering color copies of famous paintings and published the magazine, Prang's Chromo: A Journal of Popular Art. I wonder if this trade card depiction of a young Fraulein is from a well-known painting (not to me, obviously)?

The booksellers Billings, Harbourne & Co., for reasons forever lost to history, chose this forlorn young, lovesick lady to greet their customers with good wishes for the new year ahead (1884?). Well more than a century later, this curious bookseller wishes you all a very happy and prosperous 2010!

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