Thursday, November 27, 2014

1914 Buzza Christmas Card

Thanksgiving dinner is over, so now we can turn our thoughts to Christmas.  This is the first in a series of blog posts on vintage Christmas cards that I've found at estate sales.

I often find vintage greeting cards at estate sales.  This one was part of a treasure trove of Christmas cards someone received, and saved, long ago.  Most of the cards in the lot were from the 1930s, but this one was older.

This little old Christmas card measures about 3 x 5 1/2 inches, and it looks like it might have been colored by hand.

 The inside of the card has the sentiment:

A Christmas Greeting, my dear Friend,
These good wishes to You I send: --
"Hope and faith to lead You
Strength and Love to speed You
And scores of Friends to need You,
And cherish You to the end."

It's signed with the initials J.C.U.

The sentiment takes on a poignant meaning when you look at the inscription:

Christmas 1914.  World War I had broken out in Europe.  America had not yet entered the fray, but that day would come all too soon.

I flipped the card over and looked at the back.  I'd never seen a mark like this on a greeting card before.

This folder
 is limited to 
an Edition of 
 of which this
 is no. 114  
C 296.

By the end of the 19th century, Americans were experiencing was was called the "commercialization of the calendar," where holidays were inspired and marketed by business.  Most greetings sent through the mail were on "penny postcards," which only cost one cent to mail.  The problem with postcards, though, is that the messages on them were not exactly private. 

In the early 20th century, several greeting card companies, including Rust Craft, a fledgling American Greetings, the A.M. Davis Company, the Gibson Company and the Buzza Company started producing Christmas cards with envelopes. (One of the benefits of sending a card inside an envelope was that you could write more than you could on a postcard, and the postman couldn't read what you'd written.)   

The Buzza Company was one of the early leaders in the American greeting card business.  Founded by George Buzza in 1907 in Minneapolis, it originally produced college posters.  In 1910, Buzza branched out into greeting cards, many of which, like my little Christmas card, were designed rather like posters.  At some point George Buzza, like his peers, figured out that sentiment drives greeting card sales.  The Buzza Company made more and different designs, hired  its sales had reached $2 million a year by 1927.  (That's over $27 million in 2014 dollars.)  

One Minneapolis history website I found described why Buzza cards were so popular.

Every major department store in the country bought Buzza greeting cards. They were known for high quality design, innovations in printing, hand-painted accents, and lavish embellishments. The Buzza Company hired leading artists, printing experts from Europe, and nationally known writers and humorists to capture sentiments ready-made for their customers. The charming, bright colored, Art Deco cards are highly collectible today.

George Buzza sold most of his interest in the company in 1929 and moved to Hollywood, California, where he and a partner, Ralph Cardozo, started another greeting card company called Buzza-Cardozo.

There were some other Buzza Christmas cards among the old greeting cards I found at that estate sale.  They show a wide variety of design styles and maker's marks.  I'll post photos of them next time.


In 2012, the Buzza Company Building at 1006 W. Lake Street in Minneapolis was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The draft of the nomination form for the National Register is a great source of information on the history of the company and the greeting card industry in the early 20th century.  This is a big document, full of a lot of details about the building; scroll down to page 15 (Section 8, Page 1) for the history of the Buzza Company.

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