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Home > News, Articles & Multimedia > Blog Entry > Postcard Collectors Drawn to Brundage’s Depiction of Victorian Children & Holidays

Postcard Collectors Drawn to Brundage’s Depiction of Victorian Children & Holidays

by Bonnie Wilpon (02/22/12).

This Halloween postcard is quintessential Frances Brundage. Note the endearing children with red lips and wide eyes, and the girl’s big hair ribbon and curly hair. Posed with the iconic Jack-O-Lantern, this card is valued in the $50-75 range.

Frances Brundage is a familiar name to collectors across many genres. For most of her 83 years, she illustrated all kinds of paper, both for children and showing children. Her work is highly sought after by collectors of postcards, children’s books, paper dolls and other collectibles featuring Victorian children.

Much of her work was for publishers Raphael Tuck, Saalfield Publishing and the Samuel Gabriel Company. She also produced postcards, many unsigned, for the Stecher Lithographic Company.

Born in Newark, N.J., in 1854, the daughter of local painter and engraver Rembrandt Lockwood, Frances was an accomplished artist by the time she was a teenager. She married painter William Tyson Brundage in 1886, whose artistic specialty was marine life. Sadly, their only child, a little girl, died at the age of 17 months.

This worried-looking, wide-eyed black cat is often found in Brundage’s Halloween postcards. Although the small boy is impish-looking, with unkempt hair, his plump pink cheeks tag him as a Brundage tot. Note the clear artist’s signature at the lower right, and the printed copyright line at the bottom.

Warm and cozy, in her warm pajamas by the fire, this little girl enjoys her Christmas toys. Brundage cards are particularly collectible because of the addition of small, period touches such as the teddy bear (a term coined in 1902) and lavishly illustrated book. This set, with cards valued in the $15-20 range, is identified by the teal border and holly sprig in the upper left corner.

Brundage’s illustrations can be seen in children’s classic novels written by Louisa May Alcott (best known for “Little Women”), Robert Louis Stevenson (author of “Treasure Island”) and Johanna Spyri (famous for writing “Heidi”), as well as in collections such as the Arabian Nights, Robin Hood and King Arthur.

Brundage began by freelancing her illustrations to publishers of children’s books. Then she was snapped up by London’s Raphael Tuck & Sons’ Publishing when it opened its New York City branch in 1895. While working for Tuck, she drew her distinctive-looking tykes for storybooks, paper dolls, valentines, calendars, coloring books and, of course, postcards.

In 1910, Brundage left Tuck to work for Samuel Gabriel, who started his own publishing company after leaving Tuck’s New York office. Gabriel postcards can be identified by its trademark: a square palette with brushes tucked behind it, diagonally, and a prominent letter “G” in the middle. This logo appears in the lower left corner of the address side. The otherwise non-descript postcard backs are printed in brown, show the Postcard Series Number and a “printed in Germany” notation.

Between 1910 and 1916, Brundage illustrated 19 sets of 10 cards each for Gabriel, as well as doing other work. These sets sport unique borders, which identify all the cards as belonging to the set and make the sets quite attractive when the cards are displayed together.

Her embossed postcards, produced from 1902 through 1916, feature happy, pink-cheeked boys and girls having fun and doing traditional things for the holidays. Some of Brundage’s illustrations follow the children into young adulthood, celebrating New Year’s Eve and other special days. She also drew Father Tuck, showing him as year-end’s Father Time and as Santa Claus. Postcards showing adults, or no people at all, are unusual for her, and don’t fetch the high prices that her postcards featuring children do.

Isn’t this just the ideal picture of a little girl at Christmastime? With her fluffy pink dress and satiny hair ribbon, this child is the essence of sweetness as she cradles her beautiful doll. This signed card, in good+ condition, is generally available for about $25.

This St. Patrick’s Day greeting has been embellished with glitter. Can you recognize the little girl’s face as Frances Brundage’s work? Even though this card is unsigned, it’s clearly hers, and is valued at $10-15.

Most of her postcards are signed, though I have several unsigned Brundages in my collection. Once you’ve been collecting her work for a while, you can recognize it by the distinctive faces of the children. Bright hats and hair ribbons, well-defined lips, expressive eyes and red or gold-highlighted brown hair are all hallmarks of her work. Brundage children are smiling and healthy. They often play with traditional toys, or pose with holiday icons.

The postcards she produced for Raphael Tuck often show only her initials, FB, with the letters intertwined. The Gabriel cards, however, clearly show her full signature, “Frances Brundage,” usually on the lower right side of the cards. Many of these cards also carry a printed design copyright, along with the year and her name.

I began collecting Frances Brundage postcards of children in the mid 1970s, when postcards selling for $1 or more made collectors gasp. Today, signed Brundage cards in good+ condition range from $15 to $90. The less expensive cards are unsigned, in poorer condition and celebrate the more common holidays such as Christmas and New Year. As with all postcards, Halloween cards are the most sought-after holiday greetings and, as a result, the priciest.

Frances Brundage’s work can be found online at sites selling postcards both at auction and at fixed prices, as well as at postcard shows, in the Signed Artist category.

Bonnie Wilpon, the author of “Postcard History of Sarasota and Bradenton, FL,” and “Postcard History of Hollywood, FL.” (published by Arcadia Books), is a Worthologist who specializes in postcards.

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