Calendars – The People’s Art

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Reid Dickie

Tis the calendar season!

Stores have large displays of 2015 calendars, Calendar Club kiosks are popping up everywhere and businesses are keen to get their free calendar and their name on your wall. Technology hasn’t figured out a way to transcend the obvious convenience of wall and desk calendars yet. They are still a daily necessity and, thus, a perfect gift, with the right images, of course.

I got curious about the origins of picture calendars and discovered they started in Red Oak, Iowa when Edmond Osborne and Thomas Murphy, two college friends, bought a woodcut of a grand local courthouse with the intent of selling the pictures. To offset the cost of the woodcut they sold advertising around the picture and added a calendar. The first wall calendar was born. It was 1889.

The Osborne Company was formed to create and sell promotional calendars. The founders traveled around the world buying images for their calendars as well as using the work of some of America’s most renowned artists: Thomas Moran, Frederick Remington, Maxfield Parrish, Rolf Armstrong and many others. Wall calendars became the people’s art; their high-quality images often had nostalgic, erotic or humorous motifs. Images of children were and still are very popular as calendar subjects.

While I was looking through some of my mom’s teaching materials she used in the 1930s and 40s when she was a school marm in rural Manitoba, I came across six images painted by an unknown artist with copyright belonging to the Osborne Co, Newark, NJ. No other credit is given although they have a Parrish feeling to them, especially the backgrounds but that’s just a guess. The nostalgic pictures are 4 by 5 inches and each is titled. If you have any information about these images, please contact me.

The picture at the top of the post is called “The organ man singing in the rain.” Here are the other five.

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“Wind a-blowing all day long.”

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“Marching, here we come.”

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“Up in the air I go flying again.”

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“Little children saying grace.”

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“We are lucky, with a lamp before the door.”

2 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Art, Images, Promotion

2 responses to “Calendars – The People’s Art

  1. Martha Comfort

    Those children all look so angelic; no bad behaviour there!! I have started to follow your blog on suggestion of your cousin Jeanette…Martha

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