“Greet the Coming New Year, as the Old Year Passes Out”

New Year’s card available from Charles Stewart, a Cincinnati printer and paper dealer, 1880. Via Ohio Memory.
New Year’s cards available for sale in 1881, via Ohio Memory.

This coming weekend will see Ohioans (wherever they may be!) bidding farewell to 2016 and welcoming in the New Year. As the old year closes and 2017 begins, we’d like to take a look back at some of the “New Years” of years past!

Cards, like the one seen above, were a popular way to send good wishes for the start of a new year for much of Ohio history–a tradition that still continues today! Ohio Memory has a number of examples of the options that were available over different years, from a celluloid card from the Fostoria Bicycle Club to designs printed by the Cleveland Paper Company in 1881. Many motifs appeared frequently across the decades, including Baby New Year and Father Time, sunrises, clocks and other timepieces, and wintry scenes. The series of cards seen at right, available for sale in Ohio and printed by the New York News Co., offered some quirkier options, including a banjo-playing frog, “Professor Grimes” investigating an Egyptian obelisk revealing the new year’s date, and circus performers acrobatically creating the numerals of “1881.”

Another common New Year’s practice, which we are not as familiar with today, was the printing and delivery of “Carriers’ Addresses” from newspaper publishers throughout the country. These poetic greetings, often printed in an editorial style without credit to their author, summarized the past year in local, national and world news, and reflected on the current state of the world.

“New-Year’s Offering” from the Ohio State Evening Journal, 1862. Via Ohio Memory.

Interesting examples from Ohio can be seen on Ohio Memory, including the Piqua Register, the Times Recorderof Zanesville, and the Ohio State Journal. The Piqua Register address at the start of 1853 mentions major national news like the passing of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and the incoming presidency of “Frank Pierce,” but encourages subscription to the Register for coverage of “All that transpires in ‘church and state.'” The Ohio State Journal address, delivered in 1862 while the country was in the midst of the Civil War, offers a somber reflection of the nation’s challenges, but with hope for the future.

If you would like to take time this weekend and reflect, perhaps the New Year’s poems of Katharine Neal Smith will offer some relaxing reading. In this hand-printed volume from Pegasus Studio of Cleveland, Smith offers timely verses including “Yearly Resolutions,” “The New Year’s Gift,” and “The Old and New Year Meet.” This last poem, from which the title of this post was borrowed, offers a lovely image of the new year as an unwritten book “bound together, in a volume— with each page of spotless white.” We at Ohio Memory look forward to welcoming 2017 with you as we write this story together!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!


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