It has been a little while since we checked in with the Dutch kids, and their postcards do keep rolling in. For those of you who missed my earlier perorations on the subject, there was, in the 1910s, a mysterious (to me, anyhow) fascination with postcards featuring children who dressed in the folk costume of the Netherlands and spoke what was known as Pennsylvania Dutch (a German idiom found among those German settlers who minded their own business in rural Pennsylvania.)
Their postcards are a combination of cuteness and acuteness. Our humorists learned early on that a plain truth, dressed up in dialect, could make people admire and chuckle about what would have, in plain English, been flat and matter-of-fact. There were thousands of postcards of cute kids, sometimes speaking plain English and sometimes speaking baby talk. And I have pointed out cards which involved cute children using Italian dialect, and sometimes cute adults using Pennsylvania Dutch or, to a lesser extent, Irish, Italian, and German lingo. (I have not had a chance yet to look at every postcard ever produced, so I can’t speak to other dialects.)
But in the 1910s there was an explosion of postcards featuring Dutch kids. Different companies and different artists indulged the fad, and what caused it all and what made it disappear, I couldn’t say. (The Dutch kids seem to flourish even during World War I,) The earliest card I have found is shown at the top, there, part of a series of ads for Utica Yarn which featured Dutch kids enjoying yarn. This was around about 1906, but whether this started the fashion or just serving as a warning shot before the main melee I can’t say. (Jow many people paid attention to yarn ads?)
The Dutch kids spent their time dishing out cheerful advice, and were a mainstay of the nagging “Where’s that letter you promised me?” genre of postcard. When they weren’t doing that, they were trying to sort out the complexities of romance. The thought embodied in this postcard….
….is perennial. It just seems cuter when it’s said with an accent. The following thought is as old as “Rose are red, violets are blue.”
But who could resist it when it’s combined with that smile? The hunt for romance is universal, even when one realizes the dangers.
You get an innocent, adorable vibe when small children are flirting. This would have looked distinctly sinister if it involved adults, even with an accent.
And if this kid had tried this ten years later, he’d have been arrested, despite his bashful air. But at that size, and with that accent….
Don’t think for a moment the Dutch kids didn’t know what it was all about, either.
And it was all desperately important, too, wondering if someone returned your regard. That struck a responsive chord, beyond the accent and the dimples.
The slow response on the part of the opposite number could be inexplicable. When one knew one’s own worth.
And even a bright kid, confused by romance, could come up with the most ridiculous conclusions about what he meant to the opposite sex, not unlike older mem.
NEXT TIME: The Course of True Luf