A couple of weeks ago, we considered briefly a couple of postcard companies which developed distinct lines of cards involving popular songs. A number of these did their best to present an entire song over a number of cards. This was part of a marketing strategy which had been bubbling up since the late eighteenth century: if people develop an interest in a series, they will come back and buy every single one, at first because they like it, but eventually because they want the complete set.
In the postcard world, this was certainly not limited to popular song. The catch phrase postcard developed from much the same idea. This involved a variety of situations which could be shown under the same recurring phrase, always printed in larger print so the passerby could say, “Ah, there’s a new one in my favorite series!”
The “That’s What They All Say” series was one of several published by HSV, shown above in a situation certainly current after a hundred years. Also not unfamiliar is the “sour grapes” version shown in this card, mailed in 1911.
This artist was able to mock the characters and make fun of fashion at the same time. And, um, if you look at the young lady producing the wisecrack in this third example, you will see a flighting venture into naughty humor. (See, putting up a “swell front” was to show off your most expensive clothes to make people think this was your everyday attire, and the sour grapes lady is suggesting that the lady’s front is…oh, you got that one. Just checking.)
Meanwhile, around the same time, the A.S. Meeler Company was producing dozens of different series. One of these was “Will I?” series of second thought gags. These also visited the arena of female competition.
But more often the cartoons are to be found in the world of simple slapstick. A heavyset man with a top hat falling on his backside was a joke that outlasted generations.
The same company had another bestseller whose jokes also tap into eternal fountains in their “Excuse Me” series. These cards focused on situations in which unrepentant jerks caused trouble and then moved on with a completely inadequate apology. This chap has at least done himself almost as much inconvenience as the waiter.
Another waiter, however, gets revenge on this card from 1910.
This series went on for a while, since the world was no less well-provided with jerks in the days before social media. But I can’t show all the examples from my inventory, because I think we’re getting short on space.