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Some of the Earliest Christmas Cards Were Morbid and Creepy

December 16, 2019 in History

By Crystal Ponti

Santa kidnapping children and murderous mice were par for the course in the Victorian-era Christmas card tradition.

In the 19th century, before festive Christmas cards became the norm, Victorians put a darkly humorous and twisted spin on their seasonal greetings. Some of the more popular subjects included anthropomorphic frogs, bloodthirsty snowmen and dead birds.

“May yours be a joyful Christmas,” reads one card from the late 1800s, along with an illustration of a dead robin. Another card shows an elderly couple laughing maniacally as they lean out a second-story window and dump water onto a group of carolers below. “Wishing you a jolly Christmas,” it says beneath the image.

Morality and a strict code of social conduct embodied the time period of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901), but the Victorians still had their fair share of questionable practices. They thought nothing of posing with the dead or robbing graves and selling the bodies. Their holiday customs evolved with just as much curiosity. Clowns, insects and even the Devil himself had a place in early holiday fanfare.

“In the 19th century, the iconography of Christmas had not been fully developed as it is now,” says Penne Restad, a lecturer in American history at the University of Texas in Austin and the author of Christmas in America.

Printing and Postage Reforms Trigger Christmas Card Tradition

The first Christmas card, circa 1843.

Christmas didn’t gain momentum until the mid-1800s. In 1843, the same year that English author Charles Dickens created A Christmas Carol, prominent English educator and society member, Sir Henry Cole, commissioned the first Christmas card. Even with an impressive print run of 1,000 cards (of which 21 exist today), full-fledged manufacturing remained only a sideline to the more established trade in playing cards, notepaper and envelopes, needle-box and linen labels and valentines, explains Samantha Bradbeer, archivist and historian for Hallmark Cards, Inc. It took several decades for the exchange of holiday greetings to catch on, both in England and the United States.

“Several factors coincided to produce a broad acceptance of greeting cards as a popular commodity,” says Bradbeer, including a higher literacy rate and new consumerism stemming from increasing levels of discretionary income. But postal reform and advances in printing technologies were the two factors that really pushed Christmas cards into the mainstream.

The Postage Act of 1839 helped regulate British postage rates and democratize mail …read more


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The Hashtag Prosecution against Exxon

December 16, 2019 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

It was a hashtag prosecution, a social-media campaign posing as a legal case: #ExxonKnew. And like yesterday’s media balloon become today’s litter, its deflated remains floated back down to earth last week in a New York courtroom.


Whatever you think of them otherwise, ExxonMobil’s communications on climate change had neither the intent nor the effect of wronging the company’s investors. New York’s since-disgraced attorney general Eric Schneiderman had no business bringing a securities-fraud case on that basis, and there was nothing his successor, Letitia James, could have done to rescue the case.’

In a 2003 case called Nike v. Kasky, no less a liberal authority than Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer warned that it was dangerous to freedom of speech to arm ideological adversaries with legal power to bring fraud charges against businesses based on those businesses’ public statements about contentious issues. (The full Court in Nike did not reach that issue, instead dismissing the case on other grounds.)



The Nike case involved claims by the apparel maker about the treatment of its workforce, but the climate issue offered a similar line of attack. Since at least 2012 activists had been looking for ways to gin up lawsuits or even prosecutions over what they termed climate denial — or, to use a more neutral phrase, advocacy on the wrong side of climate debates. Win or lose, and First Amendment or no, gaining access to the internal files of energy companies and their ideological allies could be politically valuable. The ambitious Schneiderman, widely spoken of as a future New York governor, was willing to go first.

As part of the same effort, a team of state AGs used subpoenas to go after free-market non-profits such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute as well as university scientists deemed too close to Exxon’s views. The pushback on both that and the Schneiderman suit was intense, from places such as the editorial boards of USA Today (an “exercise in politics” …read more

Source: OP-EDS