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Prints and Posters of
The Circus
and vintage
Greeting Cards
for treasured American holidays

June 12-September 14, 2002
Second Floor Gallery
Curated by William J. Dane

The Newark Public Library is showing a score of posters and original prints relating to the glories of the American circus along with 150 historic greeting cards which celebrate major American holidays.

The circus visuals include brightly colored lithographic posters which never fail to attract the eye with animals and circus performers with a particular emphasis on the ever-popular clowns who perform very practical jobs under the big tents and arenas as well as entertain huge crowds before the show and while the much anticipated featured acts are being set up. The origin of the circus dates back to Roman times and had its beginnings in America in the 18th century, gathered steam in the 19th century with Phineas Taylor Barnum (1819-1891) dominating the scene, and reached a golden age in the early years of the 20th century. In 1950, the Ringling-Barnum Circus toured the country in a hundred, all steel, circus-owned, double-length railroad cars. It owned more than 30 elephants who were featured in its menagerie and seated about 10,000 excited people of all ages under its “big-top” tent. Original signed prints with circus iconography are shown by Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein, Reginald Marsh and Princeton artist, Gwyneth King Brown who created monoprints of the circus in 1957. 

Greeting cards were hugely popular one hundred years ago just as they are today. The older cards often had a glossy finish and were chromolithographed. Many historic cards used line drawings and large flat areas of color. 

Cards on display in The Library’s gallery were mailed from one Newark family to another family also living in Newark. The only stamp required for delivery was a one-cent issue and they were addressed with a name, street identification and the word “City “. This clearly indicated to the postmen that the card was to stay within the geographic limits of Newark in the era from circa 1890 to 1910. 

Cards for major holidays such as New Years, Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving were designed and printed with added features including embossing, fringes, cut-out shapes and movable parts along with fancy lettering and period calligraphy to plumb new depths of sentimentality which senders of the cards more or less sincerely felt. 
Warm communication was the chief motivation before the advent of cell phones and e-mail facilities. Particularly touching are the cards of patriotic holidays, which directly reflect the sadness of the loss of life and limb during the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. 
Great national pride is clearly evident in cards for Memorial Day, Washington and Lincoln’s Birthdays, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day. These small greeting cards were hugely popular and tell a lot about the people of the United Sates with arching overtones of strong sentiment, patriotic posture, family loyalty, genuine affection and high hopes for the future. 
All of the historic, highly colorful works on paper are from The Library’s Special Collections. They were selected for their instant appeal to visitors of all ages and interests by the Curator of the show, William J. Dane, with the expectation that the lively themes and unique nature of the material will be thoroughly enjoyed by visitors to downtown Newark during the Summer months of 2002. 

The show runs from June 12 through September 14, 2002 in the Second Floor Gallery at 5 Washington Street. Summer hours for The Main Library are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 9:30a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Admission is free at all times. For additional information on content of the exhibit and other questions, please call 973-733-7745.


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©2002 The Newark Public Library
5 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07101