Friday, May 23, 2014

Object of the Day: Mr. Punch's Alphabet and the Ehrich Brothers

Click image to see Punch's beautiful nose.

It’s Friday! And, as always, Friday is Mr. Punch day here at Stalking the Belle Époque. If not Mr. Punch, then, certainly some of his puppet kin and their appearances in art history.

Today’s “Object of the Day,” is another trade card from my collection. This one is new to me—a gift from my parents. Obviously, you can see why I love it. Commissioned by the Ehrich Bro’s Department Store of New York, the card dates to before 1889 and was a “holiday” advert. Our Mr. Punch takes center stage with his beautiful nose, Punchinello belly and humpy back. He’s dressed in the style of the Piccini Punch known to us through the drawings of George Cruikshank. This Punchinello means business. No slapstick for him. He’s got a sword. But, he looks pleasant and he’s being very patient as this queerly corseted lass tries to teach him the alphabet. Of course, it’s upside down. Oh, for fun. I guess her corset is too tight. She’s got quite a bit of rouge on, too. Or, maybe it’s the corset again.

Above her, we see that the kind people at Ehrich’s want us to be able to find them at “Eight” Avenue and 24th Street.

Now, you may sometimes wonder how I go about dating these items which aren’t specifically inscribed with a date. I say this one dates to before 1889 because my research shows that prior to 1889, Ehrich Bro’s was located at Eighth Avenue and 24th. They’d built a lovely, large emporium there—one of the first. They anticipated great business. However, they did not anticipate that two blocks to the east, on Sixth Avenue, a new shopping plaza dubbed “The Ladies’ Mile” would soon be developed. This, of course, hurt their business considerably. But from 1857 to 1889, they stuck it out. In 1889, they gave up and moved to this building… 

…on Sixth and 22nd. So, since this card lists the Eighth Avenue address, it must be from before 1889.

There you go.

Let’s look at the reverse.

Eighth Ave. and 24th St. 


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