Ross Family Christmas Cards (1)

1946 – 1957

From the very beginning of their marriage, our parents combined their strengths in recording and communicating their life together. Emblematic of this are their photographic Christmas cards.

Beginning in college, Dad was an active amateur photographer; Mom was an enthusiastic and creative story-teller and historian. Working together, they produced nearly each year from 1946 through 1975 an annual photographic Christmas card that featured each of us.

The first three editions were actually not cards, but rather a small (8 by 7 inches) “Little Visits with the Rosses” photo album that the newlyweds (they were married in August 1946) sent to close family members. Dad took the photos and Mom wrote captions in white ink on the black album pages. In the next few autumns, the relatives were asked to send their albums back so the next year’s pages could be added. (In the future, I’ll produce a separate post on this album, which was featured in the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial Folklife Festival on the Capitol Mall.)

Beginning in 1949, Mom conceived a standalone Christmas card design. Dad took the photos to her specifications and made one print of each. She then cut out the faces/bodies from those prints and pasted them into her design. Dad then photographed that master and printed hundreds of copies, which they mailed to their long and every-growing list of relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances. Mom had the masters framed, and for years they adorned a place of honor on their home’s wall. Now, each child has a few of them.

This blog post will feature the 11 oldest that I have … from 1946 to 1957.  (Right-click on any photo to choose to see a larger version in a new tab.) I’ll soon prepare a page for the 1960 to 1975 cards in a separate blog post … and will update these pages if I find any of the missing cards.

1946:

1946-rosschristmasalbumphoto

This is the first page of the initial 17-page edition of the “Little Visits” album. It contains a a single, simple Christmas tree scene photo with “Christmas Greetings” handwritten onto the print. Each album was personalized to the relative(s) who would receive it; this album was for Dad’s parents. The album contained many scenes from their homelife and Mom’s extensive captions.

1947:

1947-rosschristmasalbum

The 1947 edition of the “Little Visits” album did not have any specific Christmas greeting. Its first page announced David’s July 27 arrival. The page above show photos taken of David just before and after Christmas. (It may have been that the 1947 update was produced substantially before or after that year’s Christmas.)

1948:

1948-christmasalbumphoto

This page from the “Little Visits” album is the first of Mom & Dad’s Christmas greetings that includes a photo of the entire family. I think it was taken in front of the fireplace in their little home at 103 Tucker Road in Oak ridge, Tenn. (It has 768 square feet, according to its Zillow page, which also shows that the fireplace bricks are now painted white.)

Of course, this was my first Christmas, as well, maving been born in July 1948. A notable present I got then was a plush Panda, whose button-eyes, I’ve been told, I promptly ripped out. I do still have this beloved toy, though.

1949:

1949-rosschristmascard

This was our family’s first composite and standalone photo Christmas card. Mom and Dad made it by taking individual photos, cutting out the people and pasting them and added lettering and/or decorations onto a master that was then photographed and printed by the hundreds for distribution.

I had not seen this card before recently going through Mom’s Christmas card file folder for this blog post. I have never seen the master. I suspect that the background is the same fireplace at 103 Tucker Road that was as a backdrop for the 1948 family Christmas photo. As you will see below, Mom often cut out letters from magazines for her card-master designs. One can imagine the tedium of making so many precise cuts over the intricate outlines of all of the letters is this card!

1950:

1950-rosschristmascard

Moop stepped up her creativity with this design … less cluttered and more elegant.

1951:

1951-rosschristmascard

Mom created an even more-modern design this year. While the graphics were simpler, the cutouts for each person were more complex than last year’s, with its all-obscuring black background.

1953:

1953-rosschristmascard

Katy was a new arrival in April 1953. This picture is a more traditional family portrait, with cutout magazine letters for the text. However, I believe that Doop’s camera did not have a delay timer — had they even been invented yet? As a result, Mom took the photo of Dad and us three children. Dad then took a photo of Mom standing alone behind our beloved butterfly chair. Mom then cut-and-pasted herself into the master. If you look closely, you can see a dark line around Doop’s head where an edge belies the cut that, I presume, was then obscured with ink on the master.

1954:

1954-rosschristmascard

This is my favorite of the early Christmas cards.  Mom cut the holly border and bow from magazine ads and simply pasted the “Merry Christmas” — also magazine text — atop it. Each person’s photo was taken separately and cut-pasted into the master.

1955:

1955-rosschristmascard

I don’t recall ever seeing this ball-ornament-style photo card until I went through Moop’s file folder of Christmas cards. I don’t have the master, so I don’t know if the photo was a single shot or cut-and-paste from two or three images. I do suspect that with its more-or-less circular shape and string attachment, this card took a lot more time to produce than the others, which were simple prints of the master. Maybe that why Mom & Dad never produced any other cards with complex chapes.

1956:

1956-rosschristmascard

Greg was born in January 1956, so he was nearly a year old when this card was made. I remember taking this photo, popping out from behind a flat barrier that would be cut out when Mom made the master. I believe Mom & Dad were photographed simply sitting at a table.

1957:

1957-rosschristmascard

John was born in January 1957, so he, like Greg last year, was nearly one year old in this photo. (For the record: Katy had nicknamed Greg “Deggy-deg.”) This was Mom’s first heads-only Christmas card design. Note Mom’s clever letter font, which she hand-drew onto the master.

That’s it for now. Soon I’ll add a second post with 14 cards from 1960-75.

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