Schmucker’s Sexy Witch, 1911: The Holy Grail of Halloween Collectors
If you look at this page on AmericanPostcardArt.com you will find a few comments about this card that explains the title of this post.
If I’m only going to offer a few Halloween images, they might as well be the best, and it doesn’t get any better than the combination of [the artwork of] Samuel Schmucker and [the printing of] John Winsch. These are pretty much the holy grail of Halloween collectors, and they are stunning cards … This image is superb – colors, graphics, content.
If this sounds like hyperbole have a good look at this Samuel L. Schmucker artwork. This particular card shows
a beautiful young witch on her broomstick, dressed in a flowing green gown with goblins appliquéd on the skirt, draped in a purple cloak, and wearing a strange purplish dunce’s cap with red suns and stars. There’s an owl hitching a ride on her broom. Behind her is a full moon with a rather leering expression, and the sky is lovely with stars.
(For “strange purplish dunce’s cap” read “gorgeous silver witch’s hat”—but otherwise it is a good description.)
The writer on AmericanPostcardArt.com doesn’t mention that the card is embossed, which is not very obvious in scans, or the effect that this has on the lovely skin tones of our witch’s rounded arms, the rippled skirt, the layered feathers and the rough brush of the broom.
The caption reads:
When the world is wrapped in slumber,
And the moon is sailing high,
If you peep between the curtains
You’ll see witches riding by.
The card was posted by “Aunty LuLu” from Azusa to “Miss Julia Heslop” in Pasadena, California on 26 November 1912. As you can see, the copyright date is 1911 but the publisher (John Winsch) was not going to give up on such a popular design and it must have been re-issued from year to year because I have seen franking dates into the late teens.
These cards are featured in almost every work on Halloween collectibles, and many collector’s guides wax lyrical about them. Lisa Morton in The Halloween Encyclopedia (2003), 141, writes:
Today these [post]cards are highly prized Collectibles, none more so than those manufactured by John Winsch; Winsch cards featuring the artwork of Samuel L. Schmucker are small masterpieces of art nouveau, combining enchanting women, Halloween symbols, and high quality prinnting, often with gelatin finishes.
J. L. Mashburn in Fantasy Postcards: A Comprehensive Reference (1996), 235, writes:
The classical J. Winsch cards, illustrating the beautiful works of S. L. Schmucker … are definitely the most sought after of all that were published.
As the writer on AmericanPostcardArt.com says “not only are these cards terrifically expensive, they are darned difficult to find no matter what your budget!” In 1996, Mashburn valued the cards at USD100; I have seen them regularly pass USD200; and one particularly lovely one, with an embossed border, went for USD1000!
I have long wanted this particular Winsch/Schmucker card—I adore the green dress—but there are a few other Schmucker designs that feature witches. The only problem is, because they are so well know, highly prized, and often reproduced, there didn’t seem much point struggling to get one and blog it, because the chances are you have all seen it before. And when I do my book, the publisher will easily be able to obtain images and rights to reproduce all the Winsch/Schmucker cards.
And, as my regular readers will know, I have chased down the more obscure witchy material first. But, I kept watch for over five years and recently picked this one up at a reasonable price. It could be as many more years before I get any of the others, and I doubt I will ever see another one under USD100. So, enjoy—and possess yourself of patience! (Or become a ninja delivery-person. The work is light and the pay is good!)