Family history lines the Beekman mantle

On our very first Christmas on the farm, we had very few furnishings, and even fewer holiday decorations. But we really wanted to mark our first Christmas season on the farm with some holiday spirit. Then I remembered the stack of various holiday post cards in the attic that my mother had handed down to me years earlier. So we simply lined them up on the mantle without much thought of design. For whatever reason, they wind up in the same spot every year.

Nearly all of the cards are made out to “Mr & Mrs. Chas Palmer, Greenville NY.” They were my Great Great Aunt and Uncle. The couple lived approximately 45 miles from the Beekman, and their farm still stands. For whatever reason, Mrs Chas Palmer’s collection of postcards were preserved through the years. There are about three dozen in total, from several holidays throughout the year, but mostly Christmas.

These cards mostly date from 1908-1913. Before this time, Christmas cards were not for the masses. They were fairly expensive cards that required fine printing and envelopes. The advent of commercial post cards in America led to the “Golden Age of American Postcards,” lasting from 1898 to 1915. World War I interrupted the import of German postcards, which used the finest printing techniques. Several of our cards are German in origin, as noted in the printers’ mark on the back.

While the fronts of these cards make great, simple holiday decoration, it is the backs of them that hold the real treasures. That’s part of the reason we don’t frame them. We encourage visitors to take them down and read them, one by one. It’s wonderful to see the beautiful cursive handwriting and read the heartfelt holiday messages that, perhaps not surprisingly, aren’t that different from today’s.

While we know that most families don’t save their cards past a couple of years, we think it’s a great idea for everyone to pick up vintage holiday cards that they find in flea markets and antique stores. Not only do they make an inexpensive decoration, but it’s also nice to preserve some long gone, kind soul’s holiday wishes. While they may not have had the chance to know you, we’re pretty sure that they would be happy that they have a second chance to wish someone a wonderful holiday season.

Below are the front and backs of some of our favorites from our collection, and a little history about the tradition of giving holiday post cards. Click on any one to start a slide show with captions explaining their history.

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Reader Comments

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Judy Johnson

What a treat to see your collection of vintage postcards. They are wonderful, I also collect them and so enjoy putting them in my vignettes during the holidays. Thank you for sharing.
Merry Christmas!!


I absolutely swoon for vintage postcards – especially Christmas ones. Thank you for sharing your beautiful collection. It was fascinating to learn the trivia to go along with these special images from yesteryear. I long for these simpler, more mannered times….
I also love the idea of using them as mantle decoration. I shall do the same. Thank you.

Krista Unser

I have many old cards and display them every year. i use old flower frogs,the one with spikes and the cards fit right in and are upright and can’t go anywhere so I don’t have to worry about them ending up on the floor plus they look good.

Sandra C. Jeski

Have you thought of producing your own line of “vintage style” Christmas postcards? Folks could send less costly, postcard postage less than envelope, personal Christmas greetings. Think it of helping the Post Office survive! Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year.


OMG, I loved those! I love all old things, but especially sentimental things! Don't EVER get rid of them! I think it is amazing that you allow them to be held and read by your visitors. I am so grateful you shared them with us, and they made me actually feel what it must have been like at Christmas so long ago. I could feel the warmth of the writings, and the innocence and hopefulness of the early 1900's. You are very blessed to have those!


Josh ~ Thanks for the background information,

very interesting, about the history of Christmas

greetings. I want you to know that, after seeing

your display in Country Living, I lined up my

most beautiful cards on the mantle of my old

brick fireplace this year. It elicited comment

from many holiday visitors!

Also, what a wonderful sentiment: allowing the

wishes of someone from "long ago" to again

be "reexpressed" by displaying those lovely

antique cards. All in all, after reading the

December magazine feature, I found you guys'

story exceptional and inspiring.

Thanks for directing me to Planet Green. I hope

to catch some episodes of Season 2!

Michael (from Missouri)

Mary Jane

Just a quick note that I received the Bucolic Plague and gain much insight to the Beekman Boys trials and tribulations. I enjoyed the show tremendously and the book was the icing on the cake.

Here's to successes great and small and a joyful future at The Beekman to all.

Sharon S

Love the vintage cards. I have a couple of my Grandmother's & love putting them out every year. If you rescue them from a Thrift Store, know that you are making someone's Grandma in heaven happy!

Patricia Matteson

I was given an old postcard framed in glass with copper taping securing the card between the two panes of glass. It also had a wire hanger. The glass protected the card and allowed for both sides of the card to be seen. I bring it out each Christmas and receive many compliments……enjoyed seeing your collection. PPM

Fred Oliver

Josh and Brent…We acquired a large box of old Christmas cards at auction last fall. Have since moved and can not find box with cards…??? Will keep looking. May find them by next Christmas. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year to you guys…Oh, ordered the fruit cake, sugar plums and onion jam. All delish!!!!…Fred


Josh and Brent,

What a nice collection of vintage Christmas cards, specially when they are from you family!

Thanks for sharing them with me (us), it's very interesting to see how the Christmas cards have evolved through the years…..

and also, I wish you and Brent a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!


Heather MacDonald

Thanks so much for sharing these great vintage Christmas cards. I picked up some replica paris vintage postcards about two years ago and they have stayed in the tin they came in all this time…as I had not decided how to display them..I love the simplicity of yours…can't wait to get them out and do the same. I will also be on the look out for the real deal…love them, love you, love your show! Merry Christmas Josh and Brent..Farmer John and Jason..Polka Spot too- Heres to 2011 and many more successful adventures!

Linda Schnell-Leonar

i am right with you on the vintage card idea. I bought three vintage holiday cards this year at the Philadelphia Flea Market. I gave one to Teri, inside of a new card. I bought one for you, which I have not sent yet, as I like sending them between Christmas and New Years, and the third I bought for my childhood best friend, Lydia, who just happens to live in Greenville New York.12083. There are only 6 degrees of separation, as you know.

So let me know what you think when you get the card, okay?

Vintage is nothing new for me, I grew up with it, live it everyday, and has past it on to my children.

good night sweet boys….Have a Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year.

teri tighe

Josh, you should take a photo of their farm to keep with the cards. Maybe add that to the cards for showing. how great would that be?

margaret thall

beautiful! we pass thur hoosick falls on our way to vt for the last 30 yrs / its right on rte 22 & vt boarder by bennington vt/


My mother ended up with a whole bunch of our family's cards as well. She bought fancy scrapbooks and displays them in the scrapbook, held on by picture corners, so you can take them out and look at them. My favorite ones to read are the ones from my Great Grandmother's suitors – she had a lot of them! I'm sure I will end up with the collection someday.

Marcia Sharp

What a great idea! I think its a great idea to keep some cards. Recently, I came across a card sent to me by my late aunt. Just reading it made me smile, so I kept it.

Linda Turner

I have some of the same postcards, written to my parents and grandparents! My mother gave them to me years ago since I always enjoyed looking through them, and I have kept them through many moves. As you mentioned, I love the touching sentiments and beautiful handwriting. They still have the tarnished tin glitter. I always get a little shiver each time I read them…maybe the Christmas wishes are still there inside the cards….

Lori Byon

Beautiful. Thank you for allowing your millions and zillions of online friends into your home and for sharing your humor and charm.

Nancy Grimes

Loved looking at the post cards and reading the messages. Merry Christmas to you both. Hope Brent meets the million dollar challenge so Josh can retire to the Beekman and be a full time gentlemen farmer. Merry Christmas to Farmer John, Jason, the goats and the llovelly llama Polkie.

Kimberley Engel

This brought such a timeless Christmas warmth to me. Thank you so much and have a Merry Christmas!!

Renate Beedon

Thank you for sharing this – it was touching to read the cards. What wonderful ideas you have!!


Like the collection have collection of old

christmas cards myself I have collected over the years very nice like ti hang them in the kitchen.

Kathy Bliss

Thanks Josh and Brent for sharing your postcards with us. They are a treasure in many ways. I love how simple the address is just a name, and city. Wow it looks like the post office really did work back then. A 7pm postmark. Who would thought. : )

Everyone at the Beekman, have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.

Marie Stone

Josh and Brent….these are lovely and I wish they still made much nicer than our modern cards. I love "living in the past" and you two constantly inspire that. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year wishes to you…may all your dreams be merry and bright!

Andrea Duke

I have several of these vintage cards that I got a flea market years ago and put them out at Christmas every so often.

The mantle is beautiful!


Winnie Wong

Thanks for sharing, and telling the story about the Christmas Rose. I look forward to the pink/white buds currently hiding beneath the evergreen foliage bursting forth in the spring. Have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year blessed with abundance!

Will in Texas

"just know that I didn't forget" – what a great and powerful, simple sentiment.

Cheers to making more happy memories in 2011.


My family has passed down two boxes of old postcards which I am now the happy owner of. I like to display them during the various holidays through out the year. The Valentines day cards are always very dear to read as well.


What a wonderful collection, thank you so much for sharing.

And as an archivist I wholeheartedly agree with your decision to keep the cards unframed so that you can touch, read, and share the messages on them with others. But could I suggest another way to display them, just to ensure that they are still around and legible another 100 years from now? Consider putting them in clear postcard sleeves that would protect them from dust, light, and fingertips.. like these:…


I adore vintage Christmas greetings. In fact, I have begun hording my one favorites each year in hopes that to someone down the line they will be cherished. Thanks for posting!

holly mac

you've shared some great ideas! I know what I'll be looking for the next time I visit an antique shop!

teri tighe

Thank you for sharing those lovely cards and stories. I will try this same thing for Christmas. I love old cards, pictures, post cards, etc. and find the older stuff so wonderful and more interesting.

I hope you both have a wonderful white Beekman Christmas.