Thursday, September 22, 2011

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 5

Adelaide Hanscom's winning design for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition emblem.

As some of you may of noticed the postcards from the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition often have a seal or emblem placed somewhere on them to designate that they are “official post cards.” I was curious about the design and the artist hence this Thursday postcard will feature the two versions of the logo. The top one is a regular one-dimensional illustration while the bottom one appears to be something similar to “claymation” or a three-dimensional raised image. The relief version has rays coming from the sun instead of the Northern Lights. But I suppose that is appropriate as well since Alaska is a land of midnight sun. My personal preference is the painted one. The lines are cleaner and it has that Arts & Crafts movement feel to it that appeals to me.

Another version of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition emblem.

Edmond Meany, a professor at the University of Washington, headed the publicity committee for the Expo and he was the person most responsible for the selection of the then mostly forested campus as the fairgrounds site. The committee held a competition to choose a design as a readily recognizable emblem for the fair. Over 100 entries were received and this one was chosen. The winner was a photographer and artist named Adelaide Hanscom.

She explains the significance of her design in this way:

“The figure to the right typifies the Pacific Slope with right hand extended in welcome, and the left holding a train of cars, representing commerce by land. The figure to the left represents the Orient, and the ship in her hand represents commerce by sea. The central figure in white is that of Alaska, the white representing the North and the nuggets in her hands representing her vast mineral resources. Across the sky in the background is seen the Aurora Borealis so vivid in the North. The purple background with the many colors of the northern lights makes a rich coloring. At the side of the figure on the right are tall trees, typical of the immense forests of the territory represented by the Exposition. My whole idea in this design was to keep it simple and still give suggestions of all the essential things to be represented.” [from: an article written by JoAnne Matsumura in the Black Diamond Historical Society publication, October 2008, p. 12]

Adelaide Hanscom was born in what is now Coos Bay, Oregon 25 November 1875. Her most famous illustrations are those created for the 1905 edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. She started taking photographs for the work in 1903. She said she decided to illustrate The Rubaiyat because it presented “an expression of the struggle of the human soul after the truth, and against the narrowing influence of the dogmatic religions of our time.”

At the time she had been living in San Francisco, California but after the earthquake of 1906 she moved to Seattle where she set up a new studio with another photographer. She also started working on illustrations for Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese that took many years to complete.

In 1908 she married Arthur Gerald Leeson and soon after they moved to Alaska. They moved several times during the next years. She had two children, a son, Gerald born in 1909 and a daughter, Catherine, born in 1912. Her husband was killed in World War I, her father a couple of years later. She went into a deep depression from which she never really fully recovered. In November 1931 she was struck and killed as she was getting off a streetcar by a hit-and-run driver in Pasadena, California. Her work was more or less forgotten until 2008. [For more detailed information about her life and works see]

I especially liked the fact that the artist was a woman who in 1909 was able to win the competition and produced this lovely logo. The emblem appears not only on the postcards but also pins, plates, posters, spoons, and many other tourist type objects. This tin plate was an advertisement for H. Tarnow & Co, Wholesale Wines & Liquors, 215 2nd Avenue South, Seattle . The plate is 9 3/4 inches [45 cm] in diameter.

Front side of tin plate.

Reverse side of tin plate.

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