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Cool Things - Christmas Cards

Ice skaters at the governor's mansion, 1970

Topekans looked forward to receiving these hand-painted Christmas cards every year.

Perhaps Louis Glynn tried to keep the Christmas spirit throughout the year. He certainly worked at it more than most people.

Although it is not unusual for people to make their own Christmas cards, it is remarkable to spend much of the year creating them. Louis Glynn enjoyed every time-consuming step necessary in creating 500 greeting cards annually. Each was a hand-painted watercolor original, lettered by him as well.

Glynn was always on the lookout for new subjects, keeping a sketchbook on hand in case he encountered an interesting scene. Unlike many artists, he also photographed views with color slide film. Many such scenes would later inspire the artwork on his cards.

Sledding in Topeka

To begin the process of drawing the year's Christmas greeting, Glynn studied his collection of photographs and selected a favorite scene. Next, he sketched it in pencil until achieving the preferred perspective. Glynn then created a line drawing of the basic design in pen and ink. He took this drawing to a print shop where 500 copies were made on heavy paper.

Glynn next set up an assembly line in his basement, laying out the cards on an adjustable table in batches of 50 or so at a time. He started the laborious process of painting one color on each card, allowing them to dry overnight before the next color could be applied. This step was repeated until all colors had been painted on that batch of cards, and then begun all over again with the next lot of 50. Glynn's work table was slanted just slightly to allow the paint to run from light to dark, giving an illusion of depth.

Kansas state capitolOnce the painting was completed, each card was hand-lettered with the name of the receiver and a personalized message. Each envelope was also hand-lettered.

Louis Glynn made these cards from the early 1940s through the 1970s, personalized Christmas greetings from him and his wife, Lillian. With the exception of one course at Washburn University, Glynn had no formal training as an artist. His lifelong work was with the Santa Fe Railway as a stenographer in the purchasing and stores department. Lillian worked as a secretary in the General Manager's office.

The Kansas Museum of History's collections include ten cards created by Glynn between 1966 and 1975 and sent to Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Kilfoy of Topeka. The cards capture scenes in Topeka and the surrounding area, including buildings since torn down, making them pictorial records of local history. This collection of cards was donated by the Kilfoy's niece, Sue Kern of Thornton, Colorado.

View other cards by Louis Glynn:

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Entry: Cool Things - Christmas Cards

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2007

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.