Postcard mystery solved: Antique works of postal art get new life

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
The bunad-clad maiden is one of the most common motifs among the vintage postcards.

Molly Jones
The Norwegian American

When we first found these vintage Norwegian postcards hiding away in our old office, we didn’t know where they came from—or really anything about them—but we knew we had exactly seven sets, and we decided to share them with you through our campaign. Well as it turns out, there’s a lot more where that came from!

Shortly after sharing our Indiegogo campaign, we received a call from Esther Van Noy, who shared with us that she herself had created these postcards 20 years ago.

Van Noy has been collecting antique Norwegian postcards for a few decades, and she went to a print shop in Puyallup, Wash., in the late 1990s to have the postcards enhanced and restored. She made the first set of 10 in 1997 and another set of 10 in 1998, printing 500 copies of each one. While she had hoped to sell most of these, she still has hundreds of sets remaining.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
This poster displays some of Van Noy’s original antique postcards side-by-side with their restored counterparts.

Most of these postcards were originally sent over a century ago from people in Norway to their relatives who had immigrated to America. The lithographs and hand-tinted photographs depict the life and culture of Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Lofoten with one of the most popular motifs being a pretty maiden dressed in a bunad and surrounded by the stunning Norwegian nature. The postcard featuring several figures (see top of poster above) was actually an advertisement for a small coffee mill, however, describing some aspects of Norway’s culture on the reverse.

Van Noy’s collection also includes an advertisement for Singer sewing machines, holiday cards for Easter, Syttende Mai, and Christmas—some of which were reprinted in the pages of the Western Viking in the early 2000s—and antique postcards from Sweden and Denmark.

Photo: Emily C. Skaftun
As you can see from the original on the right, some of the postcards were in poor condition with frayed edges and cracks before being restored.

Shortly after making the postcards, Van Noy delivered the seven sets to the editors of the Western Viking, two decades before we would uncover them and offer them to you. We recently had the pleasure of meeting with her, learning more about the postcards and seeing the originals, and receiving more sets to offer to you!

In addition to collecting postcards, Van Noy is a member of Daughters of Norway. She joined the organization in 1980, served as president of her lodge from 1995 to 1996, and remains involved through festivals and cooking classes. She has also made over 200 bunads since 1990 and presents programs with a special focus on her collection of vintage postcards and Norwegian history from the Vikings to the Norwegian Royal Family.

If you would like to contact Esther Van Noy or are interested in having her present a program for your organization, please reach out to her at (253) 537-2938 or eovannoy@juno.com.

If you would like to purchase your own set of vintage Norwegian postcards, please visit our Indiegogo campaign at igg.me/at/theNA.

To subscribe to The Norwegian American, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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