The Archivist’s Nook: A Merry Treasure Chest Christmas to All!

A Holy Mother who looks like Audrey Hepburn? Treasure Chest, v. 11, n. 8, December 15, 1955.
A Holy Mother who looks like Audrey Hepburn? Treasure Chest, v. 11, n. 8, December 15, 1955.

The Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book digital collection is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, so what better archival collection to highlight during the Christmas holiday season? As readers of this blog know, The Treasure Chest is an outreach horn of plenty for any archivist, especially for a somewhat dyspeptic and mildly iconoclastic one as myself. It has been featured or at least referenced in three previous blog posts: Finding Your Way Around the Collections, Hark! The Digital Angel Comes! and Treasure Chest: Your Own Virtual Jesus. So, at the risk of going to the well one too often, we return to investigate the Treasure Chest’s always colorful and often inspiring Christmas covers.

Decorating the family tree! Treasure Chest, v. 6, n. 8, December 21, 1950.
Decorating the family tree! Treasure Chest, v. 6, n. 8, December 21, 1950.

The Treasure Chest was published, for most of its history, by George Pflaum of Dayton, Ohio for distribution to American Catholic schools, with a total of twenty annual Christmas covers for 1946-1962, 1964, 1966, and 1968. Not surprisingly, the majority of these illustrated covers (15 of 20) depict some version of the Holy Family in and around the manger, sometimes with the Star of Bethlehem present. One in particular (1955), depicts a Holy Mother Mary who bears a remarkable resemblance to screen beauty and legend Audrey Hepburn, then in her prominence (see right), while some others are reproductions of the works of famous Renaissance artists such as Lorenzo Lotto (1962) and Antonio Correggio (1964).

Verse from Psalms 65? Treasure Chest, v. 22, n. 8, December 15, 1966.

Three of the remaining five covers are secular in nature, depicting familiar if not iconic scenes of 1950s American middle class life and values. The first (1950, see left) shows a middle class family at home decorating their tree that is about to be pulled by unruly junior onto dear old pipe smoking, newspaper reading Dad! The second (1951) portrays a delightful scene of a family out window shopping with a street Santa Claus doing his thing in the back ground. The third (1958) has an idyllic public venue replete with a huge Christmas tree, a nativity scene, and a shining star in the sky.

The last two covers (1948, 1966) are miscellaneous, with illustrated but vaguely or unattributed Bible verses. The 1966 cover (see right) is a personal favorite, probably taken from Psalms 65. Perhaps a Biblical scholar reading this post could contact us and confirm the Biblical translation or edition? Thank you and Merry Christmas to everyone who has helped make the Catholic University of America archives blog a great success. We hope to do bigger and better things in 2016!

 

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