I have a real soft spot for Ellen Clapsaddle’s postcards. They have such a sweet charm to them. Wikipedia has some history about her and her illustration business. She was one of only a few women in that field in the late 1800s and her work was very popular at the time. These successful contributions to the novelty postcard business enabled her to start up her own publishing company under the wing of the International Art Publishing Company in New York. Unfortunately, the best printers and engravers worked in Germany at the time and when the first world war broke out, she felt compelled to travel there to inspect the damage to those factories and see if any of the work she did while living there was salvageable. After the war, her business partners, the Wolf brothers, spent months searching for her in Germany. When they did find her, she was wandering the streets and barely recognized them. It was clear she’d suffered some kind of mental breakdown. The Wolf brothers brought her back to the States and did what they could for her.
Unmarried and childless, Clapsaddle had no close relatives. Furthermore, she had spent all of her time and productive years dedicated to her artwork and there was no one to take care of her under those circumstances. The Wolf brothers took care of her as long as they were able and alive but they too died destitute and poor. When they passed on, she was left penniless, alone, unable to work, and mentally incapacitated. She had lost the ability to make a living and her deteriorating health rapidly became a major obstacle.
She was admitted to the Peabody Home for the elderly and destitute on Pelham Parkway in New York City in January 1932. One day short of her 69th birthday in 1934 she died. Like many residents of the home who had no relatives, she was buried in a potters’ grave. She died totally destitute through no fault of her own just like the Wolf brothers—innocent victims of the world tragedy of the First World War.
A sad fate for someone whose work has brought smiles to so many faces. Such is life.
A bit of a downer to finish with, though. Have a kitten: