Midcentury Christmas

Midcentury ChristmasMidcentury Christmas at Tredyffrin Public Library!

We welcome Sarah Archer at the library on Sunday, December 11 to discuss her book Midcentury Christmas. 

Ms. Archer took some time to let us get to know her before she comes for her presentation:

Sarah Archer HeadshotBriefly describe yourself & the topic you will be discussing at the library.

I’m a writer and curator who specializes in the history of craft, design, material culture. I write for a number of publications, including Hyperallergic and Slate, and I cover topics ranging from television set design to typography and textiles. I have also taught design history and curatorial studies at Drexel University and the Tyler School of Art, respectively.

Midcentury Christmas explores the way that Americans began associating their favorite holiday with technology and the future—a major break with the the Victorian custom of conjuring up a medieval-style past each December. Instead of horse-drawn sleighs and candlelit feasts, the designers and consumers in the post-war United States were drawn to imagery of the space race, scientific toys, and new decorations like aluminum Christmas trees. This book traces the evolution of this style shift by looking at the manufacturers, advertisers, and designers who gave Christmas its new, Cold War look in the 1940s-1960s.

How did you get interested in that topic?

I’ve always been a huge fan of ornaments and decorations, and fascinated by how different the styles are from each generation. We have lots of vintage ornaments in my family that date back to the 1930s, and some more recent additions from my childhood, and I’m intrigued by how you can get a sense of what was going on in design and in the world at large by studying these objects.

I decided to write the book when I realized that although there are some fun books that catalog post-war Christmas ephemera visually, there wasn’t much in the way of analysis of why the look of Christmas changed so much in this period, and what it all meant in terms of our relationships with shopping, domesticity, new technologies, the new look of Modernism, and a sense of awe mixed with fear of what the space race might yield. And there could be ten books on this – each sub-topic, from toys to ornaments to wrapping paper, is vast!

Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?

My mom! She and I share a love of history and design, and she has always encouraged me to write, and to dig deep into the topics that really interest me and not settle for glossing over the details. I owe her a great debt for the fact that I can support myself doing what I love.

What’s your favorite book and why?

Hard to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorites was Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, in part because it paints such a fascinating portrait of people who are obsessed with objects and information, and how that translates into a domestic setting. It’s as though a family lived inside a museum and all their dramas and dreams unfold against the backdrop things that have their own stories to tell.

Learn more about Sarah & the book!





Congratulations to our raffle winner, Barbara Alexander, who won her own copy of Midcentury Christmas