One of my recent book purchases is Studio Cards: Funny Greeting Cards and People Who Created Them (2004). I needed the book for research purposes, and didn’t have any expectations beyond that, but once I started reading it, it was hard to put down.
The writer, Dean Norman, spent most of his career making “studio cards,” which is the name ascribed to a particular type of tall and funny greeting card that was popular from the Fifties through the Eighties. Dean worked both in Hallmark’s Contemporary department and American Greetings’ Hi-Brows, which were the “studio card” divisions of these two major greeting card companies. (He also worked in animation briefly at studios like DePatie-Freleng and Filmation.)
Hallmark was based in Kansas City and American Greetings was in Cleveland–these were traditional midwestern companies that didn’t try to challenge middle American values as media companies on the coasts did. They were happy to put out products that served a simple and honest purpose, and get rich ten to fifteen cents at a time. As a result, the greeting card industry had little glamour (even less than animation) and few of the artists believed they were making anything more than functional commercial art. Within those boundaries though, they created some funny and memorable work.