The earliest known depiction of the Easter bunny in the United States was acquired by the Winterthur Museum in 2011. The drawing from 1800 is by schoolmaster Johann Conrad Gilbert, who immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany. In fact, the Pennsylvania Germans brought many Easter traditions to America, which had their origins in the Pagan holiday celebrating the beginning of spring, known as Eostre. The hare, which is one of the most prolific animals in nature, was considered a symbol of fertility, and children would prepare baskets of colorful eggs for the hare to sit on.
Christians adopted these traditions for Easter, in which believers celebrate the resurrection of the messiah Jesus Christ. But the themes of birth, rebirth, and renewal remain constant. The grass is green, flowers are blooming, baby animals are being born. It’s a time of year when everything seems dewy and new. That’s why vintage postcards for Easter, especially those from the Victorian era, are so charming, with their depictions of fuzzy bunnies, newly hatched chicks, children and young women dressed in their Sunday best, and beautiful pastel flowers.
Postcard artists like Fitz Baumgarten, Ellen Clapsaddle, and H.B. Griggs all produced lovely Easter postcards, as did top publishers like Raphael Tuck and Gibson Art Company. More religious vintage Easter postcards show devout images of Jesus or the cross.
Easter postcards from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries are common. The most collectible feature animals like chicks and rabbits dressed in human clothes. Arthur Thiele, who designed thousands of cards for Theo Stroefer of Nuremberg (TSN), is one of the most popular of the anthropomorphic postcard artists.
John Winsch published particularly clever Easter cards, many designed by Samuel Schumucker, using die-cut pop-up projections. Some would have, say, a gated fence, that could be opened to reveal a bunch of adorable bunnies.