Early 20th Century Swiss and German Anthropomorphic Vegetable Postcards

One of the more intriguing types of postcards I have discovered and collected are postcards from the early 1900s from Switzerland and Germany featuring anthropomorphized vegetables (carrots and onions) engaged in all sorts of everyday activities, and also anthropomorphized radishes, closely associated with beer in Munich.

A good number of the carrot-themed cards include references to “Rübliland,” which appears to be a reference to a Northern part of Switzerland (likely the canton of Aargau), although web searches for the term just turn up pinterest and postcard vendors with these cards and no additional infomation. “Rüebli” means “carrot” in Swiss-German, so “Rübliland” would seem to mean “Carrotland.”

Although the full history of these cards remains unclear to me, they appear to represent pride in the quality of the vegetables from the regions, as well as humorous recognition of the association of the products and the regions. It seems likely they were intended for purchase by tourists, but they may have also been shared among locals. More investigation of the postmarks and content of the messages can give more clues on those issues.

I can find very little online about these cards and nothing in English. There is this useful German-language article (“Look and smile: The prelude to the Rüeblimärt”) with a slideshow of 12 postcards. That site says that the cards were produced “up to around 1930” and “were issued by no fewer than nine card publishers (in Zurich, Basel and Will SG).” It also references a now-deceased Swiss collector who “put together a large collection of around a hundred different subjects” and suggests there is also a collection at the Aargau State Archives. But I have been unable to locate any website featuring those or other collections, or articles making more than a passing reference to the cards (such as this one).

In any event, these curious cards are charming and amusing, and many examples follow!

(Thanks to my friend Matt P., living in Austria, for his help with translations, German-language sources, and geographic context!)

These first few cards, with carrots engaged in distinctive pastimes, are all associated with Aargau, a northern canton of Switzerland on the border of Germany, between Basel and Zurich. According to the virtual “World Carrot Museum,” the town of Aarau, the capital of Aargau, has an annual “Rüeblimart” (Carrot Market) in November.  Clearly, the local carrot pride is deep and longstanding. All five of these cards say “Greetings from the Rübliland (Aargau).”

These next cards all feature art by H. Schmidt, one of the most prominently identified artists.

Card playing is one of the most common pastimes for anthropomorphic vegetables. It is interesting to consider these cards in the context of the history of playing cards.

Other common motifs for these cards are classroom scenes…

And drinking…

This card says “Greetings from Rübliland” and “A toast to comfort and enjoyment!” Gemütlichkeit is a German word not susceptible to perfect translation (“convivial” maybe?) that “is used to convey the idea of a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Other qualities encompassed by the term include coziness, peace of mind, and a sense of belonging and well-being springing from social acceptance.”
This card says “Merry company in Rübliland.”

And fighting or militaristic scenes…

This card says “Greetings from Rubliland” and “A deadly blow.”

And romance…

And more card playing…

This card says “A nice game of Jass in Rübliland.” According to Wikipedia, Jass “is often considered Switzerland’s national card game, and is so popular there that the Swiss have come to apply the name Jass to trick-taking card games in general.” Jass is also the name for a specific game that is “popularly supposed to be the progenitor of the American game of Pinochle.”

Although carrots are the most celebrated, there are also cards that feature anthropomorphic onions in very similar scenes. These all refer to Bölleland (or in one case Böllenopolis). “Bölle” means “onion” in Swiss-German, so the cards refer to Onionland or Onionopolis. Although web searches for Bölleland turn up no English-language information (other than a place in Norway called Bolleland famous for buns), German language sources apparently suggest Bölleland may refer to the Rheinfall region in the Swiss canton of Schaffhausen on the border of Germany and near Aargau (aka Rübliland).

There are also cards featuring what I am pretty certain are anthropomorphic radishes, but those are narratively distinct: rather than displaying radish lifestyles, they mostly associate radishes with beer and involve interactions with humans. At first I thought the vegetables were perhaps turnips or rutabagas, but the first card below refers a “Radi.” According to this site, ” ‘Radi’ is the Bavarian name for ‘Rettich’, which is the german word for a Daikon radish.” And, as this site explains, Radi is also the name of a snack traditionally served with beer, “a spiral-cut radish that is sprinkled with salt and maybe chives.” Radishes are also common on German beer steins, and this site explains that “All stein collectors are familiar with the picture of a child, dressed in a cowl, with radishes in one hand, a filled beer stein in the other, smiling devilishly from a stein decoration.” Thus, the cards below seem to be a celebration of the traditional connection between radishes and beer, particularly in Munich.

The text at the bottom of this card is “This is how we live, everyday!” The labels above the figures are “wedded couple,” “the merry brothers,” “singing group Fidelio,” “courting,” “let’s go dancing,” and “dance music.”
This particular card is a more recent reprint that a friend’s father brought back from Germany.