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Belligerents and Participants
Louis Burgy & Co. from Lausanne was a publisher of view-cards and types of Switzerland. At the outbreak of the Great War he began producing patriotic cards in lithography that emphasized the historic defense of Switzerland’s borders.
The lonely subdued cityscapes that Pierre Chatillon painted before the Great War gives little insight into the propaganda work he would later produce. Hateful depictions are rare on Swiss postcards because the Swiss government discouraged publishers from creating further divisions in the nation further by taking sides in the conflict. While opinions were still expressed, they tended to only go so far. Chatillon got around this by presenting his strong anti-German narratives through the publisher Grellinger in Paris.
There are many Swiss postcards that deal with the plight of refugees. Some of these cards depict them in documentary terms, while others do so though allegory. The artist Edouard Elzingre produced a set of cards for Jaeger of Geneva depicting Swiss soldiers through different periods of their history. It is telling that the series ends in 1918 not with fighting but with a Swiss soldier helping evacuees at a rail station.
The Fretz Brothers based in Zurich were a large printing house that also published fine lithographic products such as posters and postcards. Carl Moos, A. Wolfer, and Iwan E. Hugentobler all contributed military illustrations for their artist signed cards.
Though reservists were paid when called up to guard the frontiers, their wages were meager and there was no compensation for lost salary. Private relief organizations were set up to financially aid soldiers and their families, and charity cards played a huge role in fundraising. A fine artist drawn set depicting the call up of reservists was printed in lithography by Gebruder Frets in Zurich.
The constant state of armed neutrality created a demand for postcards with military themes in Switzerland. While these cards do not tend to depict the fighting beyond their border, they do show the Swiss army in various states of mobilization and deployment. The images on many of these cards can easily be mistaken for battlefront scenes. One of the best of this type was drawn by Carl Moos who is also well known for his posters. His earliest cards are close-ups of troops in various states of readiness. Later in the War they become much more subtle emphasizing the Swiss landscape with only hints of military activity in them.
Andre Georges Fournier was an illustrator who seemed to concentrate on military themes, both contemporary and historical. During World War One he made a number of drawings depicting clashes between French and German troops around Verdun that were placed on monochrome postcards printed in Switzerland.
Emil Goetz in Luzerne had been a publisher of fine view-cards since 1896. In 1914 he began to produce an outstanding set of lithographic art cards depicting Swiss soldiers. These were specifically issued as fieldpost cards. He also continued to publish many view-cards of the Swiss Alps in photo-chromolithography, only now his majestic views also contained soldiers.
The firm H. Goessler & Co. of Zurich was a manufacturer of paper and paper products. They published many dutone postcards of military subjects during World War One.
The lithographer Hermann Guggenheim founded H. Guggenheim & Co. in Zurich in 1893. This firm quickly became a major publisher of early view-cards depicting Switzerland as well as other European countries. While their earliest cards were printed in lithography, they expanded into collotype relying mostly on German printers until World War One. After the death of Hermann in 1912, his two younger brothers, Marcus and Emil took over the business, deleting the H. from the company name. They would produce patriotic postcards during World War One.
Although Ivan Edwin Hugentobler painted landscapes, he seems to have had a particular interest in horses. He included them in work ranging from dramatic sports scenes to quiet street views with horse drawn carts. During the Great War he used this interest to portray scenes that included the Swiss cavalry.
Emil Huber was a painter and graphic artist who designed posters and postcards. During World War One he illustrated a large set of military postcards depicting various branches and ranks of Swiss, and sometimes German armed forces in a very original and highly stylized fashion. These cards were published by Frey & Son in Zurich.
Georges Jaeger was a publisher from Geneva who produced view-cards in a wide variety of techniques. During the Great War he issued patriotic cards as souvenirs of the occupation of the frontiers that were printed by Meier Brothers.
In 1903 Carl Künzli, director at the Künzli Brothers left to start his own publishing company. With partners Bertha Künzli née Tobler and Elisabeth Tobler, he was publishing under the Carl Künzli-Tobler name by World War One. While the firm produced standard greeting and view cards, they also issued a number of cards reproducing sketches made by Swiss soldiers while stationed on the frontier.
Not all Swiss publishers maintained a neutral stance, which can be seen on the postcards they produced. The firm of J. Maseri in Lausanne was in the predominantly French speaking canton of Vaud, and he expressed his pro-French views through political cartoons placed on postcards.
Gebruder Metz of Basel were early art publishers of Swiss Gruss aus view-cards. They also produced the famous Meteor hold-to-light transparency cards. During World War One they produced a number of full color and dutone lithographic military cards depicting Swiss troops on the frontiers.
Perochet-Matile of Lausanne was an important publisher of view cards. While most of these were produced as real photo postcards, some were printed in color lithography. Although they produced military themed cards during World War One, it is the Swiss landscape that still tends to dominate.
It is not always easy to assertion the sympathies of Swiss publishers. Since the country was officially neutral, any ambiguous statement can be read different ways. On the postcards above published by A.W. Rosenzweig in Zurich, the poster artist R. Weiss presents us with the famous encounter between the German submarine U-9 and three British Cruisers. While at first glance the card seems to celebrate the German victory, the wreckage at the bottom of the sea seems to bemoan the cost of the U-boat war. Is the ambiguity meant to circumnavigate Switzerland’s neutral policies or just appeal to a wider variety of customers? Perhaps the meaning seemed clear at the time because the public’s mindset was widely felt.
The lithographic printing house of Sonor in Geneva produced many fine posters and postcards. They continued producing high quality artist signed charity and propaganda cards during the Great War.
The Luzern photo studio of E. Synnberg & R. v. Pfyffer was an early producer of black & white as well as color collotype postcards. They began publishing cards of the Swiss army out on maneuvers long before the start of World War One making many un-posted cards difficult to date.
Though born in Basel, Fritz Wurcher largely grew up in London until he moved to the Kronberg art colony in Germany to study painting. His dedication to plein-air landscape painting was reinforced by his visits to Paris. He had taken up lithography by the time the Great War broke out, and he would use these skills to illustrate charity cards for the German Red Cross.
Switzerland was also home of a number of expatriate communities, some of which grew as conditions at home changed with the fortunes of war. While Swiss authorities preferred its publishers not disturb the nation’s neutral stance, many of these foreign communities had a great stake in the outcome of the War and published propaganda postcards. One such publisher was Xanthos of Cafe Serbe in Geneva who glorified the victories of the Serbian army when publishers back home found it difficult to produce cards.