The Litchfield Historical Society has been posting festive holiday cards on its Twitter/X feed that were created in the 1950s and 60s by the Litchfield greeting card company Lilac Hedges, founded by Ralph P. Hinchman III.
“While Marcel Breuer was designing the town’s first modern house complete with art by Alexander Calder, Hinchman began what would become a national enterprise from his family’s property on Fern Road,” historical society archivist Linda Hocking wrote in a story that appeared in the Winter 2017-2018 issue of Connecticut Explored.
The story explained that Hinchman was born in Brooklyn in 1921, served in World War II, attended Cooper Union after the war, and spent time at his parents’ home in Litchfield. His grandparents had purchased the property on Fern Road in the early 1900s and the family named it Lilac Hedges.
Hinchman made drawings of Litchfield houses and that pursuit evolved into the creation of the greeting card company that counted among its artists a young Andy Warhol and Hilary Knight, who would go on to illustrate the “Eloise” series of children’s books.
The first commercial order for Hinchman came in November 1950 from Cunard Steamships, which ordered 1,000 cards with an image of a steamship on the front, according to Hocking’s story, which noted that Lilac Hedges initially focused on holiday cards that Hinchman sold to his friends in Litchfield, and then diversified to include greeting cards for other occasions, along with invitations, stationery, and note cards.
At one point, major department stores of that era, including Bergdorf Goodman and Bonwit Teller, carried Lilac Hedges’ cards, the historical society noted.
Despite the obvious charm and appeal of the cards, Lilac Hedges struggled, according to Hocking’s story, which said Hinchman sold his share of the business to friend and business partner Francis McIlhenney, who moved it to California, where it only continued for a short time.
“After the sale of his business, Hinchman traveled throughout the South painting murals in private homes,” Hocking wrote. “He occasionally held art shows in the Lilac Hedges studio. He died in 2005.”
The Litchfield Historical Society has a collection of Lilac Hedges cards and records donated by Hinchman’s sister, Elsa Hinchman Clark, and by artists Jac Venza and Harry Dunn, as well as the Henry D. Bowman Lilac Hedges Collection.
Henry “Denny” Bowman provided designs for cards for Lilac Hedges in the 1950s, later establishing his own separate studio and working in collaboration with Ralph Hinchman, according to the historical society.
More Lilac Hedges Cards 🔻