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Clarice Krieg 12 Days of Christmas Collection

Identifier: MsC0531

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Scope and Contents

Some Notes about the "Partridge in a Pear Tree" and "12 Days of Christmas" card collection

This collection began to take shape in the 1950's. In the mid-40's there was a revival of interest in the English renaissance song, "12 Days of Christmas". We heard it often on the radio. The catchy tune and amusing words intrigued me, and as I located greeting cards with this theme I purchased them to send to my friends. I always kept one for myself. I still continue to do this every year.

In this way I soon had several dozen cards and began to think in terms of a "collection" branching out into many other types of items such as books, glassware, ornaments, jig saw puzzles, place mats, etc. These things, except for the cards and paper items, were sold individually in our "estate" sale when we left our house to move in Cascade Manor [a retirement home] in 1984.

I kept telling my friends and my colleagues at the Library about my interest, asking them to give me any which they might have. This made the collection grow and I soon had nearly 100.

A friend in Seattle, Charlotte Hoffman (also a cataloger) had a similar collection. She was reducing her belongings and offered her cards to me. They numbered about 125. Charlotte had been working with a church group which collected Christmas cards but did not want the 12 Days cards. This made the collection number over 200.

Then a friend in Philadelphia, Audrey Smith (also a cataloger) sent me 20 or so duplicates and original handmades from her collection.

About this time Charlotte overheard a man talking about a shoe box of 12 Days cards gathered by his deceased wife who had been an art teacher in the Seattle schools. He was wondering what to do with them. Through Charlotte's efforts these cards were sent to me and the collection made a quantum leap!

I continue to add 5 to 10 cards a year -- duplicates of ones which I have sent out, and additions received from friends.

I had been arranging the cards in groups and gave away a small collection of about 200 duplicates. Eventually it became apparent that some sort of classification scheme was desirable so that cards taken out to display could be returned to their correct spots. In 1991 the inspiration for a classification scheme came to me and the cards were put into a preliminary arrangement which was refined and extended in January 1992.

Some random notes:

The words of the song seem to be the same for the 1st through the 8th days. For days 9 through 12 there are several variations in the positions of the ladies, lords, and musicians. I have not been able to establish the authentic text, but prefer the pipers as 9, drummers as 10, ladies as 1l and lords as 12. This puts the highest societal ranking at the end. However, most of the cards put the musicians at the end. Sometimes one finds fiddlers among the musicians. There are frequent errors in the texts in other ways. Details of the arrangement could not be worked into the scheme, so an index of this information is made.

Another interesting detail is number 4, originally "colly" birds. These are blackbirds. Colly comes from the same root word as colliery (coal mine). The birds seldom appear black on the cards, and they usually are given as "calling birds" appearing in many hues.

While handling the cards I found many which were identical in design but were printed on different paper, or in different colors. These were indexed as various printing states.

Further Note: At this time I have 1099 pieces of the collection.

Clarice E. Krieg 2/15/92

[Miss Krieg compiled several indexes to the collection: Artists Index; Publishers Index; Index to Cards Utilizing Unusual Colors; Special Details (e.g., calendars, flocking, tapestry); Printing States; and variations in the Text].


  • Creation: 1949-2001


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


3.52 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Clarice Krieg 12 Days of Christmas collection (1949-2001) started in the 1950s when library cataloger Clarice Krieg began to collect Christmas cards and other ephemera with the theme of the Renaissance song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". She continued this collecting until making a gift of the cards and other paper representations in 1999. The collection contains over 1100 examples, carefully cataloged by a classification scheme invented by Miss Krieg.

Synopsis of Miss Krieg's scheme for arranging "Partridge in a Pear Tree" and "12 Days of Christmas" card collection


A - Handmade

B - Foil

C - Partial foil

D - Bird in tree with trunk

E - Bind in round tree

F - Bird in tree in pot

G - Bird on a branch

H - Bird in other trees, wreathes, etc.

I - Reproductions of handwork

J - Bird in or with pear/pears

K - Humorous

L - Parodies

M-P - 12 days

W - Gift wraping paper

Y - Miscellaneous

Z - Sets of 12 cards

Subdivision I

1 - bird facing left

2 - bird turned left

3 - bird facing right

4 - head turned right

Subdivision II

a - no topknot

b -1 feather

c - 2 feathers

d - 3 feathers

e - 4 or more feathers

If files are large enough, divide further by direction feathers turn, e.g., G3db=3 feathers bending backward; G3df=3 feathers bending forward.

Classes B and C are foil. Details specified by classes D-I are not applied to foil. This keeps these elegant and beautiful cards together.

Details of the tree [in which the partridge resides] were used to establish classes D-H. Position of the bird is used to make the first subdivision. The second subdivision uses details of the topknot. If the topknot appears as single but the separate feathers can be seen, treat for the number of feathers.

Method of Acquisition

Clarice Krieg made an unrestricted gift of the collection to the University of Iowa Libraries in 1999.

Clarice Krieg Twelve Days of Christmas collection
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • December 2023: Collection rehoused and finding aid created by Rachel Poppen.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)