I became interested in Korean Christmas Seals in 1936 when I was asked to cover the South Pyengan Province. Each year, thereafter, I sold more than anyone else. In the ninth year – 1940 – I sold all that were sold in that area as far as I know. This consisted of an order for 300.00 worth sold during our Commencement Time at the Pengyang Foreign School. I ordered a second shipment which arrived in September (1940). By then all but a half-dozen of us were leaving Korea on the S.S. Mariposa which had been sent by the U.S. Government to evacuate Americans.
The seals were delivered, while I was hospitalized and in isolation with typhus. But Dr. Smith collected another large sum from these. Those left over were taken with us to Synchun where I remained a year and a half, until repatriated six months after Pearl Harbor.
During this time I went to several churches and schools but did not push sales too much as all our movements were watched by the police and we had to be careful. Whatever seals had been left in Seoul may have been sold. In any case my two large orders had paid all the expenses of the Committee.
I sold to the Roman Catholic Mary Knoll Communities – men and women, to the Unsan Gold Mines, and to the more than one hundred missionaries of the Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of England groups, the hundred children in our foreign school, the Korean academies, a college, a seminary, a “Woman’s Higher Bible Institute, the thousands coming for Bible classes, merchants on the streets, the Corn Products Company and others. Thus, it was not hard to dispose of seals, woodblocks, booklets on T.B.
Below is a brief sketch of the designers of the various seals which might be of interest to collectors:
Here is a short biography by Archives West: “Lura McLane Smith’s (1885-1979) husband, Roy K. Smith (1885-1958), was a Presbyterian medical missionary in Korea, in Seoul and Mason. The collection contains booklets, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine clippings related to Smith’s missionary work in Korea.” Interestingly her sociology dissertation from 1911 titled “A Study of the Korean People” is available online from the University of Kansas website.
1 thought on “The Korean Christmas Seals (1960)”
Elizabeth Keith is a very famous artist of Asian works. For those interested in Elizabeth Keith’s works, there is a book with most of her art: “Elizabeth Keith – The Printed Works”, Miles, Richard, published by Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California, 1991. She did a lot of Asian artwork, especially in Japan. I see on eBay there are currently 7 or so of her original woodblock works , all from Japan, ranging from US1000 – US9000, so we can see why Laura McLane Smith wrote that they are expensive and she could not afford them. There are many “prints and posters” available for far less, so one would have to be careful when buying an original.