Christmas Countdown with the Othmer Plates
Donald and Mildred Othmer's wedding photo. Othmer Archives, CHF Collections.
CHF supporters may recognize Donald and Mildred Othmer as the founders of the Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History at CHF. But friends and family knew them as Don and Mid, and around the holidays could look forward to receiving a unique and beautiful Christmas card illustrating the Othmers’ latest world travels.
Born in Nebraska in 1904, Donald Othmer was a 1924 graduate of the University of Nebraska. As a chemical engineer, Don was a highly regarded professor at Brooklyn Polytechnic and a consultant for numerous companies. When he married Mildred Topp, a fellow Nebraskan, in 1950, they began a tradition ultimately spanning more than 30 years of sending unique, custom-made Christmas cards to family and friends. The first card featured their wedding photo.
The Othmers' 1957 card was a fold-out piece showing their brownstone in Brooklyn. CHF Collections.
The Othmers embarked on a life filled with travel to faraway places, including Japan, Israel, Korea, Germany, India, and Hong Kong, and they tried to bring the world to their friends through cards and correspondence. Every December they sent their Christmas and New Year greetings to between 700 and 900 friends and family members around the globe.
In 1960 the Othmers visited the Saga Prefecture of Japan, an area famous for its porcelain and ceramics. During their visit they established a relationship with the company Iwao Jiki and decided to use a custom-made porcelain plate from its Taizan kiln for their annual holiday greeting. The tradition of the Othmer Christmas plate would continue for the next 28 years. Below you see the first of the Christmas-card plates. Under the date you’ll notice the word “Midon”—this moniker became Don and Mid’s trademark, a combination of their names that symbolized their close relationship.
The first of the Christmas-card plates, from 1960. CHF Collections.
The back of each plate bore the greeting “Cheers – for Christmas,” as well as a message referencing the meaning of their chosen design for that year. This holiday season we would like to share CHF’s collection of Othmer Christmas plates. Join us as we reveal each of the Othmer Christmas plates and their stories every day leading up to December 25. We hope you will enjoy this collection as much as we do, and on behalf of all of us here at CHF, cheers for your holidays and 2012!
Jenn Landry is the director of the Museum at CHF.