I recently found a stack of wonderful old linens at my favorite shopping place. As so often happens, a load of donations go in after the closing of an estate, or maybe a move to a smaller house. Anyway, I sometimes find the entire contents of the linen closet, and that usually means at least a few great novelty prints.
This souvenir tablecloth from Cuba was the best of a really sweet group of printed tablecloths. These tablecloths were very popular in the post WWII era, and I imagine that most homes had at least one – a Christmas theme cloth perhaps. I still have the one my mother used on our holiday table.
Tablecloths were also a great vacation souvenir, and I’ve seen printed ones with destinations from Alaska to Florida and beyond. Most that I’ve found are not labeled, but I know of one company, California Handprints, that made novelty and printed tablecloths. My guess is that this one, though sold in Cuba in the 1940s or 50s, was actually made in the USA.
I was really happy to find the Cuba one, especially after checking the prices on Ebay. So I took a few photos, wrote up my listing, and put it on Etsy to sell. I also posted a photo on Instagram, where a fellow vintage travel enthusiast saw it. She emailed with the great news that she and her husband are traveling to Cuba soon. I clicked over to review my listing, but found it had disappeared. After a long search, I discovered that Etsy had deactivated the listing.
That was a bit puzzling, but the next day I got an email that stated that the tablecloth was in violation of the US embargo against Cuban products! I sent an email back explaining that the tablecloth was made before the Cuban Revolution and the embargo. It was probably made in the US, and then imported to Cuba where a tourist bought it and brought it back to the States. In other words, it is not an illegal Cuban product.
No matter, as the diligent people at Etsy can’t take a chance that the selling of my tablecloth might be the very thing that allows the Cuban government to break the (already weakened by US law) embargo. So my option was to stick it on eBay where there are several similar ones up for sale.
But it just left a sad feeling, with my happy find turning into a problem. I had to find a way to break the evil spell cast upon my innocent tablecloth. So now the tablecloth is on its way north, to the lucky Beth who will soon be traveling to Cuba.
And by the way, the email from etsy’s legal department asked me to please keep our email exchange a secret. They are probably embarrassed for the world to know that legal communications are headed with “Hi there” and are signed with a first name only. Seriously.
But enough of that! I’m not one to hold a grudge so instead of making fun of Etsy Legal, let’s look at the great details of this print. Aside from the sleeping guy under the sombrero in which the designer got his Latin American countries confused, the print is full of references to the fun things one would encounter in the “Holiday Isle of the Tropics.”
Cruise ships! Tennis! Skiing! Rum! Sailing!
Dancing! Show girls! Tobacco fields!
And a whole corner of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay!
I have opened my annual Etsy pop-up shop, in which I try to make a few bucks to support my collecting habit. I sell vintage sewing patterns and other vintage finds from the past year that I’ve decided not to keep.