Two years ago, Delaware's Winterthur Museum acquired one of the earliest known American depictions of the Easter Bunny, from Pook & Pook auction house in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
Together with the Christmas tree, the custom of the Easter rabbit and colored eggs was brought to America by immigrants from southwestern Germany in the 1700s, and has become a favorite American tradition.
This delightful image is attributed to schoolmaster Johann Conrad Gilbert (1734–1812), who emigrated from Germany in 1757 and ultimately settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania. He likely made the drawing as a gift for one of his students. A similar drawing, also attributed to Gilbert, is in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.
These drawings are examples of a Pennsylvania German tradition of decorated manuscripts known as fraktur, which include birth and baptismal certificates, family records, writing samples, and bookplates.The fraktur will be placed on long-term view in the museum’s renowned Fraktur Room, where it will join about two dozen other examples of Pennsylvania German fraktur art.