Friday, August 3, 2012

Skandinaven's Book Department

John Anderson and his family made the journey from Voss, Norway to Chicago in 1844, when John was eight years old. His two brothers died on the trip, and his father died during a cholera epidemic in 1848. In order to make ends meet for his mother and infant sister, 12-year-old John sold apples and newspapers. His job as a newspaper boy led to additional newspaper jobs until finally he was working on layout for the Chicago Tribune.

In 1866, Anderson started publishing a Norwegian-language newspaper called the Skandinaven. It became America's leading Norwegian newspaper. Eventually, Anderson added a book store and a mail-order book department. Some of the longer works were published in installments. I wondered if that's what Hanna Jacobson of Astoria, Oregon had ordered. She received this card in 1904, acknowledging receipt of $13.50. I assumed that inst. stood for installment, but as the comments below reveal, it stands for instant, meaning this month.

Thirteen dollars was a lot of money in 1904.  I can hardly imagine what she must have been buying,  since Skandinaven's 1915-16 catalog offered books with gold lettering and engraved illustrations for a dollar a piece.

You can read lots more about John Anderson at the Norwegian-American Historical Association website in an article written by Jean Skogerboe Hansen.


  1. I believe '21st inst' means the 21st of that current month, as it was posted on 22nd that would make sense. Still it was a lot of money, perhaps she had ordered a set of books - like The Complete Works of Dickens or similar. It's certainly a very pretty card.

  2. Maybe she is ordering for resale, and maybe "inst" does not mean installment.
    I found this when I google "inst" abbreviation:
    The abbreviation “inst.” stands for instant, or this month—within the same month.

  3. A fascinating if tragic tale, sounds like John's hard work eventually paid off though. Based on the other comments, perhaps she had book store in Astoria and was ordering multiple copies to sell there. In any case, the hat the woman is wearing on the card is pretty awesome, sort of a 'Flying Nun' with baubles look!

  4. Vossebrud, bride from Voss, the old hometown of John Anderson. Voss is indeed a district in Norway, the centre is the village of Vossevangen.

  5. Now if only Paypal receipts were as visually attractive as this.

  6. What a lovely woman on the card. I've worked with many old records/documents and have become familiar with this term "inst." and it does means instant - the date for the current month. If you ever see the term "ult.", this means for the previous month.

  7. Thanks to Postcardy and Queen Bee for setting the record straight regarding the meaning of the abbreviation inst. It's not the first time that readers have added important information to a post on this blog. As always, I am very grateful.



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