Sunday, January 31, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Billings, Montana

This card was sent in 1912. The message reads:
Dear Corwin
How do you like the looks of the street scene ? The store is under the sign - "Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm." I like the place fine. My love to papa + mama. Grace

Perry McAdow, an early developer and entrepreneur, started Montana's first streetcar service in Billings with horse-drawn cars in 1882. The fare was 25 cents, and in an effort to get more riders, McAdow offered free beer at his store at the end of the line in Coulson, just outside Billings.  Or, perhaps he initiated streetcar service to bring more customers to his store. In any case, despite the free beer, the streetcar  went out of business within a year and development in Coulson never really flourished.

After that, there was no streetcar service in Billings for many years. Finally, in 1912, a new battery-operated streetcar service was started. It only lasted for five years.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Quimper, France

Quimper is located in Brittany and is the home of the famous Quimper faience pottery.  In fact, the pottery has been produced there since the days of the Roman Empire.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lemberg to Warsaw

This card was sent from Lemberg in 1895. Lemberg belonged to the Austrian Empire at that time, but it is now part of the Ukraine and is known as Lviv. I wish I could tell you what the message on the card says.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Prufrock-Litton - St. Louis, Missouri

I'm sorry! If I had gotten this post to you a little earlier (100 years and a few months), you could have made it to the Prufrock-Litton sale. They were selling furniture at cost and I'm sure it was a fun event.

Prufrock-Litton was based in St. Louis, but eventually had a showroom on Fifth Ave in New York City and also a manufacturers building in Grand Rapids. According to an advertisement in Volume 50 of Furniture World (September 4, 1919), they sold overstuffed leather furniture and American and English Morrocos, tapestry and other fabrics. Not only did Prufrock-Litton occupy a full block, it also operated a French tea garden in the store.

The postcard shows the new building. I'm not sure where the old building was, but clearing it out seems to be the premise for the sale.

Prufrock-Litton was capable of some very creative marketing. The company printed many advertising postcards, and once they even sent up a huge helium balloon with their name emblazoned on it, with an attached letter that promised a free $50 chair for the finder of the the balloon. The balloon drifted 300 miles before it landed and was claimed by a man in Kentucky.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Je Pense à Vous

The front of this card says, "I'm thinking of you. Think of me." This is another example of a Poisson d'Avril card traditionally sent in France for April first. These cards always feature fish. To find out why, click here for an explanation.

The message on the back of the card reads:
I'm thinking of you. (illegible) It's Sunday that you're thinking of coming. I see that we will be free for some days now.  Decide and write pretty soon. Sorry that I do not write more. I don't have room and it's better to save our stories for when we see each other. See you soon. Waiting for your news.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rochester, Michigan

Here are some real-photo postcards of Rochester, Michigan.

In case you're wondering what makes a real-photo postcard different from any other postcard, here's an explanation:
In 1903, Kodak introduced a camera that took postcard size photographs. Shortly thereafter, they started offering a service called Real-Photo Postcards that enabled anyone to create a postcard from any photograph they took. These cards allowed for rare and candid views that you wouldn't get with a commercial postcard. There are other postcards that resemble real-photo postcards, but you can generally tell the difference by looking for the tiny dots on the mass-produced ones. Real-photo cards, on the other hand, will be smooth.

Thanks to Rod Wilson, President of the Rochester-Avon Historical Society for information on these cards.

The picture shows the Homecoming crowd on Main Street in Rochester. This celebration took place on July 30 and 31, 1914. Main Street was paved with bricks two years later and a second set of tracks was added for the Detroit Union Railroad. According to Rod Wilson, the interurban railway met its demise in 1931.

The text of the card reads:
Dear Mother -  I arrived O.K. and have been busy for awhile and will tell you all when I see you
hope you are well + alright
ans soon,
daughter Emma
address Edith address

The second card shows some of the houses on North Main Street and the streetcar tracks. There is no text on the back. Rod Wilson tells me that these houses are still standing.
If you're interested in the history of Rochester, Michigan, be sure to check out the Remembering Rochester blog.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cleveland Public Square- Cleveland, Ohio

The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) included the Cleveland Public Square in its Hall of Shame, because you have to take your life in your own hands to reach it across busy streets. Looking at old postcards, you can see that the streets have always been wide, although when there were just streetcars and very few automobiles, it was much easier to cross. Still, I think it's fair to say that the design was never great as a public square.

The square is actually a quadrant of squares, separated by busy streets. The original design was probably ideal for accommodating the various streetcar lines, but today it doesn't work very well. Recently there has been talk of consolidating the quadrants to make one square. PPS has also suggested slowing the traffic and narrowing the pedestrian crossings.

This is a picture of the Square in about 1906.

This card and the next one suggest very little traffic and relatively easy access to the Square.

Here you can see the quadrant and the streetcars.

Today, Cleveland's Public Square is a missed opportunity. I feel confident though, that the City of Cleveland will work to transform this square into the vibrant and lively center it should be.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Cleveland, Ohio

This week's installment of Streetcar Sunday takes us to Cleveland, Ohio.  Cleveland once had an extensive streetcar network. In 1904, when developers created a middle- and upper income community of Shaker Heights to the East of Cleveland, they also purchased right-of-way and installed a high-speed electric streetcar to connect Shaker Heights with downtown. The streetcar line was an important tool to guarantee their investment.

The last Cleveland streetcar ran in 1954, relatively late compared to many American cities. Some of the streetcar lines had already been converted to buses or trolley buses before World War II, but once the war started the conversions stopped until the war was over.

Recently there was a move to open a new streetcar museum in Cleveland near the Great Lakes Science Center, using the 31 streetcars inherited from the former Trolleyville USA Museum (also known as the Gerald E. Brookins Museum of Electric Railways.)  The plan also included operating historic streetcars on a short loop near the East Bank and through the Warehouse District. Instead, all but one of the cars were auctioned off. In late 2009, those cars were moved to various cities in the U.S. and Canada. The remaining car will be on display in front of the Children's Museum.

Come back tomorrow for another post on Cleveland. For a detailed history of streetcars in Cleveland, there is a book entitled Cleveland and Its Streetcars, by James Toman and James Spangler.

Please note that I added a few additional cards to previous Streetcar Sunday posts for Washington D.C. and Boston, in case you want to take another look.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky

Camp Zachary Taylor was opened in 1917 as a training camp for U.S. soldiers for WWI. it closed in 1920.  Camp Taylor is a now the name of a residential neighborhood in the same part of Louisville. Some of the original buildings remain and some of the bungalows and Cape Cod houses were built from the dismantled military buildings.
The Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society has lots of additional information on the history of the camp.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tracy Has a Headache!

The message reads:
Hello Trace
Oh your a hot lot all right.  I suppose you lost a lot of money 16 to 1. How much did you give those Treadwell fellows? Bought the umpires too. Ha Ha but we beat you after all.

Oh, poor Trace!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buffalo Pig Latin

San Francisco's Golden Gate Park doesn't look much like this anymore, but there is still a buffalo paddock and you can go look at them from 6am-8pm daily. The Bison were brought to Golden Gate Park in 1892, back when the animals were nearly extinct.
The message on the card appears to be written in Pig Latin!
Have you forgotten your high school Pig Latin? If so, Wikipedia is here to help:

The usual rules for changing standard English into Pig Latin are as follows:
  1. In words that begin with consonant sounds, the initial consonant or consonant cluster is moved to the end of the word, and "ay" is added, as in the following examples:

    • beasteast-bay
    • doughough-day
    • happyappy-hay
    • questionestion-quay
    • starar-stay
    • threeee-thray

  2. In words that begin with vowel sounds or silent consonants, the syllable "ay" is added to the end of the word.
Transcription varies. A hyphen or apostrophe is sometimes used to facilitate translation back into English. Ayspray, for instance, is ambiguous, but ay-spray means "spray" whereas ays-pray means "prays."

Berlin Germany - Kongresshalle

Martin and Werner had a good time in Berlin in 1959. Although the Berlin Wall had not been built yet, the city was divided into eastern and western sectors, with the western sector controlled by the Western Allies (USA, U.K., and France) and the eastern sector controlled by the Soviet Union.

Martin writes:
I am enjoying my visit to the capitol of the Fatherland as Herr Langer is escorting and chaufering me thru both east and west sectors. Werner was stopped by the Russians for speeding but I managed to get him released from a trip to Siberia. Hope you are still going great in the printing business and that there is a lot of sunshine in Chgo. so you can get a good tan!
Martin and Werner

It's not surprising that Martin chose a postcard with a picture of the Kongresshalle (Congress Hall.) At that time, the wildly popular building was on just about every postcard, as it had recently been presented to West Berlin by the American government and was a great source of pride. The building was designed by U.S. architect, Hugh Stubbins. Since Stubbins had worked as an assistant to Walter Gropius, the building was viewed as a fusion of American and German modernism. For many, the Kongresshalle served as a symbol of renewed friendship between Germany and America, even though some referred to the building as the pregnant oyster.

In 1980,  part of the Kongresshalle's roof collapsed, killing one person and injuring several others. It turns out that the German authorities had rejected the suspension roof originally planned by the Americans.  The auxiliary construction they used instead became fatigued from the massive weight and finally failed.  Don't be afraid to visit now though; when the building was reconstructed, it was built to the original specification.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lloyd Italiano

The Lloyd Italiano Line was formed in 1904 to provide passenger service between Italy and North and South America.
I can't read Italian, but it looks like Alfonsina has just received a card from Carmelina Piccolo and was surprised that Carmelina had not received the long letter she had sent her...and then something about a ticket.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Star Spangled Banner

Over the years the American flag went through many transformations.  In fact, the first American flag used in 1775 had a pine tree on it!
The original Star-Spangled Banner had 15 stars, representing the 13 original colonies with the addition of Vermont and Kentucky. Somewhere along the line, perhaps in battle during the War of 1812, one of the stars from the flag went missing. That may be why this flag is depicted with 14 stars. However, it's still not accurate, because the stars are too chunky and there should have been five offset rows with three stars in each row. For that matter, it doesn't have the right number of stripes either; it should have had 15 instead of 13. It looks a little like the Guilford flag, which had 13 stars (but with eight points) and 13 stripes (but red and blue.) So, I'm baffled. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Ultimate Postcard Bargain

Where do you go to buy postcards? You can buy them at antique stores, garage sales, auctions or online. If you're looking for something specific, online auctions and websites are probably your best bet. But, if your interests are broader and you love a variety of postcards, there's another great option; it's what I call the 20-cent bin. This is especially great if you're just starting to collect postcards and don't know exactly what you want.

Postcard clubs often have boxes where members can deposit their unwanted postcards. These postcards are then available for sale to other members and visitors, often for 10 or 20 cents each. The proceeds help to support the postcard club. I am always surprised at the treasures I find in these boxes. They may not be in mint condition, but they are treasures nonetheless.

Here are some of the cards I have rescued from the 20-cent boxes (the first one alone has given me at least $2 worth of laughs):

I am a member of two postcard clubs, the Webfooters, where I bought these fine cards for a total of 80 cents and the San Francisco Bay Area Post Card Club. Unfortunately, I don't live close enough to San Francisco to attend any of their meetings, but I like to support this club because they have a great newsletter and a fantastic website. Their reference links are amazing. Without their website, I never would have known that there are people who specifically collect corset postcards or that there is a Virtual Corkscrew Museum Postcard Gallery. I also noticed that one of the newer members in one of these clubs specifically collects postcards with accordions on them (there must be a law against that.)

Here are some other postcard clubs (in no particular order) that might interest you:
The Taconic Postcard Club (Yorktown Heights, NY)
Rhode Island Postcard Club, North Providence, RI
Twin City Postcard Club (Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN)
Tropical Postcard Club (Pompano Beach, FL)
Norske Postkortsamlere (Oslo, Norway)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Washington, D.C.

Once again, it's Streetcar Sunday!
This card was sent in 1918. Note the cancellation stamp, which says "food will win the war." I'm going to have to think about that one for awhile. The sender affixed twice as much postage as was needed;  postal rates had been increased during the war, but only for letters. The cost of mailing a postcard remained at one cent until 1952 when the rate was raised to two cents.

Washington's streetcar service was established in 1862. As in many other cities throughout America and around the world, the first streetcars in Washington D.C. were horse drawn. There was a big incentive to move away from horse-drawn streetcars, as the horses required constant care and maintenance, messed up the streets with their manure, and were unable to pull the cars up steep hills. If there was an outbreak of disease among the horses, it meant that the cars had to be pulled by humans.

In 1894, Congress began requiring streetcar companies to switch away from horse power. They had also prohibited overhead wires, so providers had to choose between cables, battery power or underground wire. Some streetcar companies tried cable systems, but it soon became clear that the electric system was superior. At the time this postcard was printed, Washington D.C. had about 100 miles of track within the city and many of the existing streetcar providers had consolidated.

Beginning in 1935, several streetcar lines were converted to bus lines, but as gas rationing during World War II cut down on automobile use, the streetcar service thrived. By 1945, Washington D.C.'s streetcar fleet was the third largest in the United States. Washington D.C. also retained its streetcar system much longer than most American cities. The last streetcar ran in 1962.

Now Washington D.C. is looking at reintroducing streetcar service with 8 lines and 37 miles of track.  The district bought its initial streetcar vehicles in conjunction with the City of Portland, Oregon in order to benefit from a bulk purchase. Unfortunately, various construction delays required the cars to be stored for several years in the Czech Republic at large expense. The cars were finally shipped to the U.S. in late 2009. The first two lines, in Anacostia and on H Street, are scheduled to open in 2012. The rest of the system is scheduled to open by about 2020.

One of the problems with transportation planning in Washington is that there are so many competing (or at least conflicting) branches of government with different sets of rules. For instance, the first part of the H Street line falls under the the congressional prohibition of overhead wires, but the rest of it does not.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Motel Wigwam Village - Orlando, FL

I hardly know what to add to this, except that it looks like a great choice for a family reunion.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Art of the Postcard

Some of you may have heard about the global call for postcards by the Postmaster in Cornelius, Oregon.  Cornelius is a small town in western Oregon, surrounded by farmland. The countryside is really beautiful, but it seems that there are no postcards of Cornelius, at least not yet.

Kerry, the Postmaster, put out this call for postcards from all over the world. In return, he offered to reciprocate with a postcard from Cornelius once they made one and had it printed. He expected to get 40 or 50 cards. Instead he got about 500, and they are now on display in the post office. We decided to take a drive out there and see it for ourselves. What an incredible variety of postcards, many beautiful ones, some funny ones, and mailed from all over the world. It really makes you smile.

I am delighted that a Postmaster would have the initiative and the imagination to undertake something like this. I have never seen anything like it in a post office and I have to wonder why. Post offices are usually cold and impersonal places (the decor, though not necessarily the staff), but yet they are also central hubs of the community. They just don't act like it.

I can't think of a more effective way to stimulate interest in sending mail. And yet it's ironic that this event was largely publicized through social media and online venues, the very things that threaten the existence of real mail. It's sort of like promoting reading with television ads. Anyway, it worked.

Here are a few more pictures of  the display, including my favorite card with a stenciled likeness of Elvis (the other side was equally beautiful.)

And here's the Postmaster himself. What a great guy! You can find out more about the history of this project by clicking on The Art of the Postcard.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Crabby Coincidence - San Francisco, California

Two different cards, but I'm betting that the two pictures were taken within a minute or two of each other. Check out the man in the hat; I think it's the same man in both pictures.  I also think the two ladies in the first card have their backs turned to us in the second card. Yes, I know the man's hat is a different color and so are theirs (and their coats too), but that's the beauty of hand-tinted cards; you can make them any color you want. That's why you often see brightly-colored awnings and cars on linen cards from the 1930s and 40s. My guess is that most of those cars were black. Notice that the awnings in these cards are also colored differently; the one on top has some unconvincing stripes.

Here are the backs of the two cards. They are both from the Scenic View Card Co. in San Francisco, but the second one seems to have been printed by Tichnor Bros.

The message on the card, sent in 1946, reads:
Dear Betty and Dick
This is where we just had dinner  it was swell. Wish you were with us. Going home tomorrow Aug 15th - love and best wishes Bev.
Beverly had a time of her life. XX

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Split, Croatia

Three lovely old views of Split, Croatia. I saw that Lay Hoon posted a contemporary postcard of Split yesterday on the Travel Postcard blog. It's interesting to look at that aerial view and be able to recognize these places.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jump Off Joe - Newport, Oregon

I've  lived in Oregon all this time and I had never heard of Jump Off Joe in Newport, Oregon. You have to love the internet, because it can answer just about any question you ask of it. Thanks to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) website, I now know that Jump Off Joe was a sea stack composed of middle Miocene concretionary sandstone of the Astoria formation. I had no idea!

Jump Off Joe was a popular tourist attraction before World War I. It formed a barrier across the beach and forced beach walkers to climb over it and jump off the other side. That, of course, is where it got its name. It was also reputed to play an important role in Native American mythology, but that itself may be mythology.

What's particularly interesting about the USGS site is that it shows pictures of  Jump Off Joe over time and pretty much explains why I have never seen or heard of it. The postcard above shows Jump Off Joe (the rock formation with the arch in it) in about 1900. By 1910, it already looked drastically different. By 1920, it was severely diminished, and by 1970, it was virtually gone.
See the USGS pictures here.


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