Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

This card includes part of a poem entitled The Blue and the Gray, by Francis Miles Finch:
From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe:
Under the sod and the dew,
    Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
    Under the lilies, the Gray.
The card was printed before World War I, before World War II, before the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm,  etc.  At that time, Memorial Day was really only to commemorate the deaths from the Civil War.

The poet, Francis Miles Finch (1827-1907) was a judge of the New York Court of Appeals and also taught at Cornell University. His poem, commemorating soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1867. It was said that Finch was inspired by the women of Columbus, Mississippi, who spread flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. The event is known as Confederate Decoration Day. Presumably the bearded man on the card is Ulysses S. Grant. You can read the full text of the poem here.

Here's another collectible card, but not a postcard, of union soldiers during the Civil War. It says Copyright 1887 by J. Means and Co., Boston.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Robbery in Troy, New York

Troy seems like such a nice peaceful place. But on July 1, 1878,  Thomas Buckley, Treasurer of the Troy Hosiery Mills was garotted and robbed of $3,000 while riding the Troy and Albia horse-drawn streetcar. He survived though, and according to the New York Times, $1,484 of the money was recovered.  Within days, several people were arrested, James Finn of Troy, John Fellows of Newark, New Jersey, and John Donohue, who refused to say where he was from. The victim was able to positively identify both Donohue and Fellows. Three other suspects were still at large.

One of the suspects, Thomas Monahon, had been taken into custody several days later, but escaped by jumping out a window. The next day, a conductor on an eastbound train of the Boston and Albany Railroad, spotted a passenger who matched the description of Monahon. The conductor telegraphed ahead to North Adams, Massachusetts for two officers to meet the train and arrest Thomas Monahon, who was traveling with his brother.  They arrested the two and handcuffed them together, but somehow the suspects had gotten guns and Thomas was able to shoot Officer Quinn fatally before he and his brother were stomped into unconsciousness by fellow passengers.

Detectives were still on the hunt for two additional suspects, William "Mush" Riley, a notorious criminal from New York City and Will Tompkins, who planned the robbery.  Unlike Mush Riley, Tompkins was from high society. He was married and was a partner in the Simmons and Tomkins firm, a knit goods manufacturer. The police had been informed that Tompkins might be recovering from the robbery at a particular residence in Richmond, Massachusetts.  Since there wasn't any regular train service at the time, they hopped a freight train and told the conductor that they would like to arrive in Richmond before the express train from Pittsfield, which was carrying several of the detectives who had just left Monahon. The conductor increased the speed of the freight train and managed to arrive five minutes before the express.

The officers went to the house and tried to gain admittance by saying they were there to visit the sick man (Will Tompkins), because they didn't have any legal authority to force their way in. When that didn't work, they went to see the doctor across the street, assuming correctly that he had treated the suspect. As soon as they told him that Tompkins was wanted in connection with the death of Officer Quinn, he agreed to help them. Tompkins was sick in bed with a revolver under his pillow, but he surrendered without incident. Although requisition papers were filed to move Tompkins back, the New York Times reported on July 14th that Tompkins was sick with brain fever and could not be moved. An officer remained with him during his recovery.

Source: New York Times, July 2, 3, 9, 11, 14, and 16, 1878

And if that's not enough mystery and intrigue for you, what about the message on the back of this card, sent in 1925?

The message from Billy Hannam reads:

Dear daddy
This is where we change cars (care?)
Rick went to work this morning has a job in Alex's office
love from

Why is Billy writing a postcard to his own father? Was he spending the summer in Troy?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Watch Out for Frank C.

Oh, I dare say there is some family drama and some other drama too. I wish I could call Margaret and get the full story. Here's her message to her cousin, Reed (or Reid?) Sparling:
Corinth, NY
Dec. 19. 1906.
Cousin Reed:-
Have decided not to go down to Aunt Lucy's Xmas. "W" is not coming up, but guess I will not go. Will explain when I see you. Frank C. has got it in for you.
from Margaret

Friday, May 28, 2010

Alexander Young Hotel - Honolulu, Hawaii

The 300-room Alexander Young Hotel was built in 1902 at a cost of $2 million (initially, it had just under 200 rooms.) The hotel was built by Alexander Young, who came to Hawaii from Blackburn, Scotland in 1865. Mr. Young invested in sugar plantations and eventually became president of the Waiakea Mill Co. He also bought the famous Moana Hotel in Waikiki and the original Royal Hawaiian Hotel (which was not in Waikiki, but instead at Hotel and Richards Streets near the Iolani Palace.)

Alexander Young became a citizen of the Kingdom of Hawaii and served in the House of Nobles between 1887-1892. He also served on an advisory council for the Provisional Government after the overthrow of the Kingdom.

The Young Hotel was used by the military in both World Wars. During WWI, the U.S. Army used the second floor.  During WWII, the military occupied most of the hotel.  In 1964, the hotel was converted to offices. In 1980, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which did nothing to protect it from demolition the following year. Too bad. While it may not have been a spectacular building, it was definitely an important part of Honolulu's history. Here's a drawing of the lobby by the architect. And here's the back of the card:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Japanese Soft Drinks and Green KitKats

I have been told that this is a Japanese team-building propaganda postcard. I'm not sure of the year, but perhaps 1940?  The woman shown is working in a bottling facility for a soda company.  If anybody has anything to add to this, please do!
Contrast this with a postal green tea KitKat that my sister-in-law brought back from Japan last week:
It's like a KitKat postcard! There are five mini-size KitKats in this box, which you can send through the mail by just adding an address and a stamp. These KitKats really are bright green as shown on the box. There's no chocolate and they have a mild green tea flavor. So what is the green stuff? Well, as far as I'm concerned it's a mystery coating, especially as I couldn't read the Japanese list of ingredients. Maybe ignorance is bliss; I thought they were pretty good.  Here's a picture of one of the little KitKat packages inside the box:

And here's the back of the box:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

World's Most Unusual Drug Store

 Webb's City was the brainchild of James Earl "Doc" Webb. He bought into the St. Petersburg, Florida drug store in 1925, and within a year he had bought out his business partner. At that time, he changed the name of the store to Webb's Cut Rate Drug Store. Webb kept his prices low and his business actually thrived during the Great Depression. He used his profits to expand his business, buying up everything around it, until he eventually owned seventy stores covering 7 blocks. As the business expanded, Webbs didn't just sell drugs; he also sold hardware, furniture, clothing, and provided services such as haircuts, dry cleaning, and dance lessons. At one point, he had an average of over 60,000 customers per day!

Doc Webb used clever gimmicks to attract customers, including special attractions like mermaids, chimpanzees, and shooting the flying Zacchinis out of a cannon in the parking lot. At one point he even had a limited-time offer of dollar bills for sale at 95 cents. The gimmicks worked for a long time, but eventually lost their effectiveness. Doc Webb sold out in 1974, and the business declared bankruptcy in 1979.

In 1949, Norma was toiling away at the Victoria Paper Mill in Fulton, new York when she received a postcard from Millie, who wrote:
Dear Norma,
You really should take a vacation here. It is hot but wonderful. Getting a nice tan. Pop's really enjoying it too. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Motel Topton - North Carolina

I feel like I've been here before. Maybe it was in the movie Motel Hell or Mountaintop Motel Massacre. In any case, I think I'd better head out before sunset.

Monday, May 24, 2010

W Tripoli Italiana

What's up with the W Tripoli Italiana stamp on this postcard? In 1912, when this postcard was sent, Italy had just won the Turco-Italian War and been awarded Libya as a prize. Although this war only lasted for 13 months, it showed some notable advances in warfare technology such as the airplane, which was used not only in reconnaissance, but also to drop a bomb on Turkish troops in Libya. The airplane on this card hardly resembles a bomber, but I think the reference is intended anyway. The card is originally French; the Tripoli stamp was probably added later.

The postcard was sent to someone I would love to have met in person, the carissima (dearest) Carmelina Piccolo. I admit it's because I love her name.
As luck would have it, another Carmelina graciously agreed to translate this card for me. You can see what Carmelina's creating these days on her blog, Creative Carmelina. Although Carmelina couldn't make out the last sentence, here is her translation:

Endicott, 11 Nov. 1912
Dearest C.
I'm sorry that I haven't written you sooner, but it's because I was waiting to give you a small photo of myself. Please wait patiently and do not worry. We are all well here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Streetcar Sunday - Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This postcard dates from about 1915. It shows trams crossing a canal in Amsterdam at Plantage Middenlaan. Amsterdam's tram or streetcar system was operated by several private companies until the City took them over and consolidated them into one system in 1900. In that same year, they introduced the first electric trams. They also took over the Amsterdam Omnibus Company, creating  a new corporation called the Gemeentetram (Municipal Tram Corporation.) Decades later, the corporation  merged with the ferry services, creating  a new organization called the Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (GVB) or Municipal Transport Corporation. Today it is simply known as GVB.

Here's a Google Maps view of the same area today. Allow me to add that I have never had so much fun looking for a place on Google maps as I did with this one. I wanted to just keep going down the streets. If you can't afford a vacation this year, you may want to consider visiting Amsterdam via Google maps. The only catch is that it will make you want to hop on a plane for a real visit.

View Amsterdam in a larger map
Here's another view of a streetcar in Amsterdam. Truus, who lives in Amsterdam sent me this card through Postcrossing. Truus also has a postcard blog, called Truus Postcrossing, with all of the cards she has received through Postcrossing. There's another opportunity to travel around the world without leaving your desk. This card is a reproduction of an old one in the Amsterdam City Archives.
 This horse-drawn streetcar is on the Rembrandtplein, viewed from near the Reguliersbreestraat. That's in case you want to see if you can find it on Google maps and see what it looks like today!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Knokke, Belgium

Knokke, Belgium has been a beach resort for over a  hundred years. The town is located near the Dutch border, and still attracts wealthy visitors. Knokke looks very quaint and charming in these pictures. I can't say the same for the modern pictures I've seen.  But then again, I have never been there, so maybe there is some attraction besides Knokke's casino that I am missing. The entire beachfront is lined with buildings, which are unattractive to me, but indicate that there are indeed a lot of visitors. I do know that there are some lovely nature areas between Knokke and the Dutch border.
In the last postcard you can see the bathing machines, changing rooms on wheels that were used to preserve the modesty of bathers. Click here to see a previous post that shows the bathing machines in the water.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fish and Flowers

Am I the only one who loves these French fish postcards? I hope not.  For an explanation of the tradition of the April Fish or Poisson d'Avril, click here.
The message on the front of the card reads: At the bottom of the sea I found a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The front of the card points to a place where Mutti (Mom) had stayed in Chicago. The message on the card sent to Hanna Heycke and Margarete Schröder on the island of Föhr in the North Sea in May 1960, reads:

Dear Mom and Aunt Grete!
Friday evening at 7, Betty is feeling well and Betty's mother arrived on Friday evening. It was a girl, had darker hair and weighed over 8 pounds. Greetings, Your Dieter

The stamp isn't canceled, so I'm not sure if the card was sent or not.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Naughty Girls!

Today, these young women would be getting tattoos and having their tongues pierced, but back then the worst these misbehaving vixens could do was to stand in an ankle-deep pond in stripey bathing suits and smoke cigarettes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aunt Soph and Uncle Fred Visit Wyoming

Who knew that giant paved parking areas could be considered an attraction? In any case, Little America is still there and you can stop by for a visit. Earl Holding and his wife Carol worked hard pumping gas and waiting tables at Little America when they first took over the place many decades ago. That truck stop was the beginning of a very successful business career for Holding, who now owns Sinclair Oil, Sun Valley and Snowbasin ski resorts,  and a hotel chain.

As for Aunt Soph and Uncle Fred, I admire their time-saving approach to postcard writing; it just seems like it might have been more practical to print out the address labels instead of the greeting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Love and Mustaches

The printed message says: Is it love or the joy of Spring, that makes the light glimmer in your eyes.

Earlier French postcards (1900-1920) always seem to show men with mustaches. They were favored so strongly that until 1933 the French gendarmes were required to have them! Grenadiers in the French Army also had to wear them throughout the 19th Century. At some point the hairy upper lip fell out of favor. French postcards from the '30s and later all seem to show clean shaven men. In 1975, the French military changed its regulations and specified that military personnel could only grow a beard or mustache during periods when they were out of uniform.

Recently I stumbled upon a mustache blog that added even more illumination to the subject. Pacifists such as the Amish and Mennonites grow beards but not mustaches, specifically to  avoid the military associations. Be sure to check out the blog, Mustaches of the 19th Century, for everything you need to know about mustaches.

Now here's a mustache for you:

This is a Turkish card from about 1963. It shows a man who is the world champion of something, though I'm not sure what. He is (was) 52 and weighs 90 kilos and his height is 1,80 meters. I think Biyik is his name. There's a phone number; maybe I should give him a call.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Streetcar Sunday- El Paso to Juárez

I posted a card  several months ago of a cafe in Juárez that attracted U.S. residents wanting to buy a drink or two during prohibition.  Decades later illegal substances are still supporting the Juárez economy. Based on current events and high levels of violent crime and drug trafficking on the U.S./Mexican border at Juárez and El Paso, Texas, it's refreshing, but also sad, to see the easy and open border pictured on this card.
In 1882, a streetcar line was established between El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico.  Like most streetcars of the time, these were initially drawn by horses or mules. The coordinated service fell under the jurisdiction of two separate operating systems, one in Mexico and one in El Paso, but the service was effectively operated by the El Paso Electric Railway, with the conversion to electricity taking place in 1902. This card dates from sometime after 1910, when the cars were converted from open to closed cars.

Streetcar service was discontinued in 1974. Oddly enough, it was not discontinued for the typical reason - replacement by bus service.  Instead, the Mexican government halted the service because of a perception by Juárez merchants that only the El Paso stores were benefiting from the streetcar. They felt that Juárez shoppers were all heading north.  Recently there has been talk about reintroducing the service, but of course now there are major concerns about illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Florida Float, Real Photo

Here's a real-photo postcard of a float in a parade. We don't know if the parade was in Florida though. The parade could have included a float for every state, and it could have been just about anywhere. Real-photo postcards are often highly sought after, depending on the subject matter. Why? Because they weren't printed, they were developed, and there was often only one card of the particular scene.

It helps a lot if you know the exact location of the photograph. It also helps if you know the date, although the stamp box on the backside of the postcard will help you determine that.
Real-photo postcards were developed on various papers, and they often included markings that help narrow down the date. For instance, this one has the letters AZO and 4 triangles pointing up. Because of this, we know that the postcard was printed between 1904 and 1918. Not exact, but better than nothing!
Here's another one, with an Al Capone look-alike on the right.
Where is his right hand? Is it holding a gun?  Are the men exchanging something behind the woman's back? Is this Mae, the woman Al fell in love with and eventually married? Here's the back of the card:
The letters PMO indicate that the picture was developed between 1907 and 1915.  That's, of course, very disappointing to me, because Al Capone was born in 1899, so that would make him no more than 16 years old in this picture.  So, I guess it's probably not Al.  Darn! Well, at least you can see the usefulness of these stamp boxes for determining the date. If you would like more information, Playle's website provides an easy guide to determine the dates of old cards.
Today is Sepia Saturday, so click on the link to view some beautiful sepia photographs accompanied by colorful stories.

Friday, May 14, 2010

5th and Morrison - Portland, Oregon

It may have been called Fifth Street then, but it's 5th Avenue now and it's still a very busy street.  Many of the buildings are still standing. There is no longer a sacrificial policeman standing in the middle of the street though, in what is now considered the transit mall. It's not just buses either; there's also light rail, bikes, cars, and plenty of pedestrians. There are times when this traffic cop might come in handy.

View Larger Map

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chemulpo Chicken

Here's a Korean postcard from Chemulpo. The area is known for the 1904 Battle of Chemulpo Bay in the Russo-Japanese War. Chemulpo, as the main port of Seoul, had strategic significance; it had previously been used as the main invasion route of the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894.

But this card was date stamped in 1940. Now, and at that time, Chemulpo was known as Incheon. It is the largest seaport on the west coast and has the country's largest airport. Other than that, I can't tell you anything about the significance of this card and it's chicken (rooster.) I welcome any input. But do take a look at the sideways rooster on the back of the card.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cinerama Holiday

You may not remember it, but before iMax there was Cinerama. Not all theaters in the U.S. could show Cinerama movies, because it required a very big screen and three projection booths with synchronized projectors. Cinerama films were shot with three interlocked 35mm cameras to create an image that was three times wider than standard film and provided 146 degrees of arc. Translated, that means that it felt as if you were in the picture, not just looking at it. Well, that was the idea anyway; like iMax, it wasn't perfect.

The first Cinerama film was produced in 1952 (This is Cinerama) and was front-page news in the New York Times. This postcard advertises the second Cinerama film, Cinerama Holiday, released in 1955. Later films included Seven Wonders of the World, Search for Paradise, South Seas Adventure, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and How the West Was Won.  The high cost of making three-camera, wide-screen productions and dwindling popularity finally doomed the Cinerama films.

To find out more about Cinerama and the efforts to preserve and show the films, check out the Widescreen Museum. To find out more about Cinerama and the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco click here.
Note that the postcard has a Cinerama cancellation too. Fancy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

German-American Bank - Los Angeles, CA

I don't approve of giant hands coming in and poking buildings. It's especially hazardous around traffic and streetcars, and I don't think the pedestrians appreciate it either. But there it is, and I can't do a thing about it.
And anyway, I guess I wouldn't mind a safe deposit box for $2 per year.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Union Pacific Train - The City of Portland

This card shows the interior of Union Pacific's City of Portland train, which was put into service in 1935. Besides looking very inviting,  City of Portland was important for two reasons:

1. It was the first streamlined transcontinental passenger train.
2. It was the first to offer a dining car and sleeping cars.

The train was elegant and popular, providing a high level of service. However, with the advent of Amtrak in 1971, service was discontinued for the City of Portland and the other high-end trains (City of Salina, City of Los Angeles, City of San Francisco, and City of Denver.)

Here's the text of the card. (Both the Hotel White Plaza and the Titche-Goettinger store mentioned here are now registered historic landmarks.)

Room #317 - Hotel White Plaza Main + Harwood Streets, Dallas 1, Texas - Jan. 8th 1958
My darling daughter Lana J.
It was nice to see you at Xmas-New Years time and enjoyed being with you sweet. The trip to Dallas was okay with friends from Denver and Colorado Springs meeting me at the depots. Honey-child, the Titche-Goettinger Store in Dallas is right alongside of this fine hotel on Main Street side, the hotel taking up corner. Will ship you the dress when new supply comes in. More later. Lots of Love (?)


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