Friday, March 30, 2012

The Life of a German Housemaid

One of the things that's so wonderful about postcards as documents of social history is that people of every economic and social status sent them - from royalty and world rulers to farmers, laborers, and housemaids. Children just learning to write sent cards to each other and to relatives. Old people sent them too. If you were somehow able to pull all of these cards together, you would have an amazing collection of first-hand accounts of world and local events, epidemics, and trends in fashion and technology,  all from varied individual perspectives. Along with this, you would also get a sense of their values, daily routines, interests, and education.

If you have a collection of cards to or from one person, that's where it can get very interesting as you try to piece together the events that shaped their lives. I bought a collection of about 100 cards sent to a young German woman named Trinchen von Oesen over a span of years from 1909 to 1926.  I wondered at her ever-changing addresses, inevitably in care of someone else. I speculated that she had been a domestic servant of some kind. With the help of genealogical information, I was able to confirm that this was indeed the case. Her social status did not prevent her from sending and receiving lots of beautiful cards, including real-photo cards of herself and family members, as well as co-workers.

Based on the other photos I have, I believe that Trinchen (pronounced Treen-shen) is the one in the middle. She was born in 1892, so she would have been about 23 in this picture.  It's hard to see, but there's a sign above the door that says 'Wilkommen.' The three young women, with their well-worn shoes, likely worked at a guesthouse in the vicinity of Bremen.

This is a somewhat earlier picture. I think Trinchen may be the third from the right. The card was sent in 1911, so she would have been about 19 at the time.

The second card was sent from her sister Lina, although the handwriting, as on many of these cards, is very difficult to decipher. Trinchen also received many cards from her twin brothers Karl and Hermann from home and as they went off to fight in World War I. I know that Karl returned, but I suspect that Hermann did not.

Here are the backs of the cards in the same order. Once I learn to read this Suetterlin handwriting (any day now), I will have a translation for this.

The second card from her sister is a discussion of keys, in particular keys for Trinchen's chest of drawers and for a safe of some kind. She is requesting that Trinchen bring all the keys she has when she visits.

If you want to observe more people at work (as you relax this weekend), head over to Sepia Saturday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

De qui ce joli poisson?

Who sent you this lovely fish? That's often the question when it comes to the first day of April and the French tradition of April fish. People in France don't do it much anymore, but they used to send each other cards with fish on them accompanied by messages of affection. Often the card included only a simple message, such as 'guess who.' I have posted many of these Poisson d'Avril cards over the past few years. If you go back to the first post, you can read about the history and traditions of the holiday.

I love these cards because the combination of fish and romance seems so unlikely, but then again, it's fish, romance, and humor - the best combination.

Here are the backs of the first card and the last card.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

To Monsieur Narischkine from Nice

Yesterday's post on trams in Nice, France made me want to post another non-tram postcard of Nice. There are so many wonderful details on this card, some of them undiscovered since I do not speak Russian. If there are any Russian speakers out there who can provide a translation, I would be very grateful, because the back of this card seems to have just as much going for it as the front.

The front of the card shows the fairly typical scene of Nice, with well-dressed people out for a stroll.
 It would be easy to overlook some of the added elements, such as the man with the balloon.

There's also the woman (?) on the left-hand side of the card with the umbrella.

And then there's the kiosk, selling magazines and newspapers from all over the world.

And finally, there's the back of the card. The message is written in Russian, so I can't begin to decipher it, but it is addressed to Mr. Narischkine at Palazzo Galitzine in Rome. Who is this Mr. Narischkine and what is Palazzo Galitzine?

I found a reference in the New York Times, February, 1918 referring to a Prince Cyril Narischkine  and his marriage to opera star Genevieve Vix. This doesn't guarantee that our postcard recipient is Cyril Narishkine, but the address of the card at Palazzo Galitzine in Rome is another clue. The Galitzine (Golitsyn) family was also a noble family of Russia with hereditary connections to the Narishkine family. It's also possible that our recipient was M.B. Narischkine, who liquidated an extensive art collection in 1883. That's where that Russian translation might help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tram Tuesday - TNL

Tramways de Nice et du Littoral (TNL) operated the tram lines in Nice, France as well as those connecting Nice to other places along like the Côte d'Azur. Back in January of last year, I put up a post on trams in Nice, including an overview of the history and a look at the sleek new system. I won't repeat the information from the previous post, but I do have a number of additional views to show you. Each Tuesday for the next four weeks I will post cards that feature views from different areas of the Côte d'Azur tram lines. Today’s card show you some views in the city of Nice itself as you might have seen them while riding the trams at the turn of the century.

Avenue de la Victoire:

Avenue de la Gare:

Le Casino Municipal:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Williamsburg Bridge - New York City

The Williamsburg Bridge crosses the East River, connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan with the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. When it was built in 1903, it was the longest suspension bridge on earth.

There was great fanfare when the bridge opened and it was all caught on film.

Here's the back of the card.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Missing Ingredient

The 'Young Men Wanted' sign in the background is probably a coincidence, but these ladies might indeed enjoy the company of some young men for  a fun night on the town.

This lady's a little more direct.

 Here are the backs of the cards in the same order.

The theme for Sepia Saturday this week is 'going out.' To participate or to just have a look, click on the picture below.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Balanced Diet

A balanced diet includes several servings of fruit per day. Help yourself.

Neither of these cards was sent. The backs both look like this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Old Kentucky Home

The story goes that Stephen Collins Foster was visiting the former home of his cousin, Judge Rowan, in Bardstown, Kentucky in the 1850s and was inspired to write the lyrics to the song, My Old Kentucky Home. That story is now thought to be apocryphal, but it doesn't matter because by then Judge Rowan's house had been declared a State shrine, and the song was designated the official state song of Kentucky.

Here's the original song:

By 1986, Kentucky had a black legislator, Carl Hines, who objected to the word 'darky' and successfully sponsored a bill to change the word to 'people."

I looked at this card and imagined Foster sitting by the rustic hearth composing the lyrics.

I guess I was reading the caption on this card too literally, because then I saw this postcard and had to revise my image to a better-dressed Stephen Collins, sitting in the elegant parlor and sipping a mint julep while he wrote the lyrics. Whatever the case, the song is also the official song of the Kentucky Derby and is played at college football and basketball game in Kentucky. It's part of the state's heritage.

I have many cards that show the exterior of Judge Rowan's house. Here's one of them.

And here's the back of the first card, sent to Leona Cowles in Olympia, Washington. The message reads:
Thanks a lot for the nice card. I do hope you like this one. Yes I will be glad to have a greeting card from Seattle or San Francisco as I do not have any for either place. But I do have one from Pittsburgh PA. Please come again.
Norman Inman 719 Ashland Ave Louisville Ky

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tram Tuesday - San Francisco at Night

Looking at this postcard, you might think this is a cable car rather than a streetcar, but it's hard to tell since any overhead wires are invisible. It's even hard to read the printing at the top: Market Street and Palace Hotel at Night. San Francisco, California. 

There were cable cars on Market Street until the 1906 earthquake and fire; after that, there were streetcars. This card was sent in 1912, and the picture shows the new Palace Hotel, built in 1909. The original 1887 Palace Hotel was destroyed by a fire following the earthquake. That means these would be the new trolley cars not cable cars.

This reminds me of that wonderful film footage of a trip down Market Street on a cable car, just days before the earthquake. In case you haven't seen it, it's a great ride.

And here are some pictures of the original Palace Hotel and the new Palace Hotel.

Here's the back of the first card, sent to Jack Keegan in Portland, Oregon.:

Frisco 11/3 -12

Dear Jack
Regards to you and yours from me and mine. Best remembrances to "Chubby" and rest of bunch. always be sure your eggs are hard boiled. Tell C. Johnson that the D. & R. G. have grand offices in Frisco. The cubs (?) at Garibaldi Hall were asking for you

(Note: I think the D. & R. G. refers to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad)

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Son Karl

I don't speak Norwegian, but I think I was able to get the basic meaning of the text, based on similarities with other languages -  and a lot of guessing. But then again, I could be wrong. If you speak Norwegian, please feel free to make any corrections.

At first I thought this was a mass produced postcard, but it looks as if it is actually a real-photo card of a family member. Here's the back of the card, sent from Fredrikshald (now Halden), Norway. I have to give the post office special credit for recognizing Kallifonia, and for finding the new address of the recipient.

The message on the back of the card seems to be wishing Johan a happy Christmas, though by the time he receives the card the holiday has already passed.  It looks as if the card was sent on the 7th of December, 1911 and didn't arrive at its destination until a month later.

The message wishes Johan a happy Christmas and appears to be from his sister, Alma Hansen, who says "Here you see my son Karl."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day cards are a thing of the past, though we still celebrate the holiday.

These are both embossed cards, something that you can't really see on the scans, but it creates an uneven writing surface on the back and can make for illegible messages.

The message to Miss Georgie Green in Wayland, New York reads:

"Hello Georgie"
How you was over thare. All well I hope. You probably think I am an awful lyer but I am but I am sure  coming over It has been impossible for me to come before.
ans soon W.S.

This one, to Mrs. B.G. Brown of Norwich, New York is a lot harder to read.

Dear Ella and Bige I joust see your letter you wrote to day found it in Mells pocket - I hope you are both well and will have a nice day to day. Gladys and Bob are  up to Nellie's now Poor Nellie she has her hands full I can tell you and as does May we have moved the central (?)  agen. I bought a place think it would be cheaper  than to rent - come up  you and Bige would like to see you. Ma is well and looks well love, your mother

Friday, March 16, 2012

There Are Clues

There are clues here. I know there are clues that would help identify the location, the time frame, and a number of other details. The problem is that you have to be able to recognize the clues.

Here's what I come up with. The man on the left is Native American; I say that because he appears to be wearing moccasins rather than shoes.  The photograph was taken sometime before 1907, because the back of the card is undivided, meaning that there is only space for an address (no message) on the back. The stamp box design indicates that this real-photo card was probably developed on Eastman Kodak paper circa 1904.

Based on the dress of the man on the right, I would say we are in the western part of the United States, but how far west? I really couldn't say. There are more unanswered questions. What is that box on the wall? Who are these people? What is the pole that the Native American man has across his lap? Although the (presumably) Native American man seems humble and unassuming, the other man's attention is focused entirely on him. Was he someone important? I like to think that he was the Kalispel Chief, Masselow, based on some physical similarities, but who knows. Here's a picture of Chief Masselow from the First People's website. I'm sorry that I can't solve the puzzle of this card, even though I enjoy the mystery. Still, I can't help but think that in the right hands, these questions would find answers. Feel free to add any suggestions or insight you may have.

Here's another lead. Notice that the Native American man has a little bit of facial hair. Contrary to popular belief, Native American, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest, did grow facial hair. The facial hair may help to narrow down the tribe of this individual, because it was certainly not typical of all Native Americans. I think it probably narrows it down to the Pacific  Northwest Indians. This Edward Curtis photo from the Library of Congress shows a Native American (Old Bob from the Karok tribe) with similar facial hair.


Here are a couple of close-ups of the men. The resolution of the original is not great, so this is as good as it gets.

The theme for Sepia Saturday this week is scouts. My post has nothing to do with scouts, except for  'scouting for clues'. If you want to see some real scouts, march on over to Sepia Saturday.


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