Friday, August 10, 2012

Dr. René Bine

There is so much to say about Dr. René Bine that I hardly know where to start. Someone should make a movie about him. I only learned of him when my reluctant husband accompanied me to a postcard show a year or two ago and started perusing the boxes of 25-cent cards. He was intrigued by these cards with the writing on the front, something generally considered undesirable among postcard collectors.

He purchased a number of cards that day. When we got home I started reading the cards and realized that the messages often continued mid-sentence from one numbered card to the next. It was maddening. I contacted the seller and tried to get the rest of the cards. Alas, there are still some gaps, but with the 80 or so cards and the other records he left, we have  good indication of the man he was.

Here is some of what we know:

René Bine was born in June, 1882. His father, Leon Bine, immigrated to San Francisco from France and became a U.S. citizen. I am guessing that the elder Bine was a doctor and that his son followed in his footsteps. Young René was a medical student at University of California, Berkeley, where he is shown here as an intern in a  yearbook photo, center right.

By 1904, René was in Europe studying at various European medical schools.  The postcards at this point are already numbered over a hundred, so who knows what we are missing.

The cards are all addressed to his sister, Marie, in San Francisco, but seem to be intended for his parents too.

On October 1, 1904, René was studying at the Medical University in Vienna and  sent this card (#106) to his family in San Francisco.

The message reads:

Oct. 1 -1904
Dear folks,
To-day for the first time since our arrival in Vienna, has the sun shone upon us + after a week of rainy, sloppy weather it is very welcome. Cold persists, but with heavier underwear purchased a block or so further up this street, my overcoat is relegated to the place I've usually accorded it. We expect to see more of Vienna now that we  can walk without wading, as till now we have with a few exceptions confined ourselves to our own neighborhood in which the Krankenhaus (hospital) + other buildings are situated and an occasional constitutional further on to the Ring. The Ring is the street...

I don't find card # 107, but here is #108. 

 The message reads: 

...burg, man not as advertised as others we know, but we shall stay with him until we reach one named Schmidt. Jellinek's friend Kovack is out of reach. From 6 to 7 I will be taking a German lesson from Fraulein Voigt, who gave Dr. Moffitt (Herbert Charles Moffitt - See link) daily lessons for three months on his visit here -with my Grammar absent + my vocabulary small, my conversational abilities therefore shaky when I'm up against a genuine Deutsch wordstringer + I cannot stand for that. From 8:15 to 9:45 we have a practice course on surgical anatomy from Prof.  Julius Tandler (see link about Julius Tandler) 4 times a week only. I also...

And here's card #109

 The message continues from the previous card:

am trying to read medicine 3 times a week no less _____ is in great demand, with Dr Kiehopt (Kuhopt?) who also had Dr. Moffitt's company for a period of 9 months. Paul has arranged for a course on Kids Diseases from 2:30 to 4 as he has had no instruction in that line at all + in about 6-8 weeks i shall also enter it as the professor wants but 2 men + then the 2nd man will give me his plan. After October 15th we will have for 6 weeks Prof. Tandler 4 to 5 P.M. 5 times a week + his 8:15 to 9:45 PM course will run for a few days longer. We also are figuring on entering university courses from 8 to 9 A.M. + 12 to 1 PM or 5 to 6:30 so you can see we will have more then we would the latter are...

As you can see, Dr Bine writes detailed accounts of his life there, from underwear purchased to the famous professors he studied with. I have to wonder if he ever had any contact with Sigmund Freud, who would have been teaching at the university at the time. I guess I'll just have to keep reading the tiny handwriting. I have highlighted the names of some of the people he worked with, in case you want to know more about them. There is so much more to Dr. Bines' adventures. Here he is in Vienna in 1904, with a family in San Francisco. I wondered, with all of these years of postcards, what course of action he took when the great earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906. More to come!

Here's what most of the cards look like on the back.



  1. Fascinating postcards. Now I can see why you want the others. Still would like to make it to a postcard show.

  2. Kind of unusual to write on consecutive postcards rather than putting everything in letter form!

  3. Ohlala! I LOVE this -- I don't know about collectors but being a mail artist I just love that he wrote so much on the face of the cards.....these are wonderful. So happy to managed to get most of them and piece together the story. Very cool!

  4. What an incredible find! you are so lucky. Well done for being persistent and collecting as many as you could. I have a few sets of postcards in my collection where there is correspondence from the same person over many postcards, but nothing like this. Have you managed to find out if there are any relatives still alive?

  5. such a find!
    i see why your husband was interested!
    too read about this young man's life at the time,as he persued his medical degree..what was going on daily really gets a feel for him and who he was and what he wanted out of life.
    just fascinating!!!
    i hope you find out more...i'm sure i won't be the only blog-follower who wants to know too!!!!
    thanks for sharing these!

  6. Thanks for introducing these cards. I've written across several postcards before, but I always end up mailing them together in an envelope. It sort of reminds me of the special washi cards they sometimes sell for etegami use, which are several connected cards, over which you paint one long picture with accompanying words. Then you separate them and mail them to the same person on different days, or send them to lots of different people.

  7. A postcard feuilleton, great idea. I love the Vienna photos as well, it looks like the city hasn't change much in over a century.

  8. What a fascinating piece of history!

  9. Its seems his granddaughter donated a bunch of his correspondences and papers to a librabry in California. There is a lot about his Sister, although this all might belong to his farther. From what I can gather, it seems to start round 1906 which is after the time you are talking about.

  10. Interesting.
    Also note that he has used every square cm of the available space of the card.

  11. I wonder if he was happy when the time came when you could write a message on the address side of the pc.
    Re. the photo, it's 'funny' how names can be written under a photo in a different formation/arrangement to the actual people in the photo.

  12. Ruth,
    Yes, I found that material too, although it's only available to peruse in person.

    Lisa, the position of the people made it difficult to determine who was who. Luckily I had access to other photos for comparison.

  13. Of course, I should have known the great sleuth that you are, you are way ahead of us:)ha! Just emailed you the same link......!



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