Traveling with Postcards: Atlantic City

Atlantic City Boardwalk

The Atlantic City Boardwalk opened on June 26, 1870, originally intended as a temporary structure erected for the summer season that was the first boardwalk in the United States. The Boardwalk starts at Absecon Inlet in the north and runs along the beach south-west to the city limit 4 miles away then continues 1 1⁄2 miles into Ventnor City. Casino/hotels front the boardwalk, as well as retail stores, restaurants, and amusements. Notable attractions include the Boardwalk Hall, House of Blues, and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum.

The Boardwalk has been home to several piers over the years. The first pier, Ocean Pier, was built in 1882. It eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished. Another famous pier built during that time was Steel Pier, opened in 1898, which once billed itself as “The Showplace of the Nation”. It now operates as an amusement pier across from the Hard Rock. Captain John Lake Young opened “Young’s Million Dollar Pier” as an arcade hall in 1903, and on the seaward side “erected a marble mansion”, fronted by a formal garden, with lighting and landscaping designed by Young’s longtime friend Thomas Alva Edison. Young’s Million Dollar Pier, Atlantic City’s largest amusement pier during its time”, was transformed into a shopping mall in the 1980s, known as “Shops on Ocean One”. In 2006, the Ocean One mall was bought, renovated and re-branded as “The Pier Shops at Caesars” and in 2015, it was renamed “Playground Pier.” Garden Pier, located opposite Revel Atlantic City, once housed a movie theater, and is now home to the Atlantic City Historical Museum.

Lucy the Elephant

Lucy the Elephant is a six-story elephant-shaped example of novelty architecture, constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1881 by James V. Lafferty in Margate City, New Jersey, approximately five miles south of Atlantic City. Originally named Elephant Bazaar, Lucy was built to promote real estate sales and attract tourists. Today, Lucy is the oldest surviving roadside tourist attraction in America.

Through the first half of the 20th century, Lucy served as a restaurant, business office, cottage, and tavern (the last closed by Prohibition). The building was depicted on many souvenir postcards, often referred to as “The Elephant Hotel of Atlantic City.” (The actual hotel was in a nearby building, not inside the elephant.)

By the 1960s, Lucy had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition. In 1969, Edwin T. Carpenter and a group of Margate citizens formed the Margate Civic Association, which later became the Save Lucy Committee under Josephine Harron and Sylvia Carpenter. They were given a 30-day deadline to move the edifice or pay for its demolition. Various fundraising events, the most successful a door-to-door canvass by volunteers, raised money.

On July 20,1970 Lucy was moved about 100 yards to the west-southwest to a city owned lot and completely refurbished. The move took about seven hours. The building’s original wooden frame was buttressed new steel, and the deteriorated howdah was replaced with a replica. A plug of green glass set into the howdah platform refracts light into Lucy’s interior.

Knife and Fork Inn

The Knife and Fork Inn is a restaurant located at the confluence of Atlantic and Pacific Avenues in Atlantic City, NJ which was first opened in 1912 as a private club by “the Commodore” Louis Kuehnle and then in 1927 “on the eve of prohibition” became an exclusive dining room catering to the municipalities’ upper echelons founded by the New York City hotelier Milton Latz.

Among the celebrities and power brokers who wined and dined there during its original run were entertainers such as Rosemary Clooney, Vic Damone and Bob Hope, as well as the casino mogul Steve Wynn and two former Governors of New Jersey, James Florio and Christine Todd Whitman. However it would be one specific mover and shaker later to be fictionalized in the HBO megahit series Boardwalk Empire, the Atlantic City power boss and racketeer, Enoch Nucky Johnson who would hold forth in an era in which then when portrayed would bring the Kife and Fork Inn newfound fame.

Although Babette’s Supper Club was not around in the earliest days of Prohibition as depicted in the aforementioned series, the Knife & Fork would have been the closest establishment to mirror the scenes which take place in Babette’s on the show at that time and indeed it was chosen to portray the other legendary long gone establishment in the series. In a later season of Boardwalk Empire, the Knife & Fork itself was mentioned and a facsimile was recreated for a major scene in the show.

Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel

The Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel was a historic resort hotel property in Atlantic City, NJ, built in 1902-1906, and sadly, demolished in October 1978.

In 1900, Josiah White III bought a parcel of land between Ohio Avenue and Park Place on the Boardwalk, and built the Queen Anne style Marlborough House. The hotel was financially successful and, in 1905, he chose to expand. White hired Philadelphia architect Will Price of Price and McLanahan to design a new, separate tower to be called the Blenheim. “Blenheim” refers to Blenheim Palace in England, the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, a grandson of the Duke of Marlborough.
In 1977 Reese Palley and local attorney and businessman Martin Blatt bought the Marlborough-Blenheim and planned to preserve the Blenheim half of the hotel, along with adjacent Dennis Hotel for his Park Place Casino. Palley was successful in getting the Blenheim part of the hotel placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, while planning to raze the Marlborough to make way for a new modern hotel. Ten days later, he stepped aside when Bally Manufacturing purchased a controlling interest in the project. After Bally took control, they announced plans to raze the Marlborough-Blenheim and the adjacent Dennis Hotel, despite protests, to make way for the new “Bally’s Park Place Casino and Hotel”. However, in an effort to offset costs and get the casino opened as fast as they could they chose to keep the Dennis Hotel, which would serve as the temporary hotel for Bally’s until a new tower was built.

Bally demolished the wood-framed Marlborough with the conventional wrecking ball. For the Blenheim the company hired Controlled Demolition, Inc. (CDI) and Winzinger Incorporated of Hainesport New Jersey, which had taken down the Traymore Hotel, to implode the structure. A preservation group which had sought historic status for the building won a stay of execution for the Blenheim’s rotunda portion on the Boardwalk. It was separated from the rest of the hotel, which was imploded in the fall of 1978. Several months later its historic status was denied, the stay was lifted, and CDI finished the demolition January 4, 1979. It is not known if they sold the name Marlborough-Blenheim as well.


Click here to check out our range of Atlantic City & New Jersey Postcards available on eBay

Traveling with Postcards: Seattle

St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral church located at 804 Ninth Avenue in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The need for a cathedral in Seattle arose in 1903, when Edward O’Dea, bishop of what was then known as the Diocese of Nesqually, elected to move the Episcopal see from Vancouver, Washington to Seattle. Construction began in 1905 and was completed in 1907.

Major artwork at St. James Cathedral include an extensive collection of stained glass by Charles Connick, installed in 1917-1920, during the rebuilding of the cathedral following the collapse of the dome. In 1999, ceremonial bronze doors were added, the work of German sculptor Ulrich Henn. A bronze tabernacle by the same artist was installed in 2003. St. James Cathedral is also home to an altarpiece by Florentine artist Neri di Bicci, dating to 1456. It represents the Madonna and Child surrounded by six saints.

The cathedral’s original choir space in the west gallery features an organ built by the Boston firm of Hutchings-Votey (Opus 1623). This organ was installed and voiced by E. M. Skinner in 1907.

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel

The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, originally The Olympic Hotel, is a historic hotel in downtown Seattle. It was built on the original site of the University of Washington’s first campus. The hotel opened in 1924, and in 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

After World War I, Seattle’s Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to work toward the goal of bringing a world-class hotel to the city. The committee identified an undeveloped portion of the city’s Metropolitan Tract, a downtown area covering four blocks, as an ideal location for a new hotel. The Seattle Times held a contest to name the hotel. From 3,906 entries, the committee chose The Olympic.

In 1922, once the lease had gone into effect, the Community Hotel Corporation chose New York architect George B. Post & Son to design the building; the local firm Bebb and Gould—a partnership between Charles Bebb and Carl Gould—were hired as the local supervising architects. Post created an Italian Renaissance design that was popular at the time, and this design remains one of the building’s hallmarks today. The Olympic Hotel’s grand opening took place on December 6, 1924, with a grand dinner and dance attended by more than 2,000 Seattle residents and their guests. Hundreds more people lined the streets just to catch a glimpse of the new hotel.

The L.C. Smith Building

Smith Tower is a skyscraper in Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington. Completed in 1914, the 38-story, 484 ft tower is the oldest skyscraper in the city, and was among the tallest skyscrapers outside New York City at the time of its completion. It remained the tallest building on the West Coast for nearly half a century until the Space Needle overtook it in 1962.

During a trip to Seattle in 1909, Smith planned to build a 14-story building in Seattle. His son, Burns Lyman Smith, convinced him to build instead a much taller skyscraper to steal the crown from rival city Tacoma’s National Realty Building as the tallest west of the Mississippi River. Construction began in 1911. Although Smith did not live to see it, the building was completed in 1914. L.C. Smith Tower opened to the public on July 4, 1914. Over 4,000 Seattleites rode to the 35th floor on opening day.

In recent years high-tech companies have been occupants of L.C. Smith Tower, which sports fiber-optic wiring. The burst of the dot-com bubble hurt Smith Tower by raising its vacancy rate to 26.1 percent, twice Seattle’s commercial vacancy rate, as of December 21, 2001. The Walt Disney Internet Group, for example, at the time reduced its seven floors to four. By 2007, the occupancy rate had rebounded to about 90 percent, with new occupants such as Microsoft Live Labs.

The building is one of the last on the West Coast to employ elevator operators. The Otis Elevator Company provided the elevators, which have brass surfaces. The doors are latticed, so a rider can see into each hallway and through the glass walls in front of each office.

Leschi Park

Leschi Park is an 18.5 acre park in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle,  named after Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe. The majority of the park is a grassy hillside that lies west of Lakeside Avenue S. and features tennis courts, picnic tables, and a playground. Across Lakeside Avenue to the east is the western shore of Lake Washington and a small lawn with benches. To its south is the southern portion of Leschi Moorage, separated from the northern portion by a parking lot in the E. Yesler Way right-of-way, private docks, and an office/restaurant complex.

The cable car run from Pioneer Square that operated from September 27, 1888, to August 10, 1940, terminated here. As with Madison Park to the north, there was a cross-lake ferry run from Leschi Park to the Eastside before the construction of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge. Seattle’s first zoo was located here, but moved to Woodland Park in 1903. Leschi Park borders Frink Park in its southwest corner.

The Duwamish called the area “Changes-Its-Face”, referring to an enormous and powerful supernatural horned snake that was said to live there.

Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition

The Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition was a world’s fair held in Seattle in 1909, publicizing the development of the Pacific Northwest. It was originally planned for 1907, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, but the organizers found out about the Jamestown Exposition being held that year, and rescheduled. The fairgrounds later became the campus of the University of Washington.

The gates opened at 8.30 AM on June 1, and crowds entered immediately. At 9.30 AM, attendees watched performances by military bands from the Army and the Navy. Many sat in the fair’s amphitheater, awaiting a signal scheduled to be given in Washington DC. At 3pm East Coast Time (12 noon in Seattle), in the East Room of the White House, President Taft sent the signal. He “opened… the Exposition… by touching a gold key, studded with gold nuggets taken from the first mine opened in the Klondike region.” The telegraphic spark that Taft sent was received by telegraphers at the fairgrounds; as soon as it arrived, a gong was struck five times, a large American flag was unfurled, and there was a twenty-one gun salute, while other demonstrations of pageantry announced the official opening of the fair.

Opening Day, June 1, was declared a city holiday, and 80,000 people attended.  Attendance was even higher—117,013—on “Seattle Day”. Other big draws were days dedicated to various ethnic groups, fraternal organizations, and U.S. states. By the time the fair closed on October 16, over 3,700,000 had visited.


Click here to check out our range of Seattle Postcards available on eBay

Exploring Cities with Postcards: Victoria

Victoria, the capital city of the Canadian province of British Columbia, is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island off Canada’s Pacific coast. The city has a population of 85,792, while the metropolitan area of Greater Victoria has a population of 367,770, making it the 15th most populous Canadian metropolitan area. Victoria is the 7th most densely populated city in Canada with 4,405.8 people per square kilometre, which is a greater population density than Toronto.

 

s-l1600 (40)The Empress Hotel

The Fairmont Empress, formerly and commonly referred to as The Empress, is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury, and was built by Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway company.

The Chateauesque was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels as a terminus hotel for Canadian Pacific’s steamship line, whose main terminal was just a block away. The hotel was to serve business people and visitors to Victoria, but later as Canadian Pacific ceased its passenger services to the city, the hotel was successfully remarketed as a resort to tourists. Victoria emerged as a tourist destination beginning in the mid-to-late 1920s.

The hotel was built between 1904 and 1908, opening for service in that year. Additional wings were added between 1909 and 1914, and in 1928.

Famously, in the 1930s, Shirley Temple arrived accompanied by her parents amid rumours that she had fled from California because of kidnapping threats, a story borne from the presence of two huge bodyguards who took the room opposite hers and always left their door open. On May 30, 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended a luncheon at the Empress during their 1939 royal tour of Canada.

 

s-l1600-41.jpgButchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens is a group of floral display gardens in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada, located near Victoria on Vancouver Island. The gardens receive over a million visitors each year. The gardens have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Robert Pim Butchart (1856–1943) began manufacturing Portland cement in 1888 near his birthplace of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada. He and his wife Jennie Butchart (1866–1950) came to the west coast of Canada because of rich limestone deposits necessary for cement production.

In 1904, they established their home near his quarry on Tod Inlet at the base of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island.

In 1907, 65-year-old garden designer Isaburo Kishida of Yokohama came to Victoria, at the request of his son, to build a tea garden for Esquimalt Gorge Park. This garden was wildly popular and a place to be seen. Several prominent citizens, Jennie Butchart among them, commissioned Japanese gardens from Kishida for their estates. He returned to Japan in 1912.

In 1909, when the limestone quarry was exhausted, Jennie set about turning it into the Sunken Garden, which was completed in 1921. They named their home “Benvenuto” (“welcome” in Italian), and began to receive visitors to their gardens. In 1926, they replaced their tennis courts with an Italian garden and in 1929 they replaced their kitchen vegetable garden with a large rose garden to the design of Butler Sturtevant of Seattle. Samuel Maclure, who was consultant to the Butchart Gardens, reflected the aesthetic of the English Arts and Crafts Movement.

 

s-l1600-42.jpgBeacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park is a 75 ha (200 acre) park located along the shore of Juan de Fuca Strait in Victoria, British Columbia. The park is popular both with tourists and locals, and contains a number of amenities including woodland and shoreline trails, two playgrounds, a waterpark, playing fields, a petting zoo, tennis courts, many ponds, and landscaped gardens.

The land was originally set aside as a protected area by Sir James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1858. In 1882, the land was officially made a municipal park of the City of Victoria, and given its present name. The name is derived from a small hill overlooking the Strait, upon which once stood navigational beacons. The hill is culturally significant, having been a burial site for the First Nations Coast Salish people, who are the original inhabitants of the Greater Victoria region. It provides scenic vistas of the Strait and the Olympic Mountains of Washington.

Although much of the park has been landscaped into gardens and playing fields, and populated with various structures, a great deal of the native flora has been preserved. Garry oak, arbutus, Douglas-fir, western redcedar, camas, trillium, snowberry, Oregon grape, and fawn lily still remain in the park. Raccoons, river otters, squirrels, and many types of birds are frequently to be seen. The ponds in the park are noted for their swans, turtles, ducks, Canada geese, and blue herons

 

s-l1600-43.jpgBritish Columbia Parliament Buildings

From 1856 to 1860 the Legislature of the Colony of Vancouver Island met at Bachelor’s Hall at Fort Victoria. From 1860 to 1898 it was housed in the first permanent building at Legislative Hall or Legislative Council Court, a two-storey wooden building along with four other buildings (Land Office, Colonial Office, Supreme Court, and Treasury) known colloquially as “The Birdcages” because of their shape (burned 1957).

Construction of a new Parliament Building was first authorized by an act of the provincial legislature in 1893, the Parliament Buildings Construction Act. The province, anxious to commemorate its growing economic, social and political status, was engaged in an architectural competition to build a new legislative building in Victoria, after outgrowing “The Birdcages”, which were notoriously drafty and leaked in wet weather. Francis Rattenbury, a recent English immigrant, 25 years old, entered the contest and signed his drawings with the pseudonym “A B.C. Architect”. He progressed to the second round, signing his drawing “For Queen and Province” and eventually won the competition.

Despite many problems, including exceeding budget—the original budget was $500,000; the final amount was $923,000—the British Columbia Parliament Buildings began operation officially during 1898. The grand scale of its 500-foot (150 m) long andesite façade, central dome and two end pavilions, the richness of its white marble, and combination of Baroque rigorous symmetry, use of domes and sculptural massing with the rusticated surfaces of the currently popular Romanesque Revival style contributed to its being an innovative and impressive monument for the young province.


Click here to check out our range of Victoria Postcards

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

 

This Saturday is Women’s Equality Day, and we wanted to celebrate by telling the stories of a few women you may not have heard about. These women were actresses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and were popular subjects for postcards in their day. But there’s so much more to their lives than that.

 

Eva-moore-1894Eva Moore was born in England in February of 1868, and acted on stage until 1945 (her daughter was Laurence Olivier’s first wife.) But apart from her successful theater career, Eva was a strong believer in women’s suffrage. She performed in films and plays that advanced the cause of voting rights for women, and was active in meetings, marches, and other demonstrations. She was one of the founders of the Actresses’ Franchise League, but was forced to resign when she took a role in a sketch that implied women preferred romance to voting rights, something which greatly offended her fellow suffragettes.

 

It is possible that she actually prevented the assassination of Liberal prime minister Herbert Asquith. In September of 1909, a “Mrs. Moore” approached Scotland Yard with a letter that indicated two suffragettes had begun target practice with pistols, for an attempt on Asquith’s life. The inspector in charge of the case said, “Mrs Moore says she has been making efforts to restrain these women for some time past and has used her power to have them removed from the carriage entrance to the House of Commons, fearing that something would happen to Mr Asquith. But now she finds they are getting out of hand, and therefore she thought it best to inform the authorities.” While it may have been a different Mrs. Moore, Eva Moore was known to be good friends with Asquith’s sister-in-law, and certainly would have been in a position to know which suffragettes might have been planning violence.

 

During World War I, Eva raised money for charities, including hospitals, and received the Ordre de la Reine Elisabeth. She died in 1955.

 

Marie Tempest was born in London, and educated in Belgium and France. She became a renowned actress, known for her unconventional beauty and “golden voice.”

 

Though she was legendary on stage, her legacy is the work she did to ensure fair pay for actors and actresses. In 1934, she was involved in the founding of actors’ union Equity. Marie hosted a dinner at the famous Savoy hotel for 85 of the top entertainers of her day. The dinner was more than a simple party, however, as Marie allowed none of the guests to leave until they had signed their assent to a statement: “We the undersigned, hereby pledge ourselves that we will not enter into any engagements with theatre managers on conditions which would deny our right to refuse to work with non-members of Equity.”

 

Tempes_in_A_Greek_SlaveFor her golden jubilee in May 1935, a benefit performance was held at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. King George V and Queen Mary attended, as did J. M. Barrie, Noel Coward, and Somerset Maugham, amongst others. $5000 from the event was donated to the Royal Hospital to be used for medical bills of entertainers and performers. Noel Coward later wrote of Tempest, “she wastes no time on personal inhibitions or inferiority complexes. In fact, she takes off her coat and gets down to the job of the moment with less shi-shi than any actress I have ever met…. Despite the fact that for fifty years she has performed a multitude of plays to multitudes of people, she has always contrived to remain the mistress of her tradition rather than allow any tradition to become the mistress of her.” Tempest was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1937; in 1941, her house was destroyed in the Blitz. She said, “Hitler has taken nearly everything from me but my life, but you can’t live on regret.” She died in 1942.

 

Lena Ashwell came from a military family; she was born on the ship Wellesley while it was anchored in the River Tyne. After realizing that her singing voice was not good enough to make her a professional singer, she took up acting. Successful on the stage, she began to take the reigns behind the scenes, managing first the Savoy Theatre, then her own theatre, the Kingsway, in 1907.

 

She was a passionate supporter of women’s suffrage. When asked by a fellow suffragette to “pledge your militant sisters to call a truce and to abstain from any act of violence or hostile demonstration,” Ashwell replied, “I hold a strong belief active efforts on the part of every non militant Suffragist to obtain suffrage rights for women will eventually force those prejudiced or obtusely indifferent to realise the vital necessity for reform. Only the courageous can put an end to militancy by publicly asserting their belief in women’s suffrage, and taking active steps to redress the evils of which militancy is the hideous result.”

 

When World War I broke out, Lena was determined that the soldiers fighting on the front lines should not be deprived of the high culture available to those at home. The War Office, however, did not agree. Soldiers were expected to make their own entertainment with writing and reading letters, playing cards, and occasionally playing football, when time and fighting allowed.

 

484px-Lena_Ashwell_002Reality backed up Lena’s views. Boredom was a massive problem in camps, and soldiers began to organize crude, bawdy shows for entertainment. Ashwell kept pushing: she insisted that every camp have its own theatre, and benefit from professional entertainers. She organized the first tour in 1915; Ashwell and her fellow performers often had to wade through mud, use suitcases as a stage, and sleep in barns. However, Lena was proved more than correct: the soldiers were eager for any kind of professional performance, and showed a particular love for Shakespeare.

 

Lena wrote, describing a scene in which Novello sang “Keep the Home Fires Burning,” which he had just written: “When he sang it, the men seemed to drink it in at once and instantly sang the chorus, and as we drove away at the end of the concert, in the dark and the rain and the mud, from all parts of the camp one could hear the refrain.” The performers used whatever furniture and props were at hand to stage comedies, romances, and dramas. One Shakespearean performance took place in a horse hospital. It was common for injured soldiers to be wheeled out of hospitals, even in bad weather, to enjoy the performances. After every show, the performers visited the wounded, often stopping to sing for a single soldier.

 

Womens_War_Services_-_An_Exhibition_Art.IWMPST13754.jpgAs word spread about Lena Ashwell’s shows, demand for shows on the front lines increased. She organized parties to perform for men on the front lines; shows were interrupted by artillery and anti-aircraft fire. Lena wrote, “I found myself in a tent which seemed in the darkness to be far away from everything and everybody. I stood on a table and recited all the poems that I knew, but wished with all my heart that I had learnt many more, as the audience grew and grew, and they sat silently around like hungry children. It was a quaint, gentle, peaceful evening, and curious that on that night I should have been nearer the firing line than at any other moment.”

 

For four years, over 600 performers (over half of them women) staged shows in France, Egypt, and Malta. Tens of thousands came to the performances; impromptu shows broke out on ships, train stations, and other unusual locations. By 1917, many of the touring groups were composed entirely of women, something the authorities worried about but the soldiers enjoyed greatly. It had been the first major effort to entertain troops on the battlefield, a tradition that continues to this day.

 

According to the Telegraph, “When she was asked to compile a record of their experiences, Ashwell called on the letters and diaries of her artists – nearly all of which seemed to concentrate mightily on food and transport. It did not surprise her, for she herself had found that the war was so terrible that it was impossible to express anything about what they had seen. But she believed that they had performed a service on a par with the Red Cross or St John Ambulance. Her own recollections were always the tears and the cheering which accompanied thunderous applause in the battle zones.”

 

Lena Ashwell was awarded the Order of the British Empire, and died in 1957 at the age of 84.

 

The battle for women’s equality has been long and hard-fought, and it’s not finished yet. But it’s important to remember the stories of women like these,who fought for what they could, where they could.

 

Postcards of each of the women mentioned here are currently available in the Stamp & Coin Place store.

A French Oasis in Early Pennsylvania

 

Deep in the Pennsylvania wilderness, travelers at the end of the 18th century might stumble upon something extraordinary: a perfect little French town, complete with shops, a distillery, and a theater. What looked like ordinary log cabins on the outside had plastered walls, carpets, and other luxuries. A few years later, however, it was all gone. Today, only one building remains.

 

This fairytale French oasis in the Pennsylvania countryside was Azilum (sometimes spelled Azylum). As the French Revolution got into full swing in the 1790s, many royalists and aristocrats fled the country in fear for their lives. Slave uprisings in French-owned Saint-Domingue sent other French refugees north.

 

azilum ASeveral influential Philadelphians sympathized with the French, and also saw a way to make a substantial profit off the exiled aristocrats. Stephen Girard, Robert Morris, and John Nicholson, among others, purchased 1600 acres of land in the northeastern part of the state, near the Susquehanna river; 300 of the acres were set aside for a town. There was a 2-acre market square, and 413 private lots, each about a half-acre square. Approximately 30 log cabins were built to welcome refugees who began arriving in the fall of 1793; other buildings housed a blacksmith shop, distillery, and theater. Crops and fruit trees were planted, and cattle and sheep brought to the colony.

 

The crown jewel of the colony was La Grande Maison, a two-story building 84 feet long and 60 feet wide. Legend persists that it was built in the hopes that Marie Antoinette and her children would be able to escape the Reign of Terror and settle there. This, of course, did not happen, though the building did house dignitaries who visited, including Louis Phillipe, who reigned as the last king of France from 1830 to 1848.)

 

The Philadelphian investors promoted their French oasis aggressively; agents met ships docking at the harbor to scout out French aristocrats who had money and a need to settle. The investors had bought the wilderness land at about $0.15 per acre; the French aristocrats bought it for 6 francs, a profit for the Americans of about 500%.

 

azilum CThe French families who came to Azilum did their best to recreate the life they had left, despite the difficulties of living so far from other communities. The interiors of the log cabins were plastered and covered in wallpaper, expensive rugs laid on the floors, and elegant drapes hung from the windows. Some families had even managed to bring expensive furniture to the New World. Glass panes were set into the windows, instead of cheaper options like greased paper or flaked mica. Dances and parties were constant pastimes, and the aristocrats hired landscapers to maintain their lawns in the French fashion. Visitors to the colony were amazed at the sheer luxury on display in the Pennsylvania wilderness.

 

This enchanted life was doomed from the start. The nearest town with supplies to be purchased was 75 miles away. Extreme weather made travel next to impossible in winter. Then Morris and Nicholson declared bankruptcy toward the end of the 18th century, and French investors were no longer willing to bankroll a home in America for the refugees. Finally, in the first years of the 1800s, Napoleon declared that all exiles could return; Azilum rejoiced at the news, and celebrated with a feast. As many families as could make the journey returned to France.Some colonists stayed and assimilated into American culture in other towns. Surnames like LaPorte, Homet, LeFevre, and Brevost may indicate descendants of these families.

 

The LaPorte house, which was held by the family until the mid-1800s, and then by a trust until it passed into government hands for preservation, is the only remaining original house at Azilum (though other buildings have been reconstructed.) It serves as a museum, housing many artifacts from the original settlers. This single building and its contents are all that remain of the tiny piece of French life in early America. The site of Azilum is marked and visible from the highway; it remains a popular subject for postcards.

The Postcards of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

 

Yes, that’s the actual name of this Massachusetts lake! Well, it’s one version of it.

 

s-l1600Officially, the lake is named Lake Chaubunagungamaug, which reflect the oldest Native American name for the small body of water. In Nipmuc, an Algonquian dialect, it means “lake divided by islands,” though a more generous translation could be “Fishing place at the boundaries–neutral meeting grounds.”

 

s-l1600 (2)According to Ives Goddard, Curator of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, the earliest name for the body of water was Chabunagungamaug Pond. Several variations in spelling were also extant. In 1831, the name appeared as Chargoggagoggmanchoggagogg Pond, which seems to have been a cartographer’s error, confusing the original lake with nearby Manchaug Pond.

 

s-l1600 (1)The excessively long variation of the lake’s name was actually the creation of a local newspaper editor, along with the fictitious translation of “You fish on your side, I’ll fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle.” Despite the non-historical origins of the longer name, some locals prefer it, and even take pride in being able to spell and pronounce it in its entirety. It is cited as the longest place name in the United States.

 

Such an unusual name makes for excellent mementos, and many postcards of the lake have been produced.

The Strange Short-Lived Fad of Leather Postcards

 

s-l1600 (18)

 

 

Postcards became extremely popular around the beginning of the 20th century, and manufacturers frequently added features to attract buyers. Postcards were embossed, gilded, embroidered, and made of different materials. For a brief time, leather postcards were all the rage.

 

While not rare enough to be particularly valuable, most people have never seen one of these leather postcards. Many were comedic or intended to convey romantic sentiments. Like most postcards, they were pre-printed with a spot for the address and a stamp.

 

s-l1600 (16)Leather postcards were only popular for a few years between 1905 and 1910 before falling out of favor. For one thing, the post office hated the postcards, due to their thickness, which caused problems with the mail sorting machines. (There was also some confusion as to the cost of mailing early postcards, and leather postcards only added to the confusion.) The cards were usually made of deer hide, and the design added by burning the leather (occasionally, the design was inked on.) Some even came with pre-cut holes so the postcards could be sewn together for pillow covers or other mementos. A trade magazine noted in 1906 that the demand for leather postcards had boosted the leather market.

 

However, the fad was short-lived, and paper postcards reigned supreme again for the rest of the 20th century, due to the ease and cheapness of production and mailing.

Colorizing Postcards

Photo postcards used to only be in black and white. While black and white is all well and good, postcard publishers quickly wanted to add a little color to their offerings.

Did you know that some companies specialized in colorizing postcards? Before cards were actually printed in color, greeting cards and postcards were sent off even to different countries to brighten the cards with exotic colors. This started with holidays like Christmas and Easter, but soon grew into a year-round practice.

The first colorizing started in Leith, Germany with a business called Lundy. Lundy started printing business messages in color.

800px-Lake_Winape,_Monroe,_New_York

The first color postcards emerged starting in 1893, more than 20 years after the first postcard was published. Soon the color caught on, and everybody wanted color in their postcards! That set the ball rolling for a lucrative color postcard business, making postcards more in-demand than ever before.

Often, publishers sent photographs to India or Italy to be colored. Their exciting colors stood out to consumers. The brighter the colors, the better.

Collecting Linen Postcards

Linen postcards’ misleading name suggests postcards made out of fabric, but that is far from the case. They’re in fact made of paper: a textured, high quality paper.

What really makes linen postcards stand out is their saturated colors on top of the textured material. The card stock has a high rag content, meaning a higher content of cotton fiber and generally better quality. The embossed paper allows for quicker-drying ink, too.

Linen postcard were printed from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Linen postcards usually had white borders, a carry-over from postcards between WWI and the 1920’s.

$_57 (1)

Curt Teich Co. of Chicago printed the most linen postcards. Each postcard was numbered, making them easy to distinguish from each other and be carefully collected based on the number. Curt Teich also produced the famous “large letter” linen postcards, those cards popular among tourists and fans of the shining pinnacle of road trip-era America.

The categories of linen postcards vary; popular categories include scenics, comics, and travel postcards.

Do you collect linen postcards? As you can see, they’re easy to distinguish from other types of postcards. Let us know if you collect them, and what topics you like to collect, in the comments!

Looking for some more linen postcards of your own? Check no further than our ebay store!

Large Letter “Greetings From” Postcards

The linen postcard era saw one particularly popular design. Made for travelers to brag about the destinations they made it to on long summer road trips in America, large letter postcards showed the biggest, flashiest, most fun side of any city.

These large letter postcards, now often associated with the 1930’s through 1950’s eras that the postcards were most popular in, had their time in the spotlight in the U.S. They usually started with the words “Greetings From,” followed by large letters or numbers with pictures of the city inside. These cards had bright, saturated colors as a result of the new kinds of inks on the market at the time. They also had a soft focus; the uneven surfaces of linen postcards did not lend themselves to sharp edges. All of this added to a bright, romanticized view of whatever destination the postcard advertised.

Greetings_from_Chicago_07_Postcard_F

These postcards are quite popular among collectors. Some collect them form their own state, or try to collect one from every state.

Today, any sort of large letter image invokes an image of vintage, roadside America. It’s part of their retro charm that makes large letter design so easily recognizable.

Do you collect large letter postcards? Which ones are your favorites?

Want some large letter postcards of your own? You can go here.