Good morning, blog fans!  Happy second day of Hanukkah and Merry four days before Christmas!

These seasonal greetings are brought to you by the Carson Ward General Store in Gaithersburg, 1919.  The remarkably un-festive image above (donated by E. Russell Gloyd) shows, from left to right, Russell Plummer, John Ward, Robert Case, Laura Ward, George W. Darby and Carson Ward in front of the store on Frederick Avenue.  Added to the lower right corner of the postcard is the inscription, “Seasons Greetings, Christmas 1919.”  (In case you weren’t sure which season.)

The building, which is still standing, sits on the east side of Frederick Avenue (Rt 355), just north of the railroad crossing.  It has had a varied history: opened as a dry goods and general store in 1890 by Carson Ward, it also served as the Town Hall, a public library (on the second floor), and the first meeting place of the local lodges of the Knights of Pythias and the Masonic Lodge.  Today it is a mattress store, still recognizable thanks to the distinctively uneven double gable roof.  (Carson Ward himself was important to the city’s history, serving as Mayor from 1904 to 1906, on the town council for several terms, and in the Maryland legislature from 1921 to 1924.)

I was interested to see that the more generic “season’s greetings” was used in 1919 (though whoever designed the postcard did qualify it with “Christmas” immediately following).  There were Jewish merchants in Gaithersburg around this time (sorry, I’m not in my office and I forgot to email myself the notes on those stores) but Mr. Ward may not have been trying to appeal to his neighbors; versions of the phrase appeared on Victorian Christmas cards, and by the 1920s “Season’s Greetings” was commonly used in advertisements.  (Here’s an article on holiday greeting cards.)  Maybe the fact that there’s virtually nothing “seasonal” about the image called for a less specific greeting. It is also one of the reasons I love this picture.  We have a variety of similar images – “Hey, everyone, let’s stand in front of our home/store/place of business and have our picture taken!” – which are great, and the imposed festivity here just makes it all the better.