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.


We have many, many, many postcards and greeting cards in our collections.  A good portion of this abundance conveys greetings and wishes for the New Year.  In the spirit of the holiday, I pass those greetings on to you, blog readers!  (Okay, they’re second-hand, but no less sincere.)

This small card (not a postcard) has no additional messages, but the tattered, battered year/boat that is 1876 is being rescued by the fine seaworthy vessel of 1877.  No further message needed! 

These merry revelers were sent in December, 1915 to Miss Agnes Lynch of DC, from her friend Undine in Cleveland.  Judging from the handwriting (and the content), Undine is about 10 years old.  She hopes that Santa Claus brought Agnes some nice things, and reports that she herself received a rocking chair and a sled.

We have two copies of this bird-centric postcard.  The one shown here was sent in January 1909 to Mrs. Lynch of Hagerstown, and the other to Mr. Charlie Waters of Germantown in February 1910.  (Oh, they’re not from the same person, by the way – just a coincidence, or evidence of good marketing by the German postcard company who printed it.)

A hand-delivered (alas, no postmark, but probably 1910-1915) postcard from Anna S. Hoyle to Miss M.E.L. Waters (Maria Waters, daughter of Charlie Waters above) of Germantown.  No message, just Miss Waters’ address, and the sender’s signature.

I’ll finish up with this card, which has no postmark, address, message or signature – I just like the message.  Happy New Year, everyone!

(1877 card donated by Claire Pumphrey; Lynch family postcards donated by Joyce Candland; Waters family postcards, and the final unmarked card, donated by Charles Jacobs.)

Just a short post today to show off one of our late 19th century Christmas tree ornaments, part of a large collection donated by sisters Martha and Katherine Poole.  The Pooles were descended from the family that founded Poolesville, but as children (Martha was born in 1890, Kitty in 1891) they and their family lived part of the time in DC and part in Rockville.  The ornaments they donated are handmade, of tinsel, glass beads, spun glass, pressed cardboard, chromolithograph ‘scrap’ pictures, and even napkins and wrapping paper.  (This one, 8.75″ long, is two kinds of tinsel and a glass bead (possibly a broken ornament or part of a string of beads, reused), with a wire hook.)  Some pieces in the collection, like the one pictured here, were trendy in the 1880s-1890s; others were more popular in the 1910s and 1920s.  A few are mended with tape, or are missing bits altogether. Although we didn’t get a specific story from the sisters, I imagine these ornaments were accumulated and enjoyed throughout their childhood, and carefully saved for their adult celebrations.

Today we have a sterling silver napkin ring, given to Thomas M. Anderson, Jr. (1930-1991) of Rockville for Christmas in 1932. How do we know? It’s engraved “Thomas Anderson Jr Xmas 32.” Also, the donor (George Anderson, Thomas’s brother) told us that it was used by his brother throughout his childhood. And the happy clincher: We have a list of all the presents young Thomas Jr received for Christmas in 1932, including a “Napkin Ring [from] Mrs. Booker” along with toys, clothes, and other wonderful things.  (For the full list, see the bottom of this post.)

Child's napkin ring, from the 1896 Marshall Field catalog.

The tradition of giving silver or pewter items to babies and young children goes back to at least the 18th century in America, and even earlier in Europe. Colonial silversmiths made baby rattles and pap boats (infant feeders) as well as adult-aimed wares. Catalogs from the mid 19th century include silver tableware meant for children; for example, an 1878 Gorham Manufacturing Company catalog listed “For children: Cups, napkin rings, bowls, porringers, pap boats, cup sets, plates, knife, fork and spoon, Christening sets, rattles, whistles.” (Quoted in Katherine Morrison McClinton’s Collecting American 19th Century Silver, 1968.) The tradition continues today, although the gift is more likely to be symbolic, intended as a keepsake rather than as the spoon, mug or porringer Baby actually uses.

We have a large Anderson family collection, both artifacts and archival material, thanks to Thomas and George Anderson. The collection includes the baby books of both brothers (born 1930 and 1933) and their father Thomas M. Anderson Sr. (born 1902). (According to his baby book, Mr. Anderson Sr also received several silver baby items for his christening and first Christmas.) The list of Thomas Jr’s 1932 presents was recorded in a small black notebook, along with the wedding presents given to Thomas Sr and his wife Berthy Girola Anderson. Mrs. Anderson had very distinctive handwriting (see the heading of the Christmas present list), which makes it clear that much of the information in her sons’ baby books, as well as the list of 1932 gifts, is not written in her hand. Did their father make notes in the book? Or was it a grandmother, or perhaps a nanny?

The majority of our collections do not come with such convenient names and dates engraved right on them, let alone archival material to back it up. This makes it a bit churlish of me to wish that we also had a photograph of Thomas Jr enjoying Christmas 1932, or his first Christmas (or any Christmas). Here’s a nice little photo of him outside his Rockville home, though, around 1931 or 1932.

 Bonus (your holiday gift from me, as it were) – here’s the description of Thomas Jr’s First Christmas, from his baby book: “December 25th, 1930. Baby was eight months & 20 days old. Had a Christmas Tree. He loved his first tree and took much notice of a bell that was on the tree. He was very good on xmas Day. All the family came over to dinner and baby sat at the table in his high chair. He was very good. He received many toys for Xmas but his favorite toy was a wood man. His mother gave him a lovely blue silk coat.”

Thomas Jr's Christmas gifts, 1932. The napkin ring is #14 on the list.