Here’s a sampling of the Valentine’s Day cards sent to young Billy Hazard of Garrett Park, between 1914 and 1917 (Billy was born in August, 1913).  Thanks to his mother Maude Wagstaff Hazard, who saved all of her son’s correspondence, we have a variety of cards styles, including…

valentine billy 1 coverA cut-out card, unsigned and undated, addressed in pencil to “Billy.”  The verse inside reads, “Dearest Valentine, this token / Only shows my love in part. / Did I dare think you’d accept it, / I would send to you my heart.”


valentine billy 1916 frontA postcard, addressed to Master Billy Hazard, Garrett Park, Md., signed only “B.B.,” and postmarked February 14, 1916.  The verse on the front reads, “If I’m your Valentine, would you say to me, ‘Good morning Glory’?” (Hmmmm.)  There’s no additional message from the sender.


valentine billy 2A tiny (2.75″ wide) handmade valentine: pencil and blue crayon on a cut-out, folded-over heart.  The front says “TO MY VALENTINE,” the inside “TO MY LOVE.”  On the back, in the same handwriting, is “Billy.”  A few other cards in the collection are from young Billy’s neighborhood friends; this is probably another one.


valentine billy 1914 frontAnd finally, another postcard that may or may not have been intended by the publisher as a valentine proper – though there are tiny hearts between the birds and the landscape – but which, according to the pencil note on the back, was given to Billy on February 14, 1914, “From James.”  I thought I’d end with this one, since it will be 100 years old on Friday.  Let this charming variety inspire you as you prepare for your own 2014 Valentine’s Day!

Billy’s 1913-1917 valentines (including several more not shown here) donated by the Barth family.


We have a lot of family photo albums and scrapbooks in the Historical Society collections, along with the archival equivalent* of ye olde traditional “Shoebox of Photos I Never Got Around to Dealing With.”  We also have a few baby books, the commercially printed kind with pages for recording the date of baby’s first teeth, first sounds, first steps, etc.  One of my favorites is this book, which combines the written word with a number of snapshots and photographic portraits to record the early life of one William O. Hazard, Jr., of Garrett Park.

Billy, as he was called, was born on August 6, 1913 to William Oscar Hazard, Sr., and his wife Maude Wagstaff Hazard; he was their first child.  We don’t know who gave this copy of Baby Days: A Sunbonnet Record (Bertha L. Corbett, 1910) to the happy couple, but one or both parents used it to diligently keep track of Billy’s vital statistics and development milestones, including his first words (“Mamma, Da-da and stick”), his baptismal sponsors, and the guests at his first birthday party.


The Barth family (descendants of Billy’s younger sister Edith) has donated a large collection related to the Hazards, including clothes, toys, documents, this book, and photographs. Mr. Hazard was a professional photographer, and – as one might expect – he took a lot of photos of his new family.  Choice images appear throughout Billy’s baby book, not only pasted onto the designated pages (“Some precious pictures” and “More snapshots”) but also scattered throughout, sometimes illustrating the written info, sometimes as a little extra.  To the Hazards, the images were as important as the words.

A formal portrait and several snapshots (including both Mother and Father) adorn the "More snapshots" pages.

A formal portrait and several snapshots (including both Mother and Father) adorn the “More snapshots” pages.


Another photo of Billy, deliberately placed and perhaps showing him in his “First Short Dress.”

These 1915 snapshots, showing Billy enjoying the garden (and the company of a few chickens), are opposite the unrelated page that demands info on Baby's First "Creeping" (crawling). (Which was at 9 months, by the way.)

These 1915 snapshots, showing Billy enjoying the garden (and the company of a few chickens), are pasted opposite the unrelated page that demands info on Baby’s First “Creeping” (crawling). (Which was at 9 months, by the way.)

Baby books – introduced in the late 19th century, but particularly popular starting in the 1910s – are a fantastic source of information, with clues about the lives of babies both as individuals and in the broader historical context.  What illnesses did they suffer?  What gifts and presents were appropriate?  What types of questions do the different books ask?  (E.g., how many modern baby books ask about “first dancing lessons,” as this book does?)

There is scholarship out there on the subject; this Slate article from April, 2013 summarizes some points, and the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library at UCLA has a collection of, and I quote, “More baby books than you can shake a rattle at.”  However, today’s artifact is (at least in this case) intended less as an historic baby book, and more as an example of one family’s creative compilation of their child’s photographic record; the baby book became the photo album.  I had something else on deck for today’s post, but an NPR article caught my eye this morning: What happens to family photo albums in the digital age?  I was particularly struck by the suggestion that we’re in a strange place right now in terms of photo technology; we’ve moved to a primarily digital format, but we don’t yet have a handle on digital photo preservation, and that gap might one day prove problematic.  This might not be something you’ve worried about, blog readers, but believe me, historians, curators, and other museum people are concerned, and we’d like you to be as well.  (It will make our jobs easier someday!) Ready to start prepping your gigabytes of baby pictures, holiday snaps and other images for the future?  Here are some suggestions from the Library of Congress on how to start the process.  You’ll thank us later.

* That is to say, now the photos are stored in acid-free folders instead of shoeboxes.  (And I should clarify that these are donors’ collections of un-albumed photos, not photos the Society hasn’t gotten around to dealing with.)

During the postcard’s heyday, 1900s-1910s, an astonishing variety of holiday cards was published and sent. Where we would send greeting cards (or an email) today, friends and family in the 1910s sent a postcard. And not just for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or birthdays; there were cards for Thanksgiving, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Easter, and even Groundhog Day.

Holiday postcards are not always quite as interesting – in terms of random snippets of history – as more everyday greetings are, because the message is often restricted to something like “thinking of you this holiday season.”  (Although there is entertainment value in those greetings of the past; when’s the last time someone sent you their “Hearty best wishes,” or hopes for “A Joyous Eastertide”?)

Some of the Easter cards in our collection are fairly standard, containing, along with the holiday greetings, complaints about not getting a real letter (or apologies for not sending one); updates on the sender’s family; best wishes for the recipient’s health and happiness. A few were sent to young children, and include cute messages about the Easter Bunny and/or egg hunts. The card below, sent to Billy Hazard of Garrett Park in 1916, assures the almost-three year old that “the bunny will be real good to you.” The Easter bunny tradition is an old one, and it’s fun to see the evidence of that from nearly 100 years ago.

Yesterday, my coworkers Jennie and Taylor had a lucky find at a local antique store: an Easter postcard with a particularly fabulous message. In 1908, an unidentified J.E. of Richmond Va. sent this card to her friend Miss Bertie Higgins of Rockville, with the message,

“Hello, Bert, how are you? I suppose you will come out in a ‘six footer’ Sunday. Mine is a Merry Widow but not six feet from brim to brim, because, you see it would be all hat and no girl. Happy Easter to you all.”

It’s a joke about their Easter “bonnets” (in this case, giant wide-brimmed hats)! How great is that? We’re finishing up a “Year of the Hat” exhibit series, you see, and the recurring popularity of wide-brimmed hats has been featured many times. (On this blog, as well – here’s a “Merry Widow” style being sold by Miss Darby of Gaithersburg.) Another example of how satisfying it is to find a primary source, even a minor one, that shows some truth within your research. Now if only it was a photo postcard (however pretty this angel-themed Easter card, below, may be), showing Roberta Higgins (age 21) and her unknown friend, it would be perfect.

Credits: Billy Hazard’s card donated by the Barth family; Bertie Higgins’ card, MCHS purchase.  Other cards: “Easter Greetings,” with rabbits and a giant “river scene”-featuring egg, sent to Mrs. Charles Waters of Germantown in 1910 “with much love from Cousin P.J. Jones,” donated by Charles T. Jacobs.    “A Joyous Eastertide,” ca. 1915, wishing Mr. Raleigh Chinn in Brookeville “a happy Eastertide” from Cousin Rose, donated by Jane Chinn Sween. 

P.S. Happy Passover, too!

Montgomery County was created on September 6th, 1776, out of the southern portion of Frederick County.  As we have for many years, the Historical Society is celebrating the county’s birthday with a big party (complete with birthday cake!) this coming Sunday, to which all are invited.    Want to help us celebrate Montgomery County’s 235th birthday? Visit the Beall-Dawson Historical Park this Sunday, September 18th 2011, between 2 and 5!

Alas, we have few artifacts in our collections related to birthdays, at least to birthday parties, so today’s post relies on our photo collection to bring home the birthday theme.  Here are a few images of local birthday parties, big and small, to enjoy.  

Billy Hazard’s first birthday party, Garrett Park, August 6 1914.  The birthday boy is seated at left; his guests, according to the record in his baby book, are Miss Elizabeth La Borteaux, Miss Margaret Davis, and Master Robert La Borteaux. Baby book donated by the Barth family. 


Raymond M. Riley’s 85th birthday party featured this adorable C&O Canal-themed birthday cake.  Mr. Riley was born in Lockhouse 24 (Riley’s Lock) in 1897, and he drove a canal boat of his own as an adult.  Photo from the Morris Fradin collection. 


According to Roger Brooke Farquhar’s book Old Homes and History, these guests at Gilbert Grosvenor’s home “Wild Acres” (outside Bethesda) were attending a birthday party in honor of former First Lady Helen Taft in June, 1929. 


This giant birthday cake was made in honor of the City of Gaithersburg’s 100th anniversary, in 1978.  Gaithersburg Mayor Bruce Goldsohn and Willie Max Fullerton are pictured making the ceremonial first cut.  Photo donated by E. Russell Gloyd.

It’s time for some happy photos.

Above: Sallie Cook of Sandy Spring, 1917. MCHS Library, Mary Warner Cook Baily collection.

I considered doing another post about disaster recovery, and what we try to save from the rubble. Much of the news from Joplin, MO is focusing on that topic, including a moving article in the New York Times about one family salvaging what they can from what’s left of their house. But then there were even more photos and stories from Oklahoma, and after looking at so many terrible images, I just can’t do it. Today the Fine Collection is taking a break from reality and going to its happy place.

Above: Fishing in the C&O Canal, 1966. MCHS Library, donated by the Sentinel.

Above: Sisters Kathryn, Eleanor and Clara Beall of Olney on a summer outing, 1894. MCHS Library, donated by Katherine Beall Adams.

Above: Billy and Edith Hazard, with their nursemaid Nettie Kane, Garrett Park, 1917.  MCHS Library, donated by the Barth family.

Above: Lloyd Brewer, Jr. of Rockville settles in with a good book, late 1920s.  MCHS Library, donated by the Brewer family.

Above: The Casanges family’s cat takes a nap, Brookeville, circa 1960.  MCHS Library, donated by the Casanges family.

I hope at least some of my ‘happy photos’ provided you with a brief antidote to anything unpleasant in your day!

Photo disclaimer: These images were donated to our collections. Some may have copyright restrictions.  Please see the “About This Blog” page for more info.