In a sense, every artifact is unique, thanks to its particular history of ownership and use. I won’t go so far as to say that some things are more unique than others, but there are certain pieces that really are absolutely one of a kind. Every autograph book and wedding gown, though specific to an individual, is part of a larger group of similar artifacts with similar stories. In contrast, today’s featured archival items fall generally into the Scrapbook category, but their subject is something that was only accomplished once and is likely to never happen again: A two-year journey on horseback through the forty-eight continental United States.

hitting every state in the union

From the title page: “Hitting Every State in the Union With Gypsy Queen Under Saddle”

On April 4, 1925, Silver Spring resident Frank M. Heath (1868-1945) left Washington, DC, determined to ride his middle-aged Morgan bay mare, Gypsy Queen (1915-1936), through every state in the union. A former U.S. Army Sergeant and a WWI veteran, Heath wanted to improve his health, promote the American Legion (his local was Cissel-Saxon Post 41 in Silver Spring), see the country, and prove that a horse could, in fact, make this arduous journey. The trip was funded through the sale of souvenir postcards as well as Heath’s veterinary skills, which he often plied in return for food and shelter for himself and Queen. Despite a host of unexpected delays, from weather events to restrictive quarantine laws to a broken leg (Heath’s), they persevered and finished their 11,532 mile, 48 state journey on November 4, 1927.

Headline from the Maryland News, Nov. 11, 1927: "Silver Spring Man Returns After Riding Horse Through 48 States"

Headline from the Maryland News, Nov. 11, 1927: “Silver Spring Man Returns After Riding Horse Through 48 States”

The pair retired to Heath’s small farm near Sligo Creek and Colesville Road; from now on, Heath declared, “Gypsy Queen is going to have an easy time the rest of her life.” In 1936, after celebrating her 21st birthday, Queen’s health failed. Heath made the difficult decision that so many animal lovers have to make, and had her humanely put down. Hoping that Queen’s experience would be of use to science, he donated her skeleton to the College of Agriculture at the University of Maryland; the rest of her was buried, with great ceremony*, at Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park in Howard County. In 1941 Heath published a book about their journey, titled (appropriately enough) Forty Million Hoofbeats.

"Gypsy Queen and Heath at home, April 18 1931"

“Gypsy Queen and Heath at home, April 18 1931”

During the trip, Heath collected newspaper clippings, letters, receipts, and souvenirs from the places he visited. He took some photographs himself – particularly of landscapes in the southwest – and asked that copies of photos taken by others be forwarded to his father in Spokane, Washington. All of this documentation he later compiled in two scrapbooks, which were donated to MCHS in 1990 by Mary E. Martin.

The books are a matched pair, measuring 8″x11″, with faded green faux-leather covers stamped “Clippings” in gold.  Heath prepared these volumes carefully; the pages are numbered by hand, and the title page (see the detail photo above, “Hitting Every State”) says “Title and Foreword” in pencil underneath the actual, inked-in title, as if he planned the book’s layout before gluing things down.  When a clipping or photo ended up out of chronological order, Heath left an informative comment (e.g., “This should go a few pages back”). A note on the title page, “Any statement or comment followed by F.M.H. may be considered signed by me Frank M. Heath” (photo at bottom of this post), leads me to conclude that this wasn’t simply a personal effort; he expected this chronicle to be read and studied by others.

Volumes 1 and 2

Volumes 1 and 2

Indeed, the scrapbooks provide the reader with a thorough description of the trip, as seen both by outsiders and by Heath himself. Small-town newspapers reported on the pair’s progress across the country; communities and American Legion posts often welcomed him with celebrations; farmers, housewives, and blacksmiths provided letters of introduction to friends in other places, often citing Heath’s skill in tending to injured or ailing horses.

The note reads: “Mrs. Joe W. Chamberlain [Ala.], Bay Minette, Star Route, (Mobile Ala.), Alabama. Mr. Frank M. Heath. This man is out for a hike so I told him to call on you I send him: from Sister Mrs. Henry Merkle, Brooklyn Hts Ohio.”  Heath added two comments: “(But [on] account of detour because of Ticks I was way off trail F.M.H.)” and, sideways, “(We [he and Queen] had breakfast with these people of Brooklin Ht near Cleveland Ohio F.M.H) P.S. belongs over a few pages.”

The note reads: “Mrs. Joe W. Chamberlain [Ala.], Bay Minette, Star Route, (Mobile Ala.), Alabama. Mr. Frank M. Heath. This man is out for a hike so I told him to call on you I send him: from Sister Mrs. Henry Merkle, Brooklyn Hts Ohio.” Heath added two comments: “(But [on] account of detour because of Ticks I was way off trail F.M.H.)” and, sideways, “(We [he and Queen] had breakfast with these people of Brooklin Ht near Cleveland Ohio F.M.H) P.S. belongs over a few pages.”

Amidst the articles and letters written by other people, Heath’s own voice is not lacking; initialed editorial comments can be found on almost every page. (He was particularly irritated when an article printed Queen’s name incorrectly, or under-counted the miles they’d traveled.) It is worth noting that throughout these records, Heath focused on Gypsy Queen. He denied any “endurance” records or other accolades for himself; emphasized that donations and postcard proceeds were used to buy Queen’s food; kept careful track of Queen’s health and appearance; and titled the covers of both volumes “Photos Clippings Letters Etc. Pertaining to Gypsy Queen’s Trip.” Heath was a horse guy, and this story was about his horse.

Two separate pages from the scrapbook, with a representative sampling: an undated newspaper clipping, photos of Gypsy Queen mailed to Heath's father in Spokane, and letters of testimonial (plus Heath's commentary). Click to enlarge this image . . . or come to our library and peruse them in person!

Two separate pages from the scrapbook, with a representative sampling: an undated newspaper clipping, photos of Gypsy Queen mailed to Heath’s father in Spokane, and letters of testimonial (plus Heath’s commentary). Click to enlarge this image . . . or come to our library and peruse them in person!

 

Close-up of the cover of volume 1, through Nov. 1926.

Close-up of the cover of volume 1: “Photos Clippings and Letters Etc. Pertaining to Gypsy Queen’s Trip. #1 To Spokane Wash. Nov. 10 1926”

I’ve lost count of my “favorite” items I’ve posted on this blog, but this is yet another one. I love this story. In November 2006 Jane Sween wrote about Heath’s journey for the Montgomery County Story (Vol. 49, No. 4), after which several of us here took turns reading our library’s copy of Forty Million Hoofbeats (donated by David Simpson) – and the book is GREAT. The logistics involved in getting a horse to every state are interesting enough, but Heath’s observations – expanded from those found in the scrapbooks – on the people, towns, and cultures he encountered are fascinating. Heath and Gypsy Queen made their trip just as motor vehicles were starting to take over the roads, and this record of their journey captured a vast American landscape, from urban to rural to barely inhabited, that was on the verge of modernization and irrevocable change.

Map of their route; or, how to get a horse to "hit every state."

Map of their route; or, how to get a horse to “hit every state.”

 

Heath and Gypsy Queen’s story might be obscure, but it is not forgotten. Gypsy Queen’s unique feat of endurance is referenced on various equestrian websites (such as The Long Riders Guild history page, which adds some details about how Heath and Queen met), and Forty Million Hoofbeats was reprinted in 2001 by Equestrian Travel Classics. (It’s not currently available as an e-book, but is still for sale in a print version.) For many years, Heath maintained a moderate level of local celebrity thanks to a photo at Fred & Harry’s Restaurant (opened in 1946) in Four Corners, just a few miles from Mr. Heath’s home near Sligo Creek. And Queen herself is listed as one of the famous burials at Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park. Heath created these books for posterity; thanks to the donor, our archives storage, and the wonders of the internet, his goal is still within reach.

 

"Taken at home of Dave Burrows Chetopa Kan R#4 in Sept. 1925. Georgia M. Burrows in saddle. 1st kid to have picture taken on Queen. F.M.H."

“Taken at home of Dave Burrows Chetopa Kan R#4 in Sept. 1925. Georgia M. Burrows in saddle. 1st kid to have picture taken on Queen. F.M.H.”

 

*A bronze plaque in Gypsy Queen’s memory was unveiled at Rosa Bonheur Memorial Park on July 9, 1938, at a ceremony attended by a candidate for governor (the actual governor, Harry Nice, was unfortunately delayed) and other “distinguished guests.” The program featured musical selections and an oration by the Hon. Charles E. Moylan, and finished with a rendition of the National Anthem. The plaque (full text here) details Gypsy Queen’s epic journey and finishes with this line: “A Faithful and Loyal Companion.” (The plaque’s whereabouts are currently unknown, as the cemetery underwent several difficult years; the grounds are currently being restored by the volunteers of the Rosa Bonheur Society.) Several decades later, humans were permitted burial at RB along with their pets; but when Heath died in 1945, he was buried near his family in Spokane, Washington. His stone includes the title of his book.

Front and back views of the souvenir postcard, showing Heath and Queen at the very start of their journey. From the title page of volume 1.

Front and back views of the souvenir postcard, showing Heath and Queen at the very start of their journey. From the title page of volume 1.

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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.”

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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.

It is often the case that, as soon as you start to research a topic, you see it everywhere.  This is particularly true for me when it comes to exhibits, and it can last for years; I still find myself noticing past themes (pets, pianos, fences. . .) in our photograph collections.  While working on our current exhibit, I realized how ubiquitous laundry is: clotheslines in the background of snapshots; advertisements for detergents in magazines; references to wash day in letters, memoirs, novels. . . . Once you’re on the alert, laundry is everywhere.

Laundry can even be found on the back of this postcard.  Its primary use in the library is as an historic image, capturing “Main Street, Poolesville, Md.,” but the message on the back is another way to look at life in Poolesville circa 1910.

059009a-2059009a-3Addressed to Mrs. J.S. Poole, 1520 R St NW, Washington D.C.  Postmarked Beallsville, year not visible. Message: “Package received – many thanks.  Hope the buttons will soon come.  I had a pr. of gloves cleaned & sent to 1520 R., please keep them for me.  Hope to see you next Thursday  [kindly] N.D.P.   Please hurry buttons.”

The recipient of the postcard was Annie Evelyn Poole, who has shown up on “A Fine Collection” several times this summer; she and her daughters had a summer home near Rockville, but wintered in an apartment on R Street in D.C.  The sender, N.D.P., is not positively identified, and it’s possible that this card came from Mrs. Poole’s bachelor brother-in-law Nathan Dickerson Poole (1843-1912); but I suspect it was sent by Nannie Dickerson Poole (1869-1928), Mrs. Poole’s niece by marriage.  Nannie D. Poole was born and raised in Poolesville; she lived with her younger brother, farmer William Wallace Poole, Jr., and his family for many years before marrying widower Harvey White (1869-1950) in 1922.  We have no photos of Miss Poole/Mrs. White in our own collections, but three images can be seen online thanks to the Monocacy Cemetery project – take a look here – she is stylishly dressed, and if she took as much care of her wardrobe as the images suggest, she might well have needed those buttons in a polite hurry.

Whether the Poolesville-area sender was Nathan or Nannie, he or she was willing and able to have accessories purchased (buttons, and whatever was in the other package) and maintained (gloves) in Washington D.C., some 30 miles away.  (Convenient relatives in the city probably helped; I wish I knew whether Mrs. Poole was expected to make the button delivery in person.)

In this era, both men and women wore gloves much of the time; thus, gloves were often subject to both staining and the critical eyes of friends and neighbors.  They also weren’t necessarily cheap, and must be treated with care. (Think of Jo and Meg March, left with only one pair of spoilt gloves to share, early in Little Women.)  Household advice guides from the 19th and early-mid 20th century provided a variety of hints on cleaning leather, silk, and cotton gloves, such as. . .

–“Wash-leather gloves should be washed in clean suds, scarcely warm. . . . Cream of tartar, rubbed upon soiled white kid gloves, cleanses them very much.”  Lydia Child, The American Frugal Housewife. Dedicated to Those Who are Not Ashamed of Economy, 1833

–“Clean kid gloves with gasoline, rubbing till dry.” Mrs. C.H. Merrill, ed., Cookery Craft, As Practiced in 1894 by the Women of the South Church, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 1894

–Put your gloves on your hands on and “wash them in gasoline in the same fashion as the hands are washed in water.” Sidney Morse, Household Discoveries, An Encyclopedia of Practical Recipes and Processes, 1908

Gloves also must be carefully dried, to maintain their shape.  There were tools to make this easier, like this pair of plastic “Handiform Glove Dryers,” circa 1960.  As the instruction sheet notes, “When you have dried your gloves on Handiform’s Glove Dryers, you have treated them as the manufacturer did when they were made.  You have dried your gloves without stretching, smoothed the seams, restored their shape, finishing them like new.”

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With all these complications, it’s no surprise that many people chose to send out their gloves, cuffs, collars, and other finicky accessories to be professionally cleaned by someone else.  In 1910 there were many hand laundries, including several owned and operated by Chinese gentlemen, to choose from in Montgomery County and D.C.; unfortunately, the specific cleaner is not identified here, so we don’t know which business was patronized by this Poolesville resident.  Nonetheless, N.D.P.’s postcard message – the kind of thing we might send over email or text today – serves as a concrete, if brief, reminder that all my abstract “people used to do laundry in this manner” research applied to specific individuals, once upon a time.

Postcard donated by the Poole family; glove dryers donated by Millicent Gay.

Laundry exhibit status: Neither the postcard nor the pink glove dryers made it into the exhibit, but the display does include a pair of metal glove-drying frames (1930s), as well as a number of 19th and 20th century gloves in various states of cleanliness.

We base many of our memories on food; not just what we ate (and how it tasted), but also where, and with whom.   Restaurants are often an important part of our memory banks, and when an old favorite closes its doors, it can trigger reminscences both good and bad.  We recently had a call from a woman who just could not remember the name of “the restaurant on Rockville Pike with the giant salad bar,” and it was driving her and her friends crazy.  (Staff memories, rather than our collections, solved that one: it was Phineas.)  Online, there are many forums and blogs dedicated to “do you remember” this restaurant, or that neighborhood cafe.  Next time you need to start a  conversation with a long-time county resident, ask if he or she remembers, say, Farrell’s, or Rickshaw, or the Anchor Inn.

How do museums reflect those memories?  Thankfully, restaurants contain more than just food.  (Although we do have a few once-edible items in our collections.)  Here are some of the material remnants that we use to help preserve, and bring back, memories of restaurants past.
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Photographs.  Late 1960s interior and exterior views of Mr. T’s On the Pike, located on N. Washington Street in Rockville.  George W. Johnson (seated) opened his general store in 1918; over the years it evolved into a well-known tavern and restaurant, which he operated until his death in 1971.  The office building at right, in the street view, is still standing, but Mr. T’s was eventually torn down and is now the site of Hickman’s Exxon (another long-time Rockville establishment, but we’re talking about restaurants today, not service stations).  Photo of Mr. T’s donated by Charles Brewer.

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Postcards and advertisements.  This circa 1940 postcard advertises Sunnyside View, a roadside all-in-one convenience stop on Route 240 (now Route 355) near Clarksburg.  The illustration includes a helpful sign, “LUNCH,” on the cheerful yellow building, and the text on the back informs us that Sunnyside offered travelers “Rooms – Cabins – Chicken Dinners – Steak – Ham – Lunch – Home Cooking.”  Postcard donated by Tim Parker.

064280aHere’s a more recent postcard, circa 1980, advertising Emperor Ming Cuisine & Cocktails in Rockville.  The images on the front show the interior and exterior of the restaurant; the text on the reverse does not provide details on the menu, but it does tell us that it opened in 1972, and was owned and managed by Irene K.Y. Wong.  Postcard donated by Carol Cummings.

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Servingware.  The Cabin John Bridge Hotel, on what’s now MacArthur Boulevard in Cabin John, was Montgomery County’s ‘destination dining’ experience at the turn of the last century.  Started in the late 19th century by German immigrants Joseph and Rosa Bobinger, and eventually taken over by their sons, the Hotel boasted well-appointed dining rooms, and had its own china pattern featuring an image of the namesake Bridge.  (In fact there were two similar patterns; pieces marked simply “Cabin John Bridge Hotel” are earlier, and pieces featuring an entwined “BB” are later.)  Patrons came from far (thanks to the trolley) and near to enjoy fine dining in Cabin John. All things come to an end, however; the Hotel closed in 1926, and burned to the ground in the early 1930s.  Many surviving examples of the Hotel’s china, including the broken serving dish above, have been found in the yards of homes built in the area after the Hotel’s demise.  We have several different pieces – some whole, some not – in our collections, but as an almost-archaeologist I rather enjoy the broken dishes dug up while gardening, and chose this option for today’s post.  Serving dish donated by Carolyn Bryant.

 

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Souvenirs and promotional items.  Here’s a small ceramic coffee mug, given to Boy Scout leaders from the National Capital Area Council who attended the 1974 Round-Up.  The front features the BSA logo and the motto “Prepare for Life ’74;” the back includes the sponsor’s logo: Gino’s, a restaurant chain started in Baltimore in the late 1950s.  This particular mug belonged to Jim Douglas, Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 782 in Wheaton Woods.  I’ve seen references to a Gino’s restaurant on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, near present-day Glenmont Metro Station; can any blog readers confirm or deny that this was the same chain?  Mug donated by Patricia Douglas.

 

Menus.  All the items above are well and good, but what about the food that was served at these restaurants?  Menus are one of the clearest ways to get at the actual dining experiences of the past, short of cranking up your time machine.  We have a few menus in the artifact and archival collections; for example, here’s the “Junior Dinner” (“for children under 12 years”) on offer at Hot Shoppes* on Sunday, September 26, 1943:

Hot Shoppes childrens menu 1943Chicken Noodle Soup or Chilled Papaya Juice.  ~  Chopped Sirloin Steak, Hot Shoppes Style, 55 cents. Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, Toast Cube Crust, 55 cents. Baked Swordfish Steak, Mushroom Sauce, 55 cents. ~  Yellow Squash; Celery Cabbage with Russian Dressing; Tomato and Eggplant; Garden Salad Bowl; Potatoes Hashed in Cream; Green Snap Beans. Rolls and Butter. ~ DESSERTS: Orange Layer Cake; Fresh Fruit Sherbet; Hot Fudge Cake Square with Whipped Cream; Fresh Apple Sauce with Whipped Cream and Cake Fingers.  ~  A&W Root Beer, Milk or Lemonade.

*Unfortunately the menu does not indicate a specific Hot Shoppes restaurant, but it may have come from the Bethesda restaurant.  Menu donor unknown.

…And now it’s your turn, blog readers.  I’ve no doubt left out your favorite local restaurant (not on purpose, I promise!) and the memories therein. So, help out the Historical Society and fill our comment section with restaurant reminiscences!

P.S. Fans of menus and historic meals – don’t miss the New York Public Library’s crowdsourced menu transcription project.

 

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Montgomery County National Bank, Rockville

Montgomery County National Bank, Rockville

Rockville Baptist Church

Rockville Baptist Church

Since this is the last official Postcard Wednesday of 2012, I was feeling some pressure to find the perfect postcard.  Should we look at all the not-terribly-amusing 1910s in-jokes?  Or the many postcards sent from hospitals, detailing aches and pains and illnesses?  After all, it would be hard to top the driving turkeys, or the Mystery of the Missing Skirt.  So I thought, “Well, I’ll try to figure out Olive and Norman’s story, and hopefully it will be interesting.”  Olive and Norman came through!  (WordPress did not, though, and has decided to put all the images at the top of the page this week.  Sorry about that!)

Both of these cards were sent in 1910 to Miss Olive Feltner from “Norman.”  The Rockville Baptist Church card, sent in July, went to Bluemont, Virginia from an unknown location (the stamp is hand-canceled).  The Montgomery County National Bank card was sent in September from Bluemont, Va. to Olive, “c/o HW Bush,” in Charleston, West Virginia.

Norman’s handwriting mystified me at first, particularly the place name that appears on both cards.  I also misread Olive’s name as Feltuer – and if you ever thought the census records were bound to bring you some records no matter what name you type, you’d be wrong!  No Olive Feltuer to be found.  But, in a highly satisfying intersection of clues and records, all the various names, dates and places on the cards started coming together once I found a 1912 marriage record for Olive Feltner and Norman B. Robertson in Jefferson County, West Virginia.  Here are Norman’s messages:

“July 25, 1910.  Dear Olive:  Am back at Mt. Weather and glad of it, too.  Am very hot at home, but I had a nice time.  This card pictures the place where I went to church yesterday.  Hope we will go together some day.  Am going to write tomorrow.  Have a headache tonight.  Am expecting a letter.  Yours, Norman”

“Mt Weather, Sept 21, 1910.  Dear Olive: Will not write a letter this week.  Will meet you Sunday next.  Don’t care how you get there just you be there, that’s all.  Your niece Norma has been very ill for the past week and is not much better at present.  Mrs. K. want you badly, so does   Norman”

Olive Feltner was born in 1889 in Chapel, Virginia.  She was one of seven children, including older sisters Lilly (who married John Kelley) and Dolly (who married Herman W. Bush of West Virginia).  Norman B. Robertson (1885-1975) was born in Montgomery County, and grew up outside Rockville; his father, Hezekiah Robertson, was a farmer.  The 1910 census has Olive at home in Chapel with her parents, and Norman appears twice: once at home, and once as an employee at the government meteorological station, Mount Weather, Bluemont, Virginia.  How did Olive and Norman meet?  The household next to the weather station is that of John and Lilly Feltner Kelley, including their daughter Norma.  Olive probably spent time with both her older married sisters, Mrs. Kelley in Bluemont and Mrs. Bush in Charles Town.  The postcards must have been purchased by Norman on trips home; in July he mentions how hot it is in Rockville, and that he attended the Baptist Church the day before.

That dry paragraph does not express the glee I felt when all the pieces – Norman! HW Bush! Mrs. K and Norma!  That mysterious, can-it-possibly-say-“Mt. Weather” scribble! – fell into place.  Yes, there’s a good reason I chose this field.  All this lovely background information from two little messages!

Ah, at any rate… in 1912, Olive and Norman were married; in 1918, they moved to a newly built house in D.C. on 44th Street, NW.   Norman began working for the DC Water Department – where several of his brothers already were employed – in 1911, and continued to work there through 1940 at least.  After that, I lose Olive and Norman; they don’t appear to have had any children, I was unable to find obituaries for either of them, and we don’t know who donated these two cards to our library; they probably came from an antique dealer or collector.  Since the cards’ main function at MCHS is to illustrate Rockville buildings, no one had worried about Olive and Norman until now.

Though I often praise the info you can find in the census, and it was certainly helpful this time, the information path runs both ways.  The census search website suggested both the 1910 Norman Robertsons to me, but could not confirm that  the 25 year old in Rockville and the 24 year old at Mt. Weather were the same guy (after all, you are only supposed to be in the census once!) – but the postcards, which connect him to Rockville and Bluemont, give the clue that they’re both our Norman.  If I was really researching Norman and Olive (rather than simply satisfying my curiosity), these pieces of ephemera – saved for a totally different reason – would make a nice piece of the puzzle.  The lesson here: Never discount the usefulness of a message scrawled on a postcard.

During the 1900s-10s heyday of the postcard, any holiday was a great  excuse for sending friends and family a quick greeting. I suspect the penny postage was cheaper than a phone call (if telephone service was even available to you). Our collection features cards for all kinds of holidays, large and small, but I think my favorite are the Thanksgiving cards. Why? Turkeys! Almost every Thanksgiving Greeting (in our collections, anyway) features at least one turkey; sometimes they makes sense, sometimes they don’t. We have happy turkeys:

less happy turkeys:

sparkly turkeys:

patriotic turkeys:

turkeys getting their own dinner (some, like these here, are wise to the situation – click to enlarge and read the verse):

turkeys dancing with Spanish maidens:

even – the best card ever? – turkeys driving a car.

There isn’t really a deeper point to today’s post, other than showing off all these fabulous turkeys. (Though for the specific-history-minded among you, a list of each card’s provenance is included below.) I did a spot of research on the history of the Thanksgiving turkey tradition and found some information to share, including this article from the Smithsonian. But really, I just wanted to post the turkeys driving a car.

Happy turkey: Postmarked 1911; sent to Raleigh Chinn, Brookeville. Donated by Jane C. Sween.
Deceased turkey: Postmarked 1909; sent to Mrs. Lynch, Washington, DC. Donated by Joyce Candland.
Sparkly turkeys (featuring copious amounts of silver glitter, though it’s hard to tell from this scan): No postmark; addressed to Mrs. Lynch, Washington, DC. Donated by Joyce Candland.
Patriotic turkey: Postmarked 1910; sent to Mr. McRory, Illinois. Donated by Joyce Candland.
Dubious turkeys: No postmark; addressed to Miss Marian Howard, Brookeville.  Donated by Jane C. Sween.  (Here’s the verse: “You feed me well but I can tell that you’re no friend of mine / Because, my dear, I greatly fear, it’s near Thanksgiving time.”)
Dancing turkey: Postmarked 1909; sent to Master Thomas M. Anderson, Rockville.  Donated by the Anderson family.
Turkeys out for a drive: Postmarked 1908; sent to Mr. Raleigh Chinn, Brookeville.  Donated by Jane C. Sween.

October’s Postcard Wednesday features the Cabin John Bridge, but I’m not really going to talk about the bridge, awesome though it may be.  Instead, take note of the front of this card – see the message crammed into the margin at the top?  (Remember to click on images to enlarge them!)

“Dear M. I arrived safe and am better. Love to all, your Son Wm.”

William sent this card to his mother in December, 1906. Before 1907, the US Government decided that post cards (it was two words, then) could have only the address and stamp on the reverse.  To emphasize this point, most cards from 1898 to 1906 say something like “This side is for the address” on the back, to keep all that tempting white space from being filled up with greetings and gossip. 

The bit about “Authorized by Act of Congress, May 19, 1898” refers to exactly that: an act that authorized the printing of “private mailing cards,” which could be mailed for one cent.  Before that, cards were either issued by the government (1 cent postage) or as privately printed “souvenir cards” (2 cents postage).  A later regulation in 1901 mandated the words “Post Card” on the reverse; government-issued cards were “Postal Cards.” 

This seems a trifle overcomplicated, but it does make it easier to date unsent cards.  Our Cabin John Bridge example here is conveniently postmarked twice: in Washington, DC on December 11, 1906 and in Dickerson, Md on December 12, 1906.  Presumably William Harris arrived safely in DC, bought a local-scenery* postcard, and sent it off to his mother, who received the good news the next day.  Mrs. A.S. Harris is almost certainly Mary Bridget Taylor Harris (1846-1932), wife of Abraham Simmons Harris (1834-1907) and mother of William (born 1870).  The added “Mt. Ephraim” in the address refers, most likely, to Abraham’s brother’s home Mount Ephraim, which still stands at the corner of Mt. Ephraim and Harris Roads in Dickerson.  Though the history of the house doesn’t make it quite clear who was living there in 1906, perhaps Mary was staying there with relatives for the holiday season.

But wait, there’s more postcard-regulation fun to be had.  Here’s another version of the same card, this one postmarked 1909.

Now we’re allowed to write messages on the reverse!  This is a “divided-back” card, made legal on March 1, 1907.  (Some postcards from the transitional period include “message goes here”-type instructions for bemused correspondents.)  Undivided- vs. divided-back is one of the easiest ways to at least approximately date an unpostmarked card. 

As for this card’s message, it at first seems a little cryptic (even setting aside the peculiar handwriting).  It was postmarked in Washington, DC on April 19, 1909, and addressed to Mrs. A.K. Ritter Stone, Geneva, Ohio.  “Monday morning. You have been good to me – and I knew it this morning when every one is in their fine cloths.  Emily A.”  Huh; an inside joke?  Hard to tell.  However, through the magic of searchable US Census records, I found Anna K. R. Stone in the 1910 census.  Mrs. Stone lived with her husband Eugene and her mother Mary Ritter in Geneva, Ohio.  She was a dressmaker.  I think this card must be from a satisfied customer, visiting D.C. for whatever reason and pleased that her dressmaker has done her proud.

Want more on postcard history? There are lots of helpful sites – postcard collectors are a dedicated bunch – but this one, put together by the Center of Southwest Studies, is pretty straightfoward.

* The Cabin John Bridge – built in the 1860s to carry the Washington Aqueduct over Cabin John Creek, and until 1903 the longest single-span stone arch in the world – is solidly within Montgomery County’s borders, but it was definitely a Sight worth seeing for DC visitors.  Some postcard captons (including the 1909 one shown here) even attempt to claim it for DC.  (Very rude!)