Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Wheels

If post cards were merely a fad we might think that their day would be a brief one; but they seem to fill such a place in the busy life which has no longer time for letter writing that I think they are here to stay.

~ Anonymous Shop Owner on Broadway 1906 ~

There's a new Carnival in town, A Festival of Postcards , so named by its creator Evelyn Yvonne Theriault of A Canadian Family. I'm not a post card collector, but I do own a few and I think this is going to prove to be a very interesting Carnival.

The topic of The Festival's inaugural edition is Wheels. "Anything with vehicles, bicycles etc. is fine but you can also be creative with this theme." I love it when someone gives me creative license.

Most of my postcards are Real Photo Post Cards (RPPC) of women wearing glasses. I do have a few post cards other than RPPC that found their way into my collection. The way you tell the difference between an RPPC and a printed post card is to look at the card under a magnifying glass. If the photo is printed, you will see that it is made up of a lot of little dots, the same as a photo printed in a newspaper. A Real Photo Postcard is solid, no dots. This post card is comprised of many little dots.

Now, taking advantage of the creative license I've been given; I am submitting a post card of one of the Biggest Wheels in our country in 1907. The President of the United States.

President Theodore Roosevelt And Family on the lawn at Sagamore Hill, 1903;
Quentin leans on his father's shoulder while Archie, still in short pants, claims father's knee. TR's second wife Edith sits leaning against her only daughter, Ethel. In the back row are Ted, Jr, the oldest boy, TR's oldest daughter Alice (whose mother was TR's first wife Alice Hathaway [Lee] Roosevelt) and Kermit.

Post Card Inset
The Message
This is the Prest. and Mrs. Roosevelt and all the Little Teddy Bears
Feb 25, 1907

Post Card Verso
Miss Mitchell

653 Adams Avenue



The use of these privately printed postal cards in the United States was restricted until just before the turn of the century. Prior to this private, non-government, post cards could not use the name and cost two cents to mail. In 1898, Congress passed "The Private Mailing Card Act" allowing the mailing of private postcards at the same rate as government postal cards, a penny.

In 1906 it was estimated that one person in every eight in the United States purchased a picture postcard. There were 80,000 stores handling them in the country in 1906 where there had only been 100 the year before.

The Illustrated Post Card Company of 118 Chambers Street in New York, who produced my postcard, was printing millions of cards at the time when picture postcards were at the peak of their popularity. During the post card craze, the Illustrated Postcard Company cited production figures of 3 million cards per day. The yearly sale of post cards in the United States was 770,500,000.

To date this post card we need to look at three things; the date the photograph was taken, the date the post card was produced, and the date the post card was mailed.

When was the photograph of President Roosevelt and his family taken. On the lower left hand corner of the post card is a copyright notice which reads; copyright Pack Bros. 1903. A search of the Library of Congress using the captioned information, "President Roosevelt And His Family," found the identical photograph listing it as having been produced in 1903.

When was the post card produced? This post card has an undivided back and a note "This Side For Address Only." Prior to March 1, 1907 all postcard backs were reserved for the address. This means my postcard was published prior to 1907. A small space to the right of the photograph was left for the message, seen in the inset above.

When was the post card mailed? The back of the postcard has a Franklin one cent stamp attached. The 1-cent Franklin, introduced in February, 1903, was produced in enormous quantities (11.2 billion) largely to support the postcard mania of the time. The stress of this high volume on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing can be seen as the initial color of apple green became a muddy, blurred green by 1905. The color of the stamp used on this postcard is indeed a muddy, blurred green which would put its date after 1905.

One cent Franklin
Postage Stamp

We are fortunate that the postcard has a clear postmark. The postmark reads; Washington, D.C., FEB 25, 1.30 AM, 1907. The amazing thing about this post card is that it was received in Elizabeth, New Jersey at FEB 25, 10.30 AM. The same day it was mailed.


What we know. The photograph used on this post card was taken in 1903; the post card was manufactured prior to March 1, 1907, and the post card was mailed February 25, 1907.

S.B.H. mailed this post card to Miss Mitchell living at 653 Adams Avenue, Elisabeth, New Jersey. I have no way of knowing if S.B.H. is male or female, who they are, or much less where they lived. I was able to find two Miss Mitchells living at that address in 1900. Mary B. age thirty-nine, a dress-maker, and her sister Amelia age thirty-two, no employment listed. They were living with their parents William and Emma. I was unable to find them in the 1910 census.

It's amazing the information found in a simple post card. Thank you Evelyn for the new Carnival. I enjoyed it.


Pack Bros. President Roosevelt And Family. Postcard. Illustrated Post Card C0. N.Y. 1907.


Bogan, Robert. Real Photo Postcard Guide. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2006
Vaule, Rosamond B. As We Were - American Photographic Postcards, 1905 - 1930. Boston: David R. Godine, 2004.


Anonymous. "Postcards For Every Use." The Sun. December 2, 1906. Online archives The Library of Congress : 2009.


Anonymous Ana said...

Wow, these postcards are fantastic! I love letter writing (ink) and postcards. I wish I had the opportunity to do it more often these days. I have a love for all things historical, and that includes antiques. I have a great collection of postcards, but they don't feel as great or valuable as these fine pieces. It is amazing to keep such precious gifts of history.

May 15, 2009 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Thank you for stopping to comment.

Every postcard has a history and a story. There is nothing special about these. Look at yours again and tell us about them.


May 15, 2009 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Dorene from Ohio said...

I have been a major TR fan for years! It was a joy to read more about the history of post cards.

May 15, 2009 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Judith Richards Shubert said...

Such a history lesson! I enjoyed it very, very much. You're right, we can learn a great deal from one little postcard. I'm so excited about Evelyn's Festival of Postcards and look forward to the next one!

May 20, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

I really enjoyed this Carnival, I just hope Evelyn doesn't throw me out for an overly broad interpretation of the theme.

The history. How I love the history. Thanks Dorene and Judith, glad you do too.


May 20, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Sheila said...

What I love about postcard collecting is how much background information there is if you look. History, geography, all sorts. And I particularly love that you interpreted the theme with some lateral thinking!

May 28, 2009 at 5:43 AM  

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