Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sometimes Main Street Is The Whole Town

Out where the handclasp's a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That's where the west begins
~ Arthur Chapman ~
1873 - 1935

Often in the early 1900s, in the far reaches of Montana, main street and the entire "town" were synonymous. Such was Merrill Avenue and Glendive, Montana.

History of Place

Glendive is the county seat of Dawson County, Montana. It is located in eastern Montana along the Yellowstone River near the badlands. The population of Dawson county in 1900 was 2,443, and 12,725 in 1910, an increase of 421 per cent. This increase was due to the arrival of the railroad and to the building of the dam at Intake, Montana, a short distance from the town.Today the population of Glendive is around 4700 people.

Glendive Creek was named by Sir George Gore, the eighth baronet of Gore Manor, County of Donegal, in northern Ireland. Wealthy, educated at Oxford, Gore never married. The two great loves of his life were hunting and fishing. Receiving $200,00 in rental income a year he could indulge his every whim with regard to hunting and fishing. He visited the vicinity on a hunting trip in 1856, and named the creek Glendive Creek because it reminded him of a stream by that name in Ireland. The name of the city was taken from the stream.

Gore hired the best mountain men of the day as his guides, including Jim Bridger. His hunting party traveled from Fort Laramie down the Powder River to the Yellowstone River, then over to the Tongue River.

The hunting party consisted of four six-mule wagons, two three-yoke ox wagons, and twenty-one French carts, each painted red and drawn by two horses. With it were forty or more employees, one hundred and twelve horses – including one that slept with Gore in the harsh winter months, twelve yoke of oxen, three milk cows, and fourteen hunting dogs. He had a ten by eighteen foot linen tent with a brass bedstead. During the winter he would build a cabin.

A wagon was required for Gore’s arms. There were seventy-five rifles, twelve or fifteen shotguns, and a large number of pistols, all bearing the names of famous makers. Two vehicles were required to haul the fishing tackle, and a skilled fly maker was part of the hunting party.

Gore's party spent the winter at the mouth of the Tongue River where they were reported to have killed 6,000 bison, 1,600 elk and deer, and 105 grizzly bears. This is rather typical of the British hunters who traveled the American West. Gore's distinction was he spent more time, more money, and killed more animals. He was not highly regarded.

History of Post Card

This is a Real Photo Postcard (RPPC), as previously discussed in Big Wheels. 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 solid no dots.

RPPCs can be designated as such on the back of the post card. "Real photograph" is printed on the back of this card. The surface of the card is smooth and shiny, as opposed to dull and rough, another indication of this being a real photograph. Photo cards often have captions that are part of the picture and look handwritten, as here. This postcard lists L.A. Foster Photo Co. on the back as the photographer. It is rather rare to list the photographer. Taking all these facts into consideration, I have determined this is a real photo post card.

The "Greetings From Glendive, Mont." post card is postally unused, meaning it was never mailed. We will not have the benefit of a stamp or postmark to assist with the dating. To date this post card we need to look at three things; the photographer, the date the post card was produce, and the date the photograph was taken.

Dating This Postcard

The Photographer

The L.A. Foster Photo Co., of Glendive, Montana, was owned by Lewis A. Foster. A Lewis E. Foster was sent to Glendive in 1903 as an agent of the Bureau of Forestry. It is unclear as to whether Lewis E. and Lewis A. are the same person.

Around 1910, Foster, a former county commissioner, became one of Glendive's photographers. He ran a gift shop and made a hobby of photography. His specialty was “events” – taking pictures of things happening locally. He made those pictures into postcards and sold them in his shop. As the result of his work he acquired a good pictorial collection of ‘happenings’ in eastern Montana.

It is evident that happenings in Glendive, Montana, at the time Foster was in business and happenings of today do not constitute the same level of event. A search of photographs taken by L.A. Foster Photo Co. return flocks of sheep, more flocks of sheep, and sheep shearing. Very "happening" events.

The gift shop and photography business were run by Foster and his wife Jennie from their home, according to the 1910 and 1920 census. In the 1930 census Foster has listed "proprietor of gift shop" as his occupation and there is no mention of photography. In June and July of 1914, Foster copyrighted three of his photographs. The descriptions are so vague it is difficult to determine if this photograph or any of the photographs it contains are the ones copyrighted.

After researching the photographer of this post card we have a tentative time period of 1910 to 1930 for the post card.

Dating This Postcard Using The Back

Those manufacturers who produced photo postcard paper had very distinctive products. Information can be found by looking at the font, logo, stamp boxes, etc. By researching this information you can establish the earliest date know for the paper to have been produced.

The last date it was produced is trickier. It can often be ascertained if it is known when a company manufactured a new design. The paper has a two year life span, so the paper would have to have been used within two years of the production of a new design.

Here we have a post card with an undivided back. As in the discussion of Big Wheels, we learned these were produced after 1907.

We have an ornate typeset of the word Post Card, no stamp box, and "Correspondence" instead of "Correspondence Here." There is an exact match of this back in the book, Real Photo Postcard Guide.

The paper is Kruxo and was manufactured by the Kiborn Photo Paper Company of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The earliest know date this paper was used was August 2, 1913. The next design change appears to have occurred in 1923.

So using the back as a guide the post could have been produced from August 2, 1913 to 1925. (Using the life of the photo paper.) So we have narrowed the time span by eight years.

Dating This Postcard Using The Photograph

The buildings used in the photographs were constructed around 1882. The Congregational Church was sold to the Catholic Church in 1898 and a new Congregational Church was built, but the year is unknown. As most of the buildings seem to sit alone, they are probably taken around 1910 when Foster went into the photography business. He may have selected historical photographs for this post card, perhaps trying to portray old Glendive.

The photograph of the main street may give a small clue, as a request for improved electrical coverage was made in 1919. Other photographs of the street I found show more and larger electrical poles. More research needs to be conducted, but this could date our photograph from August 2, 1913 to 1919 or 1921.

The Glendive Library is known to have an interesting photograph collection and my next trip to this part of Montana will include a stop to view the collection.


Bogdan, Robert, Todd Weseloh. Real Photo Postcard Guide. Syracuse, New York : Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Brown, Mark H.
Plainsmen of the Yellowstone : A History of the Yellowstone Basin. Univ Of Nebraska Press, 1969.

Kauffman, Gladys Mullet. Stories of Eastern Montana's Pioneers. Helena, Mont. : Sweetgrass Books, 2006.

Library of Congress. Catalog of Entries. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1906-[47].


1910 U.S. census, Dawson County, Montana, population schedule, Glendive, p. 9B, dwelling 293, family 295, Lewis A. Foster (Head); digital images. ( : retrieved 16 June 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 2,076.

U.S. census, Dawson County, Montana, population schedule, Glendive, p. 3A, dwelling 51, family 64, Lewis A. Foster (Head); digital images. ( : retrieved 16 June 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1,454.

U.S. census, Dawson County, Montana, population schedule, Glendive, p. 15A, dwelling 402 , family 354, Lewis A. Foster (Head); digital images. ( : retrieved 16 June 2009); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2,667.


Greetings From Glendive, Mont. Foster, Lewis A. Glendive, Montana. Photo Postcard. ca. 1913 - 1921. Privately held by the footnoteMaven, Preston, WA. 2009.


Blogger BeNotForgot said...

Thank you for breaking down your "process" for dating this postcard. Luv your eye for detail in researching the history of this item!

June 22, 2009 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Miriam Robbins said...

Thanks for this walk into my husband's ancestral town, fM! His paternal grandmother, Helen Mary (WESTABY) MIDKIFF TUCKER, was born in Glendive in 1915.

I probably have a few scans of Glendive postcards myself (borrowed and scanned from the collection of Helen's parents and now in the possession of my father-in-law), but unfortunately, they're not quickly accessible. My main computer is down, and the scans are either backed up to Carbonite or on my portable drive...either way their accessible, just not as quickly as I'd like. I'll take a looksee here soon.

June 22, 2009 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thank you Ms. BeNotForgot LOL:

I really love to research! I try to write what I do in a logical progression so that it can be followed.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Thanks so much for your comment.


June 22, 2009 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Mr. Maven's mother was born in Intake. Your husband's grandmother was born around the time this postcard was probably produced.

Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. I'd love to nail down a date, or at least narrow it a bit more.

Sorry to hear your computer's down. Hope it's on the mend soon.


June 22, 2009 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

Thank you so very much for your second contribution to the Festival of Postcards.
Once again you've added to our knowledge of postcards and I really appreciate the enormous effort you put into your articles.
You're an inspiration!
Evelyn in Montreal

June 28, 2009 at 8:31 AM  

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