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“same old cold stormy smoke, begrimed + sloppy place it is”

Katheryn McMahon Newton album, cards 107-110

Fred Newton was the product of his time and culture: white, likely of Anglo-American ancestry, and possessed of relative privilege. Based on earlier cards, he had enough station to call on the Governor of Colorado when passing through (though he settled for a few minutes with a private secretary). His attitudes about gender and sex were typical of the time; I’ve already posted about how, from a modern perspective, some of his endearments for Katheryn don’t work for me (maybe they do for others).

Given the card he sent Katheryn from Pocatello, Idaho, he was also racist. Here’s the front of the card in question, showing a view of the city.

General view of Pocatello, Idaho.
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 20 February 1908

I am not sharing the reverse in venue. Fred includes an offensive term, a line mocking how another person spoke, and racist attitudes toward the Chinese and American Indians. I have transcribed the terms in the spreadsheet, and if I write a scholarly piece including this card I’ll include relevant material. I see no reason to include the exact details here.

The next card is a sectional view of Seattle. It’s by the same firm that did the card two posts back with curious tinting choices (and lots of smoke) but this card features a lot more colors — and a long message.

As he did in other instances, he marked a spot on the picture. He wanted to show Katheryn where Luna Park, the amusement park, was located. Evidently he hadn’t had the best day, with bad weather and no sales (trade being in a “contrary mood”).

Giving you an idea of the “Sound” and the shore + mountains across the bay with the Olympic Mts in the distance, Had cross + indicates “Luna Park” similar to Sans[?] Suds[?] [on reverse] had bad weather here today a typical blue monday if ever there was one. Called on the trade regardless but they were in a contrary mood. I received your card + it made me laugh git to kill myself. I am glad you have cultivated again the signature heretofore requested see that you dont get away from it You know why I am writing in this “strain” I just fell[?] to the fact that someone reading my cards might cause you some annoyance and I want to guard against that Fred N.

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 30 March 1908

One piece to pull out of this is the reference to Katheryn’s signature. He praised how she signed her card–in the fashion he preferred–and gave a warning to keep it up. My guess (and without any of her cards, this will remain a guess) is that he wanted her to sign her cards “Katheryn” rather than “Kittie.” I’m basing this on his having changed how he wrote her name and address when sending her cards as discussed a while back.

Of equal interest is his explicit recognition that his cards were open to be read by anyone whose hands they passed through. Postal workers likely didn’t trouble him–but “someone” else did. Who? Note that this particular card was addressed to her at her office, not home. That suggests his concern centered on someone more likely to encounter Katheryn’s mail at home (although I suppose he could be offering a mute warning to her coworkers–but read the next post in a couple of days and you’ll understand why I’m thinking home was more of the issue).

Last for today is another view of Seattle, this one sent several weeks earlier.

Compared to the other cards discussed today, this is relatively innocuous.

Dearie: This is the best view in this section of Seattle obtainable [on reverse] Seattle Wash. Mar 5th 1908 Dearie: I often wonder what it is like in Chgo these days although I guess it is the same old cold stormy smoke, begrimed + sloppy place it is + always will be at least during the winter. How I wish you were here to enjoy this beautiful weather, have a little rain occasionally but the sun during the day makes it positively hot but as in all coast towns the evenings are cool + pleasant I am getting pretty well used to hotels + restaurants but do a whole lot of thinking about you dear With Love Yours Fred

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 5 March 1908

Basically, weather and travel–and sentiment about his separation from Katheryn. And, apart from missing her, no sign of missing Chicago whatsoever.

Tune in next post to for more on Fred’s addressing cards to Katheryn’s home or place of work!

“same old cold stormy smoke begrimed + sloppy place it is,” copyright 2021, A.R. Henle.

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