Business,  Collecting,  Katheryn McMahon Newton Album,  Real Photo Post Cards,  Social

Altered Images, Love Letters, and Guilt Trips

Katheryn McMahon Album, cards 16-19

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the worth of a picture with words added? This post has two examples of a benefit some people found in sending postcards versus letters: the opportunity to interact with the image on the front.

A classic method is for a sender to inscribe initials or names on people portrayed on the front of the card–even or especially when the images were mass produced and patently not the sender, addressee, or anyone they knew. Fred did this himself, as shown in the post on 11 January, when he added Katheryn’s and his initials to a man and woman sitting in a hammock.

A second technique is to add a dialogue to a card. Both of the examples on today’s post exemplify this. The first sample goes further and is one of the more complex I’ve seen. So here goes:

A young girl in a striped dress and big straw hat sits reading a piece of paper. The caption reads "First Love-letter." As discussed in the post, there are several manuscript additions/alterations.
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 19 February 1908, front

Fred made several changes, from bottom to top

  • Turns “First Love-letter” into “My First love-letter”? (Or something along these lines–I’m not sure that’s actually “my” — could be “_____ty” or “_____ly”)
  • Alters the cartouche identifying the artist (an English book author and book-illustrator who had died a few years earlier) to read instead “Katharine McMahon”
  • Changes the formerly blank letter in the girl’s hands to become one sent to “My Dear Kate” from “Fred,” dates 18 February 1908, Salt Lake City
  • Adds a dialogue balloon so the girl is saying “Well of all the nerve he expects me to write well I never!”

If you remember back to earlier blog entries, Fred had sent Katheryn a postcard album for Valentine’s Day. We don’t know what, if anything, she sent him in return–but that on the 22nd of February (four days after he wrote this card, eight days after Valentine’s) he sent her one with the message “Well?”

Evidently, she’s either not writing, not writing enough, or whatever she’s sending him hasn’t reached him. Given how much he traveled, it’s quite possible cards and/or letters went astray.

If we view the reverse, the story deepens.

Stamp. Postmark Salt Lake City, Utah, 12 PM 19 February 1908. Addressee Miss Katheryn McMahon 315 Wabash Ave. [#2621 Shields Ave crossed out] c/o Atlas Supply Co. Chicago I.. -- Card produced by The Rotograph Co., N.Y. City
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 19 February 1908, reverse

There’s no message on this side, but there is the very interesting address. This card is sent to Katheryn care of the Atlas Supply Co at 315 Wabash Ave. We’ve seen other cards sent to the same address-including the “Well?” card, dates ranging from August 1907 to February 1908 so far. At the moment, I’m guessing this is her workplace.

Other cards were addressed to Katheryn at 2621 Shields Ave., which per the first card we discussed we know is her home. Those dates range from December 1907 to June 1908.

Fred originally directed this to Katheryn’s home address. He then scratched out that line and sent it to her at her work address instead. Why? I can only speculate at this point in time, but my guess is either in hopes her co-workers would read it (and maybe give her a guilt trip) or to avoid her family members reading it (and maybe giving her a guilt trip.)

What’s your guess?

I’m skipping sharing cards 17 and 18, by the way. They’re both unsent real photo postcards with the same image: two white women in a large, elaborate swing with a white man kneeling on the ground between them as all gaze at the camera. Maybe elsewhere in the album I’ll find a similar image that’s identified, but I’m not holding my breath. Odds are I’ll never know why she kept two of this card.

And then there’s a second example of Fred interacting with a card. This is a simple addition of dialogue tags-to the lead sled dog rather than the people in the sled, but maybe she or he liked dogs?

Seven dogs sitting in snowbanks piled high around a house. They're harnessed to a sled with a white man and white woman in it. Caption at top "An Alaska Dog Team." Manuscript additions: dialog balloons from the lead dog saying "Gee but shes a nice girl" and "I wonder if she's thinking of me."
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 3 April 1908, front

In this case, the additions sentimental–perhaps added after he finished writing the message on the reverse and realized he hadn’t included much sentiment there. The choice of an image of Alaska was not by chance.

Stamp. Postmark Seattle, Wash., 12pm 3 April 1908. Addressee Miss Katheryn McMahon #2621 Shields Ave Chicago Ill. Message: “Seattle Apr. 3rd [4th crossed out] 1908 Dearie: Had a talk with a business man here in Seattle + he wanted to know how I would like to take hold of a proposition up in Alaska (Space will not permit my explaining what it consists of) but I told him I would have to refer it to “others” now as it will necessitate my absence for 12 to 18 mo. what I want to know is what would you do if you were in my place. Let me know by postal or letter only quick As always with [best?] FRED”
Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 3 April 1908, reverse

He’s got a lot to share, too much to provide the details for her–sadly that means we suffer the lack also.

“Seattle Apr. 3rd [4th crossed out] 1908 Dearie: Had a talk with a business man here in Seattle + he wanted to know how I would like to take hold of a proposition up in Alaska (Space will not permit my explaining what it consists of) but I told him I would have to refer it to “others” now as it will necessitate my absence for 12 to 18 mo. what I want to know is what would you do if you were in my place. Let me know by postal or letter only quick

Fred Newton to Katheryn McMahon, 3 April 1908

In light of his previous cards, the one above and “Well?”, the stress he placed on “quick” suggests an extra level of concern that she have a chance to weigh in on the matter. My suspicion is he did not take the offer, but we’ll see whether it’s mentioned in any further cards.

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